As first impressions go, The Kid Laroi couldn't have asked for a more memorable one in Milwaukee.
Playing a sold-out Eagles Ballroom at the Rave Thursday, on the second night of his first North American headlining tour, the fast-rising Australian rapper and singer stuffed his 80-minute set with several buzzy moments.
There was a marriage proposal, and a packed house cursing out one fan's cheating ex. There were touching tributes to Laroi's late friend Juice WRLD, and previews from a forthcoming debut studio album. Laroi had a sweet duet with a young fan (yes, younger than Laroi, who turns 19 this month), and had a scary stage-dive mishap that brought the show to a halt.
Those last two happened during "Stay," Laroi's Justin Bieber collaboration and one of two of his songs to hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 (so far).
Laroi (real name Charlton Kenneth Jeffrey Howard) pulled a fan onstage who likely was between the ages of 10 and 13, who looked like he was going to jump through the roof when Laroi asked him to sing “Justin’s part” (and suggested he might text Bieber footage of his performance).
It was an electrifying exchange, watching the kid play rock star, and watching Laroi, who seemed even more excited about it — to the point that Laroi prepared to end the song with a stage dive.
But a moment after Laroi leaped into the crowd and made a solid landing in some fans’ arms, he fell down with some of them to the ground, prompting a few security people to frantically jump in.
Laroi looked really worried when he was pulled out about 25 seconds later.
"Can we please make sure that those people are OK?" he asked the crowd as soon as he got a mic. "I'm sorry guys, I'm sorry."
Laroi did all the right things after that. He repeatedly asked people to make space. About two minutes later, some fans in the pit started clapping to indicate everyone was fine. But Laroi wanted to make sure himself, running backstage to check on the fans' status, as Juice WRLD's "Conversations" played over speakers and band and crew members tossed water bottles into the crowd.
The show ultimately was paused for nearly seven minutes, with Laroi returning to assure that everyone was OK, apologizing again, and thanking the crowd for their cooperation. The show could go on, with Laroi shaking off the nerves to channel the angst of his No. 1 single "Without You."
.@thekidlaroi had a stage dive scare in Milwaukee Thursday during “Stay,” falling with some fans to ground. He apologized and paused the show for about seven minutes to ensure that everyone was ok. Review and setlist @journalsentinel https://t.co/RGDYilD178 pic.twitter.com/SzPzr2MLpl
— Piet Levy (@pietlevy) August 5, 2022
It was a concerning moment, but Laroi also had several winning ones where he shared the spotlight on stage with some fans. One woman named Breonna was brought up to watch Laroi perform "Selfish" up close.
And another woman, named Kaylee, was brought on stage with a sign that said that her boyfriend cheated on her, requesting that the crowd sing Laroi's "(Expletive) You, Goodbye" in his dishonor. Laroi granted her wish, asking Kaylee for his name (Logan), and leading nearly 4,000 people to boo him before they sang the profane kiss-off. Watching an elated Kaylee sing lines like "You hurt me for the last time" and "I did not deserve it," and get gratification and a hug from Laroi, it was like a huge weight lifted off her shoulders.
But The Kid Laroi show wasn't just a place to mend a broken heart. It's where two people began the next chapter of their love story. After "Not Sober," Laroi brought a couple on stage, and encouraged everyone to start filming, one of them shaking with mic in hand as she told her partner that she loved her, before dropping to her knee. The crowd erupted, and Laroi was so thrilled he essentially fell to the ground, before rising up to give the crying, newly engaged couple a joint hug.
— Piet Levy (@pietlevy) August 5, 2022
This was a big night for Laroi — but moments like that indicated he was even more interested in sharing the glow with others.
It wasn't just that this was the second night of his debut North American tour that made the night special. Just seven minutes into the set, Laroi talked about how he was actually at the Rave three years ago, checking out the venue's haunted pool, with his friend Juice WRLD, who was playing a sold-out show at the time. (The Kid Laroi didn't perform that night.)
