Although Lauv may have been headlining The Greek Theatre on Sept. 15, Hayley Kiyoko’s day ones lined the barricade. Waving massive posters of the singer-actress’ latest album PANORAMA, fans impatiently waited for lesbian Jesus to grace Berkeley’s stage.
Glimmering like a rainbow, Kiyoko soon emerged from the right side of the stage in a green crop top and high-waisted, neon rainbow jeans. Her colorful outfit personified the vibrance of her performance, with each track prospering as a dose of prismatic pop. Although she performed just eight songs for her opener set, Kiyoko still served a heaping spoonful of sapphic nostalgia.
Kicking off her set with slinky single “Demons” and a knowing smile, Kiyoko flew across the stage like a racing spark. While the chorus’ original track titillates with autotune, the live rendition of the song beamed with Kiyoko’s unedited vocals.
Although thousands of people packed The Greek Theatre, the venue seemed to shrink with each song Kiyoko performed. Her innate magnetism bred a distinct, special intimacy as she drew her audience in with ease. The singer’s coppery bob swung with every confident step, her broad smile lighting up the chilly twilight.
After the bouncy, unnerving performance of “Demons,” Kiyoko continued her streak of dramatic dance pop by diving into “Sugar at the Bottom” from PANORAMA. “I’m so glad you’re someone else’s problem,” she sang, waving goodbye to an imaginary ex as synth slithered through the air.
While Kiyoko warned that there “ain’t no sugar at the bottom” of a toxic relationship, she hit a sweet spot when she performed her underrated pop hit “Curious.” The rich return to her Expectations roots bubbled with a convivial sentimentality and charm, and Kiyoko’s presence filled the theater with infectious exultation.
Taking up space with a habitual wide-legged stance, she pointed to people in the crowd to inspire cheers, making long, meaningful eye contact even from the festival-high stage. Warm orange lights winked down at her as she connected with audience members from afar, and Kiyoko glowed in the dusk like an amber firefly.
Kiyoko’s easygoing, warm spirit soared through the theater like a summer breeze. The loving camaraderie she fostered with her touring band — whether it be through shared mirth or dancing together during instrumental breaks — brought a sweet lightheartedness to her set.
After high-energy performances of the sinuous “Deep in the Woods” and “Underground” from her latest record, Kiyoko paused for an important declaration: “I’m a homosexual!” she said. The cheers that rose from the crowd (“Slay!”) seemed to last longer than some of her songs, and she looked out into the crowd, smiling widely. “Next song is for the girls.”
Exuberant, sultry and spry, “For The Girls” highlighted Kiyoko’s bursting starpower. The song’s hook, met with a hip-thrusting dance break and some Disney-style dancing, was the perfect representation of her set’s tantalizing, glossy dance pop.
Kiyoko’s performance of her latest album’s title track, however, marked a noteworthy shift in tone. “Panorama” moved slowly and steadily at first, viscous with emotion before Kiyoko rocked a guitar break alongside her skillful guitarist Lawrence William IV. During the song, drummer Valerie Franco wildly gestured at the audience with her phone light; soon, a spotlight of the audience’s creation beamed into view. Characterizing the moment as an intermission from Kiyoko’s typical dance pop performances would be an understatement — the loud, lively scene encapsulated the catharsis of what PANORAMA means to the artist.
Earlier in her set, Kiyoko wistfully sang that she’s “searching for rainbows in the sky, maybe I’m wasting my time.” Yet, by ending her set with the highly anticipated “Girls Like Girls,” she struck audiences with sanguine nostalgia. When Kiyoko skipped across the stage with a pride flag unfurling behind her, it was clear that she’d found what she was looking for.