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Destin Conrad brings a frenzied display of ‘LUV N DEVOTION’ to the House of Blues

Florida-born R&B singer Destin Conrad packed Chicago’s House of Blues on Tuesday, Mar. 12 for a brief set filled with fan favorites, his lush voice and a bit too much disorganization.

Despite his best efforts, Conrad’s smooth performance couldn’t distract from what seemed to be a disorderly and somewhat chaotic set up.

After getting his start on the now-defunct social media platform Vine, Conrad began releasing music and garnered writing credits on Kehlani’s 2020 album “It Was Good Until It Wasn’t.” His first headlining tour is in support of his 2023 project “SUBMISSIVE” and its follow up “SUBMISSIVE2,” which was released in Jan.  

Destin Conrad performing at the House of Blues on Tuesday, Mar. 12, 2024.

Opening with the first three tracks from his 2023 project “SUBMISSIVE,” Conrad took the stage and immediately captured his audience. With many of his songs sitting around the three-minute mark, he breezed through the majority of the “SUBMISSIVE” projects and cherry-picked cuts from his other two projects, 2021’s “COLORWAY” and 2022’s “SATIN.”

The wide array of instruments featured throughout “SUBMISSIVE,” including saxophone, a variety of percussion and acoustic guitar, are part of what makes the project such a standout in his catalog. But Conrad performed mostly to backing tracks, with onstage help from one electric guitarist. Despite the fact that the use of a backing track kept the live renditions close to the favorite studio mixes, the tracks heavy bass often overpowered Conrad’s light and smooth voice. For a singer whose voice sounds so sultry and polished in recordings, it was a shame that the crowd didn’t get to hear more of it over the recorded bass thudding through the speakers. 

For an artist who is embarking on his first headlining tour, an elaborate stage show cannot be completely expected. However, with just him and one other person on stage — who only showed off guitar riffs occasionally, most notably during “AMBRÉ’S INTERLUDE” — the show felt somewhat anticlimactic. Conrad clearly has a sense of creative vision, mostly expressed through the music itself or the photoshoots for his projects, but his stage show lacked the visual delicacies that fans know he’s capable of. 

Help from a flashy lights display aided this issue, but the lighting itself also proved to be about equal parts successful and impediment. Conrad remained almost entirely backlit for the duration of his time onstage, and a subtle bright light only occasionally did its best to uncloak the singer from the shadows. 

During “AMBRÉ’S INTERLUDE,” Conrad ran offstage briefly and left random bodies moving across stage, seemingly getting things in order before the singer’s return. Set changes done by a performer’s team are commonplace, but there were no set pieces to rearrange or props to switch out. The scurrying of crewmembers was quick, but unfortunately added to the disjointed feel of the show’s technicality. 

Destin Conrad performing at the House of Blues on Tuesday, Mar. 12, 2024.

Conrad’s contemporary R&B style isn’t one that would necessarily befit a highly choreographed show complete with backup dancers, and also isn’t the kind that would be enhanced by a sweeping acoustic backing band. Allowing himself to move around stage freely as he chose seemed like the natural fit for the show, as it would suit most modern R&B shows. But after a while, the lack of set pieces and a band left Conrad mostly (don’t forget his guitarist) alone onstage to keep his audience engaged. 

However, Conrad’s time onstage (backlit and all) made up for the chaotic technical details. Fan-favorites like “BILL$,” “SAME MISTAKE” and “IN THE AIR” gave the crowd some extra vocal deliveries in the form of smooth and sustained belts that accentuated the songs further. 

When done right, Conrad’s toying with the theme of submissiveness made for moments of intrigue and irresistible performance. When submissiveness found its way into the technical side of things and passively allowed the stage to consume its subject, it was cause for concern. None of the evening’s drawbacks were a result of Conrad’s own actions and were all relatively minor, but the summation made for a scattered effort. Regardless, it was clear that Conrad’s fanbase rides for him no matter what — even if  things could have been smoother. 

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