Juice WRLD died seven months later at the age of 21, but it was clear Thursday that Laroi was determined to carry the torch, leading the crowd through a "Long Live Juice" chant before performing their collaboration "Go" (and walking off stage at night's end to Juice WRLD's breakthrough smash "Lucid Dreams").
“Long Live Juice!” @thekidlaroi honored his late friend and mentor @JuiceWorlddd @therave Thursday, reminiscing about being at the Milwaukee venue together and checking out the haunted pool three years ago. My review @journalsentinel https://t.co/RGDYilD178 pic.twitter.com/iOLwX5U9XE
— Piet Levy (@pietlevy) August 5, 2022
Juice WRLD brought emo rap into the pop mainstream, and in that regard, The Kid Laroi is his most accomplished successor. He's done it largely singing and rapping about relationships gone bad, which doesn't carry the same weight as the demons and anxieties that frequently fueled Juice's work — although the crowd (primarily women in their teens and early twenties) was crazed about every Laroi song Thursday, fueling his explosive stage presence.
But Laroi Thursday also foreshadowed the growth that's likely to come on his forthcoming official debut album, playing four new tracks, including the hit single "Thousand Miles," where through his patented quiver he tells a potential lover, "You're better off alone."
And the night's closer, "Where Does Your Spirit Go," a yet to be released track added to the preplanned setlist, is the most poignant song Laroi has ever made. Laroi repeatedly asked the crowd to put away their phones, and most complied, as he processed the pain of losing a friend.
"All the things I wish I could have said before you took your last breath," he sang. "How'd you build me up just to leave me now? And I just don't know where to go."
Laroi ended the performance lying on his back, throwing the mic across the stage from there, before getting up and rushing off.
No doubt he is singing about Juice on that song. And there's no doubt Laroi in Milwaukee Thursday did his friend proud.
Even though The Kid Laroi's career is just getting started, it felt like it took forever for him to get to Milwaukee. He was supposed to open for Miley Cyrus at Summerfest last September but canceled his appearance three days ahead of the show. Then his tour was supposed to stop at the Eagles Ballroom in February, before it was pushed off to start this month.
In addition to "Thousand Miles" and "Where Does Your Spirit Go," Laroi played two other songs expected to be on his debut album. There was the somber, angsty "What Just Happened," with Laroi singing while sitting on a stool, and the fleeting rager "Up," heavy on the drums, at least live.
Laroi also has a new drummer and guitarist for this tour. They're both intense performers, but not really intense musicians. I couldn't help laughing watching the drummer during the first song, "Let Her Go": He was shirtless from the start, spinning his sticks, violently flailing his torso, standing over the kit ... but barely playing the drums.
Before Laroi started his set Thursday, security guards in front of the stage tossed water bottles in the crowd, and it became a kind of game to see who could catch them. One security guard seriously had an Aaron Rodgers-like pass, the bottle soaring majestically from the front of the stage all the way to the back to a fan near the soundboard.
You take The Kid Laroi’s emo rap and shake it up in a soda can and you get what newcomer Ericdoa is going for. Not that Laroi’s opener Thursday was as outlandish with the glitchy genre-jumping as, say, hyperpop pioneers 100 gecs. But it’s only a matter of time before someone finds success bridging those worlds, and if Ericdoa makes bolder musical statements (and is bolder on stage), he might be the one to do it.
1. "Let Her Go"
3. "Same Energy"
5. "Tell Me Why"
8. "Need You Most (So Sick)"
9. "(Expletive) You, Goodbye"
10. "Not Fair"
11. "What Just Happened"
14. "Not Sober"
15. "Thousand Miles"
16. "So Numb"
17. "Always Do"
19. "Without You"
20. "Where Does Your Spirit Go"
Our subscribers make this reporting possible. Please consider supporting local journalism by subscribing to the Journal Sentinel at jsonline.com/deal.
DOWNLOAD THE APP: Get the latest news, sports and more
This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Kid Laroi's Milwaukee debut a wild ride, including stage-dive scare