A Kim Petras performance is a foray into feeling unadulterated joy. It’s rare to see an artist who forgoes the comfort zone of elaborate choreography and excessive stage decorations in favor of focusing on sustaining the crowd’s devotion. As a performer, Petras intertwines the star qualities expected of an up-and-coming pop princess, all while insisting on maintaining palpable intimacy. On the stage of the Fox Theater in Oakland, Petras looked to the audience without a hint of trepidation. She easily barreled through costume changes and captivated the crowd, unwilling to tamp down its vibrancy.
Few artists can careen through the typical standards of the pop culture, all while managing to experiment with new elements in the mix. Her performance of the hit “I Don’t Want It At All” launched the crowd into a screaming fit that forgot to end even after the song’s final notes. The undeniably bubblegum pop anthem, reserved solely for worshipping early 2000s pop culture icon Paris Hilton, launched Petras into stardom. Yet, with her new album Turn Off the Light, she moved to mainly Halloween-themed pop music. Despite the album garnering critical acclaim, she professed that people around her were skeptical of her choice to release music inspired by the night of fright. “People were like, ‘who the f— is going to listen to that?’ ” she said into her mic, and the audience moved immediately to protest, quick to defend her. “Halloween is like Christmas for the gays!” she yelped, leading to an unbridled uproar. A Party City wig went flying as people nodded enthusiastically, and a Freddy Krueger claw began to wave erratically around in agreement to her proclamations.
In between acts, there were EDM-filled intermissions, while backstage Petras quickly transformed her wardrobe to fit the changing themes of the show. As she progressed to her more haunted tracks, she changed from a black and white tulle skirt to an all-gold bodysuit, and then an all-red bodysuit. During her cover of the Killers’ “Human,” she went onstage wearing a simple T-shirt from her tour merchandise before revealing the glitter bodysuit underneath when winding down on the last few tracks of her show. After each wardrobe evolution, she reappeared on a revolving platform in the left-hand corner of the stage, whipping the blonde braid that snaked down past her waist, signifying a new segment of the show.
Petras oscillated between a multiplicity of personas as she interacted with her audience. Watching her was like being blinded by a radiance that one could imagine only celebrities hold. There weren’t bells and whistles added to the performance, something made evident by the fact that the choreography consisted of mainly fist bumps or waving hands erratically timed to the beat of her songs.
The audience was simply smitten, endlessly cheering among the sloshing of drinks and costumes that were steadily falling apart as the night wound down. The feeling was clearly mutual, as Petras interjected between songs to remind the audience of her affection. Climbing on the edges of the barricade at the start of the night to see the audience, she regularly was at the fringes of the stage to touch fans’ hands. As she sat on the stage, she ruminated over her previous position as Troye Sivan’s opening act for his 2018 “Bloom” tour. Now headlining her own show, Petras seemed unabashedly proud, exclaiming: “Look at this s—, this is amazing!”
Twirling around the stage with the wind blowing in her hair, Petras told her audience, “I love you so much,” in between the final notes of “Can’t Do Better.” Then, even in the moments of vulnerability, she still transformed back into a seemingly unreachable star, shining through a barren stage.
There was nothing complex about the show, and even if this might hinder other artists, it was advantageous in Petras’ case. Petras allowed glimpses of a burgeoning star’s infectious charisma, and interacted with the audience like a giddy crush would, as though she wasn’t seamlessly belting out high notes mere moments before. Like pop music itself, she bubbled with contagious energy. Her show at Fox Theater was planned to be a night without frills or excessive nonsense, and was instead just a moment of fun.
Contact Kelly Nguyen at [email protected].