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Troye Sivan conjures up minimalist magic at the Anthem

Out singer does wonders bringing spare, mellow ‘Bloom’ to near arena-size life



Troye Sivan, gay news, Washington Blade

Troye Sivan performs at the Anthem Oct. 4 in Washington. (Washington Blade photo by Joey DiGuglielmo)

A Troye Sivan concert leaves one with two major impressions: One, it’s amazing the magic he can weave using so little and two, the juxtaposition of his sonic/video/TV show performances — where he comes off as an androgynous, gay sex-starved coquette gyrating lasciviously — dovetails quite nicely with his stage/interview persona where he’s self deprecating, down to earth, sweet seeming, even anodyne. 

That’s not a twofer you’d necessarily think would work. His Aussie accent helps. With his bleached blonde hair, blue eyes, lanky, 115-pound (it appears) frame, the 23-year-old seems positively angelic but you’re never quite sure if he stayed with the good angels like Gabriel and Raphael or is working undercover in Lucifer’s throng. 

Last week’s D.C. concert at the Anthem where he played the eighth show of his current 26-date “Bloom Tour,” (his album dropped Aug. 31) felt in some ways rather minimalist. A couch and a few lamps during the ballad set were the only props. The rest of the time the only visuals were — an impressive backscreen light show notwithstanding — Sivan’s four-piece (two guys/two girls) band and Sivan himself. There was an outfit change or two but the clothes were so non-glam and unmemorable he might have just as likely been out for a stroll on the D.C. Wharf. 

There were no video projections, no appearances from any of the fabulous, gender/bending clothes from the eye-popping “Bloom” video and nary a peeking nipple — kind of a Sivan trademark — was seen all night. No choreography either. Sivan just sort of bops around — he jumps, he spins, he twirls, he gyrates, he almost-but-never-quite-rubs himself — as the spirit moves. No backup singers (though the players did add some vocals), no dancers, no pyrotechnics. It was spare, but spare in a refreshing way. You never felt he didn’t have those things because he couldn’t yet afford them. This is only his second record, so maybe he can’t, but the minimalism felt chosen not resorted to. 

Last time he played Washington (not counting his ebullient June appearance at Capital Pride) — at the 9:30 Club in early 2016 — it felt like teenybopper girls’ night out with some gay men mixed in. This show felt like the inverse. It was almost all 20s and 30s gay men, like a gay high holy day young professionals night, with about 15 percent straight gal pals along for the ride. 

When you’ve been (as I have) to way too many shows by veteran acts in their golden years with 30-plus-year careers behind them, it’s fun to see an act only on his or her sophomore album. Whatever the new album is, it gets played almost in its entirety, there’s true energy in the room, people sing along en masse to every song whether it was a single or not and the performer feels genuinely thrilled to be there. These are still new experiences and unchartered terrain. They’re still giddy they can fill the next size venues up from their last tour. 

In Sivan’s case, that meant we got to hear all 10 cuts from the “Bloom” record in mostly faithful arrangements. The only unexpected twist was “My My My!” went into dance club remix mode (double-time beats) for its last couple choruses. It worked — the crowd (fairly packed on Anthem floor but not sold out) ate it up.

It was impossible to tell how much of the actual music was live. At times Sivan would take a line here and there a fifth or an octave above where he sings it on the album. The album vocal would keep going but you could never quite tell if that was recorded or live BGVs from the band. It didn’t matter — the vocals were stellar all night. If some beds were recorded, you never sensed for a second it was to save him any taxation. 

Seven cuts (four from the new record) made a killer opening set. “Plum” and “Lucky Strike,” neither singles interestingly, were arguably the most beguiling. Sivan sold them with abandon. Only on “Wild” did the relative simplicity of his choruses feel a little threadbare; in other spots it just seemed to buoy the sing-alongability of his tunes. 

A four-song ballad set provided a nice mid-show contrast with room for acoustic piano and guitar accompaniment. “Bite,” a bonus cut from his first album “Blue Neighborhood,” was the only semi-dud bouncing back and forth between a finger-snapping, sing-songy sort of thing to thundering drum solos that felt a little whiplashy. You could see why it was a bonus cut but I guess you gotta get a little creative to fill out a set when you’re only on your second record.

“Dance to This” and “Animal” closed out the main set. “Animal,” a fine song, wasn’t quite the best choice for that slot, but it wasn’t a catastrophe. “Youth,” fist-pumpingly ecstatic, and “My My My!” (of course) were the encores. 

The banter was just the right amount. Sivan talked about walking his dog around D.C. that day, went on and on about how great it was to see everyone, expressed concern for the mashed-together crowd (there are no seats on the Anthem main floor), told the crowd he wanted to “see you guys go fucking crazy” during key musical climaxes (we happily obliged). It was all just fun. You didn’t have to overthink it, you just soaked in the joy of having such an out-and-proud headliner who could fill the place among us. We might argue how much of a groundbreaker Sivan is. Yeah, we’ve had Rufus and Jake Shears (he’ll be here Oct. 31, by the way) before him but those singers were always — in much different ways — a bit left of center. Most of us admire Rufus Wainwright but he’s somebody you might put on at 4 a.m. during a nightcap, not somebody you want to blast on a summer road trip. 

