Livestreams during the COVID-19 pandemic generally go one of two ways. Artists can scale back the production, offering fans uniquely intimate experiences, or they can dream up elaborate costumes and sets to recreate the feel of a full-on stage show. Performing Friday (Oct. 9) as part of Billboard’s Live at-Home concert series, Australian singer, actor, and dancer Keiynan Lonsdale luckily opted for the latter.
Flanked by backup dancers and musicians, with a video screen flashing in the background, Lonsdale served up thrilling renditions of three songs from his critically acclaimed 2020 debut album, Rainbow Boy. The LP deals with his experiences as a queer Black man (he doesn’t put a label on his sexuality), and themes of rising above hatred and finding joy in life ran throughout Thursday’s powerful performance.
Lonsdale kicked off the performance with “Gay Street Fighter,” a song about feeling frustrated by homophobia and standing up to reclaim your dignity. He and his dancers played with this concept by rocking black paramilitary-style outfits. In addition to keeping up with the choreography, Lonsdale flipped easily between brash rapping and smooth Prince-style singing.
Next up, Lonsdale switched to white pants and ditched his shirt for “White Noise,” a vintage-soul-inspired number imbued with a positive antiracist message. He was joined by a saxophonist and a tap dancer for the soaring finale. “When we dance, let’s dance together,” he sang.
The mood was even more upbeat on “Chocolate,” a funky psychedelic-soul jam presented with a bright color palette that extended from Lonsdale and company’s clothing to the palm tree set pieces and kaleidoscopic patterns swirling on the screen. “Ain’t life sweet?” Lonsdale sang. “Sweet like chocolate?” As the song came to an end, he reclined on the floor and asked, “Ain’t that the truth?”
As he took a well-deserved breather after 13 nonstop minutes of singing and dancing, Lonsdale thanked Billboard, Live-At-Home sponsor Mercedes-Benz, and Black Youth Project 100, the charity he chose to promote and raise money for with his performance. BYP100 comprises Black youth activists who approach their social justice mission “through a Black, queer, feminist lens.” It’s the perfect cause for Lonsdale, an artist whose inclusive worldview inspires genre-hopping music that’s already making the world a better place.