You can hear d4vd’s hushed vocals before you can see him. When the 17-year-old saunters on stage at The Lower Third, the sold-out audience greets his arrival by immediately raising their phones aloft, creating a halo of camera lights against the low ceiling. When the artist – born David Burke – asks fans to lower their screens as the screaming settles down, it’s just as deliciously ironic: with camera equipment situated around the venue, tonight’s performance is being broadcast live to TikTok.
But d4vd’s sophisticated songs burst beyond the algorithm. A teenager who has only recently discovered his musical talent, in less than 12 months, the Houston native has gone from pro Fortnite player to Billboard 200-charting artist following his runaway hit, ‘Romantic Homicide’. After teaching himself how to make music on social platform BandLab, d4vd began recording demos in his sister’s wardrobe to fulfil the need for non-copyrighted music in his gaming montages. His dark and textured balladry began resonating worldwide before he was old enough for a driver’s licence, and now he boasts streaming numbers in the hundreds of millions.
For the fans watching online, d4vd’s energy will feel as indelible as being stood in this evening’s 230-capacity venue. He moves hungrily through sounds, donning a faux-British accent on ‘Dirty Secrets’ while his band flesh out the heavy, funky melody with keys and guitar. While ‘You And I’s scratchy indie crossover may capture Bakar or King Krule, d4vd’s oversized and stained white shirt, leather trousers and black tie strongly parallel Steve Lacy, another artist whose career has been shaped by unprecedented internet success. Throughout, his megawatt smile also remains undimmed.
Without extensive performing experience – tonight marks d4vd’s third live show to date, following two US gigs last week – his confidence, which transmutes into vocal runs, is remarkable. He’s funny from the off, asking the virtual audience to throw a ‘W’ in the comment section after each song, and poking fun at Gen Z’s dwindling attention span: “I’ll be surprised if anyone knows the lyrics as it’s four minutes long,” he says, introducing recent single ‘Placebo Effect’. Yet at times, the emphasis on creating content becomes jarring; d4vd asks the crowd to record unreleased track ‘The Bridge’ in full so that it can be previewed on TikTok, and encourages them to do the same for ‘Poetic Vulgarity’, in hopes that an ex will see the footage on their feed.
It feels special, however, to be witnessing an artist playing songs that have become near-ubiquitous amongst his following over the past year. A brilliantly executed light show and a merch stand dressed with £65 hoodies, meanwhile, suggest that d4vd is already preparing to play much bigger venues. But for now, he seems content where he is: the frenzied atmosphere he produces seems to prove as entertaining to d4vd as his audience.
‘You & I’
‘Here With Me’
‘Take Me To The Sun’