Sivan is the middle ground. His album doesn’t beat you over the head. You’re not immediately sucked in by its hooks the way you are by, say, Charlie Puth or Shawn Mendes. But let it soak in and you see how much understated beauty and warmth is there. Sivan hit all the right notes realizing “Bloom” in a live setting. It’s sort of a mellow, hot tub-and-sex album; it wouldn’t have automatically worked in a large room yet Sivan and the crowd together made it pop live. 

His pal Leland opened but I missed his set. Trans pop princess Kim Petras gave a super-fun, eight-song set from about 8-8:35 full of Cyndi Lauper-esque pop hooks and big, rafter-raising vocals she pulled off beautifully with unwaveringly good pitch. 

The merch was underwhelming. Sivan looked more like a washed-out ghoul on his own shirts which were — as we have come to expect at such events — obscenely overpriced (Ts went for $40 and except for ball caps and pop sockets, it went up from there). 


KIM PETRAS (8-8:34 p.m.):

1. All the Time

2. I Don’t Want it All

3. Hillside Boys

4. Hills

5. Unlock It

6. Close Your Eyes

7. Heart to Break

8. Can’t Do Better

TROYE SIVAN (9:07-10:30)

1. Seventeen

2. Bloom

3. Plum

4. Heaven

5. Fools

6. Lucky Strike

7. Wild

8. Postcard

9. The Good Side

10. What a Heavenly Way to Die

11. Better Now (cover) 

12. Bite 

13. Dance to This

14. Animal


15. Youth

16. My My My! 


Music & Concerts

Musical icons and newer stars to rock D.C. this spring

Brandi Carlile, Bad Bunny, Nicki Minaj, and more headed our way



Brandi Carlile plays the Anthem this month.

Bands and solo artists of all different genres are visiting D.C. this spring. Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight will team up to perform at the Wolf Trap in June, and girl in red will play at the Anthem in April. Some artists and bands aren’t paying a visit until the summer, like Janet Jackson and Usher, but there are still plenty of acts to see as the weather warms up. 


Brandi Carlile plays at the Anthem on March 21; Arlo Parks will perform at 9:30 Club on March 23; Girlschool will take the stage at Blackcat on March 28.


Nicki Minaj stops in D.C. at Capital One Arena as part of her North American tour on April 1; Bad Bunny plays at Capital One Arena on April 9 as part of his Most Wanted tour; girl in red performs at the Anthem on April 20 and 21; Brandy Clark plays at the Birchmere on April 25; Laufey comes to town to play at the Anthem on April 25 and 26. 


Belle and Sebastian play at the Anthem on May 2; Chastity Belt performs at Blackcat on May 4; Madeleine Peyroux stops at the Birchmere on May 5; The Decemberists play at the Anthem on May 10; the rock band Mannequin Pussy performs at the Atlantis on May 17 and 18; Hozier plays at Merriweather Post Pavilion on May 17 as part of the Unreal Unearth tour. 


Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight will sing soulful melodies at Wolf Trap on June 8; Joe Jackson performs at the Lincoln Theatre on June 10; the Pixies and Modest Mouse are teaming up to play at Merriweather Post Pavilion on June 14; Maggie Rogers plays at Merriweather Post Pavilion on June 16 as part of The Don’t Forget Me tour; Brittany Howard headlines the Out & About Festival at Wolf Trap on June 22; Sarah McLachlan plays at Merriweather Post Pavilion on June 27; Alanis Morissette performs at Merriweather Post Pavilion on June 29 and 30

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Music & Concerts

Grammys: Queer women and their sisters took down the house

Taylor Swift won Album of the Year



When the late, great Ruth Bader Ginsburg was asked when there will be enough women on the Supreme Court, her answer was simple: Nine. She stated: “I say when there are nine, people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.” RBG did not attend the Grammy’s last night, but her spirit sure did. Women, at long last, dominated, ruled and killed the night.

Cher, in song a decade ago, declared that “this is a woman’s world,” but there was little evidence that was true, Grammy, and entertainment awards, speaking. In 2018, the Grammys were heavily criticized for lack of female representation across all categories and organizers’ response was for women to “step up.”

Be careful what you wish for boys.

The biggest star of the 2024 Grammys was the collective power of women. They made history, they claimed legacy and they danced and lip sang to each other’s work. Standing victorious was Miley Cyrus, Billie Eilish, SZA (the most nominated person of the year), Lainey Wilson, Karol G, boygenius, Kylie Minogue and Victoria Monét. Oh, yes, and powerhouse Taylor Swift, the superstar from whom Fox News cowers in fear, made history to become the first performer of any gender to win four Best Album of the Year trophies.

