It’s been less than six months since Hayley Kiyoko played her first UK headline shows. In that time, and largely thanks to her highly-dedicated online fanbase, she now stands proud in front of a crowd almost four times the size – the first of two sold-out nights at London’s O2 Forum Kentish Town.
Flanked by professional dancers and a rainbow-heavy light show, Hayley – through notable disbelief - declares tonight her “no strings attached insane arena dream”. By this point, in what is becoming a staple at her shows, a series of bras have been pelted at the stage and the rising superstar has been met by repeated declarations of love from the doting crowd. It’s testament not only to how far Hayley Kiyoko has come, but how she has become an important voice for a young LGBT community.
Finding early fame as part of the sickly-sweet Nickelodeon and Disney family, Hayley has shaken off early associations to be crowned the ‘lesbian Jesus’ by an army of online stans. She carries this appointed status with her, countless fans waving rainbow flags while singing the unquestionably empowering ‘Girls Like Girls’ at the top of their voices.
It adds an enlightened twist to an otherwise retro affair, playing out like a ‘90s throwback for modern times. The consistently impressive synchronised dancing nods to TLC’s heyday, while Hayley’s own R&B-infused pop screams cargo pants. Yet the atmosphere, message and Hayley’s on-stage charm keep everything effortlessly fresh. “This is the encore,” she announces, having remained on stage between her biggest hit to date ‘Curious’ and closer ‘Gravel To Tempo’. It cements her ability to take the conventional tropes of pop and to turn them on their head.
It’s this evolution of radio-friendly pop that will continue to propel Hayley upwards. She speaks to a new generation, vitally relatable and abundantly empowering. Despite minor issues with the sound and disregarding the fact that she is yet to release enough hits to truly fill a headline set, tonight Hayley Kiyoko sparkles as bright as her mirror-ball trousers.