Live Act in Focus: Hayley Kiyoko

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One does not go to a Hayley Kiyoko concert to see her sing – you go to see her perform.

Hayley Kiyoko, or ‘Lesbian Jesus’ to her fans, is an Asian-American 28-year-old pop artist. Kiyoko had early success as an actress, gaining the most recognition from her roles on Disney Channel such as Stella Yamada in Lemonade Mouth (2011). Prior to the release of her debut album Expectations in March 2018, she released three solo extended plays.  Kiyoko has toured with Panic! at the Disco, collaborated with Kehlani on the single ‘What I Need’, and was invited to perform with Taylor Swift. In addition to all this success, Kiyoko is a vocal LGBT rights activist, pushing for better representation through her own music which reflects her own experiences as a queer woman of colour. As the cherry on top of her “20GayTeen”, MTV awarded her with the Push Artist of the Year 2018 award.

It takes an influential artist to embark on an encore tour no more than 3 months after her first. I had the privilege of seeing Kiyoko perform on one of her two sold-out shows in London this February. Concertgoers waited outside O2 Forum Kentish Town hours in advance, wrapped in the pride flags they would later be waving in the crowd. The new 2300 capacity venue is a much-needed upgrade from her first European tour venue where the maximum capacity was 800. With a bigger venue comes a bigger show; a spectacle with dynamic lighting and brilliant backup dancers. Kiyoko not only sang and danced, but the audience was also treated to her multifaceted skills as a drummer and guitarist.

Truth be told, it was difficult to hear Kiyoko throughout the night. Her voice is soft with reasonable power but it was drowned out by the audience screaming in unison. But her energy is boundless as Kiyoko uses the chorus to showcase her team’s incredible choreography. Backing vocals are rendered useless as the crowd has it covered, even mastering the tongue twister of a lyric that is “did you take him to the pier in Santa Monica forget to bring a jacket wrap up in him cause you wanted to” from ‘Curious’.

Without a doubt, Kiyoko is one of pop’s sweetest and humblest performers. Constantly voicing her disbelief that she could be there and thanking the audience for supporting her. She shared anecdotes about songs such as this cheeky line about ‘Sleepover’, “Have you ever fallen in love with your best friend? I do it ALL THE TIME!”, and more heartfelt declarations of support to her LGBT fans.

Hayley Kiyoko is a sextuple threat: singer, dancer, drummer, guitarist, actor, and director. It’s a mystery that she wasn’t immediately signed to Hollywood Records like other Disney alumni. But perhaps we wouldn’t have the anthem that is ‘Girls Like Girls’ or be able to watch the music video over 100 million times?

Catch her at Reading Festival on Friday 23rd August or Leeds Festival on Saturday 24th August. We can’t wait to see what she brings to the UK festival scene, but I’m sure it will exceed your Expectations.

If you’re curious about how those lyrics go, watch the video for ‘Curious’, directed by Kiyoko and James Larese, below.

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Taking advantage of what the UK has to offer... The opportunity to see my favourite indie acts when they go on a 'world tour' I also like films and theatre.

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