In the throng of these powerful women stand a number of both LGBTQ advocates and queer identifying artists. Cyrus has identified as pansexual, SZA has said lesbian rumors “ain’t wrong,” Phoebe Bridgers (winner of four trophies during the night, most of any artist) is lesbian, Monét is bi and Eilish likes women but doesn’t want to talk about it. Plus, ask any queer person about Swift or Minogue and you are likely to get a love-gush.

Women power was not just owned by the lady award winners. There were the ladies and then there were the Legends. The first Legend to appear was a surprise. Country singer Luke Combs has a cross-generational hit this year with a cover of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car.” When originally released, the song was embraced as a lesbian anthem. When performing “Fast Car,” surprise, there was Chapman herself, singing the duet with Combs. The rendition was stunning, sentimental and historic.

Chapman, like many of the night’s female dignitaries, has not been public with her sexuality. Author Alice Walker has spoken of the two of them being lovers, however.

The legend among legends of the night, however, was the one and only Joni Mitchell. Not gay herself, she embodies the concept of an LGBTQ icon, and was accompanied by the very out Brandi Carlile on stage. On her website, Mitchell’s statement to the LGBTQ community reads, “The trick is if you listen to that music and you see me, you’re not getting anything out of it. If you listen to that music and you see yourself, it will probably make you cry and you’ll learn something about yourself and now you’re getting something out of it.”

Mitchell performed her longtime classic “Both Sides Now.” The emotion, insight and delivery from the now 80-year old artist, survivor of an aneurism, was nothing short of profound. (To fully appreciate the nuance time can bring, check out the YouTube video of a Swift lookalike Mitchell singing the same song to Mama Cass and Mary Travers in 1969.) In this latest rendition, Mitchell clearly had an impact on Meryl Streep who was sitting in the audience. Talk about the arc of female talent and power.

That arc extended from a today’s lady, Cyrus, to legend Celine Dion as well. Cyrus declared Dion as one of her icons and inspirations early in the evening. Dion appeared, graceful and looking healthy, to present the final, and historic, award of the night at the end of the show.

Legends did not even need to be living to have had an effect on the night. Tributes to Tina Turner and Sinead O’Conner by Oprah, Fantasia Barrino-Taylor and Annie Lennox respectively, proved that not even death could stop these women. As Lennox has musically and famously put it, “Sisters are doing it for themselves.”

Even the content of performances by today’s legends-in-the-making spoke to feminine power. Eilish was honored for, and performed “What Was I Made For?,” a haunting and searching song that speaks to the soul of womanhood and redefinition in today’s fight for gender rights and expression, while Dua Lipa laid down the gauntlet for mind blowing performance with her rendition of “Houdini” at the top of the show, Cyrus asserted the power of her anthem “Flowers” and pretty much stole the show.

Cyrus had not performed the song on television before, and only three times publicly. She declared in her intro that she was thrilled over the business numbers the song garnered, but she refused to let them define her. As she sang the hit, she scolded the audience, “you guys act like you don’t know the words to this song.” Soon the woman power of the room was singing along with her, from Swift to Oprah.

They can buy themselves flowers from now on. They don’t need anyone else. Cyrus made that point with the mic drop to cap all mic drops, “And I just won my first Grammy!” she declared as she danced off stage.

Even the squirmiest moment of the night still did not diminish the light of women power, and in fact, underscored it. During his acceptance of the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award, Jay-Z had a bone to pick with the Grammy voters. He called out the irony that his wife Beyoncé had won more Grammys than any other human, but had never won the Best Album of the Year. Yeah, what’s with that?

But then, it brought additional context ultimately to the fact that the winner of the most Grammys individually … is a woman. And to the fact that the winner of the most Best Album of the Year awards … is a woman.

Hopefully this was the night that the Grammys “got it.” Women are the epicenter of The Creative Force.

Will the other entertainment awards get it soon as well? We can hope.

Most importantly, in a political world where women’s healthcare is under siege. Will the American voters get it?

A little known band named Little Mix put it this way in their 2019 song “A Woman’s World.”

“If you can’t see that it’s gotta change
Only want the body but not the brains
If you really think that’s the way it works
You ain’t lived in a woman’s world

Just look at how far that we’ve got
And don’t think that we’ll ever stop…”

From Grammy’s mouth to the world’s ear.

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Music & Concerts

Janet Jackson returning to D.C, Baltimore

‘Together Again Tour’ comes to Capital One Arena, CFG Bank Arena



Janet Jackson is coming back to D.C. this summer.

Pop icon Janet Jackson announced this week an extension of her 2023 “Together Again Tour.” A new leg of the tour will bring Jackson back to the area for two shows, one at D.C.’s Capital One Arena on Friday, July 12 and another at Baltimore’s CFG Bank Arena on Saturday, July 13.  

Tickets are on sale now via TicketMaster. LiveNation announced the 2023 leg of the tour consisted of 36 shows, each of which was sold out. The 2024 leg has 35 stops planned so far; R&B star Nelly will open for Jackson on the new leg. 

Jackson made the tour announcement Tuesday on social media: “Hey u guys! By popular demand, we’re bringing the Together Again Tour back to North America this summer with special guest Nelly! It’ll be so much fun!”

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