Troye Sivan's concert in Philly on October 6th was the latest installation in the ongoing growth of his career. Seeing him reminded me of his importance to queer youth—myself included.

To understand his career progression, it helps if we look back to where it all started: his YouTube channel. When I first started watching Troye back in 2012, I, along with a large cohort of other followers, found myself in a similar situation to him: closeted, kind of anxious about my future, and coming to grips with what growing up queer means nowadays. When he came out via a video in 2013, I had recently come out to my own circles, and according to many of the comments on that video, many of his fans found themselves in a similar struggle with coming out. Troye’s video offered me a sort of relief and modeling for how to deal with something like realizing you’re queer. 

Years later, Troye’s public relationship with his sexuality has changed somewhat, but that interiority among his fans remains the same. Over the course of 5 years, Troye has gone from that demure, newly–out teen in an online video, to the headliner of a sold–out venue, while never compromising on his sexuality or his dedication to community building. 

Photo: Daniel Bulpitt

At the concert, rainbow hats, flags, and other pride paraphernalia dotted the audience. His openers, Leland and Kim Petras, are both very public about their queer identification. There was no mistake, this concert was by, and for, queer youth. The crowd in Tower Theater that night was full of their own coming out and coming of age stories, and it was inspiring to just stand in that interior space cultivated by Troye’s own journey.

Like Troye, Kim Petras is an iconic figure—especially to queer youth. She had a very public gender transition in her early teens, and began making music shortly after. To start her set, she energetically stomped across the stage, neon sunglasses and rhinestone purse in tow, belting to “I Don’t Want It At All.” I was shook.

Photo: Daniel Bulpitt

Kim Petras opening for Troye Sivan in Philadelphia

Her music, in a similar vein of avant–pop as Charli XCX, is easily digested, bubbly and fun, while still unique and inventive. The live DJ that accompanied her on stage gave her music an entrancing, bass–y edge. While I didn’t listen to Kim Petras much before the concert, I’m definitely a convert, especially for her new Halloween album and “Can’t Do Better.” 

Leland’s performance dulled a bit in comparison, but I can’t help but respect his writing credits for songs like Selena Gomez’s “Fetish” and several of Troye’s tracks.

Troye’s performance was captivating. His setlist was about half songs off of his new album, Bloom, mixed with some mainstay singles and hits off of his older albums. I was struck by how much Troye’s music has evolved since his first release. His recent works have become more dynamic and mature, particularly in songs like “My My My!," “The Good Side,” and “Seventeen.” Much like his music video for the first song, Troye’s performance to the lead single off of his album was steamy, edgy and sensual, with fog and flashing lights making it an engrossing experience. The latter two songs were both much more somber, touching on more sensitive topics like heartbreak and loss of innocence—meanings that became all too real when coupled with his stage presence.

Photo: Daniel Bulpitt

The moment that really hit me, and made me respect Troye for his fostered community and artistry was his performance of “Heaven.” The song plays off of the motif of heaven to chronicle Troye’s own struggle with coming out. The lyrics contemplate staying true to yourself, but feeling lost with what that means in a heteronormative society. The deep, moving bass of the song, coupled with the breathy vocals make it a rapturous performance to see live. 

And just at the drop of the song, when you’re taken back to that vulnerable, closeted place you once lived in, the lights on stage flash into a proud, shining rainbow. It was almost like he took me back to when I was a closeted 14–year–old, when I first found his channel on YouTube, and told me everything would be okay. 

Troye, damn it, I didn’t know pop could go this deep.