Shawn Mendes at 3Arena on Saturday April 13th 2019
‘Men with acoustic guitars who make it beyond the after session’ has become a genre in itself; one that has proved to be particularly popular with people of a certain age. Shawn Mendes might fit the profile, but with two nights at the 3Arena under his belt at the tender age of 20, is there more to him than meets the eye?
First though, in the simultaneously coveted and unenviable position of support act – Alessia Cara. Thankfully, the brimming R&B artist isn’t met with the wall of silence you’d expect from a fanbase as rabid as Mendes’, and perhaps that’s as much a credit to her impressive repertoire as it is to them.
Cara, riding the wave since her breakout hit Here snaked up the charts internationally, proves herself time and again as a songwriter. Her most recent record, ‘The Pains of Growing’, hits on themes which are particularly relevant to this audience as they gallivant their way through a burgeoning youth. Standouts from the set include Comfortable, on which Cara marries a blend of R&B, Motown and pop with an effortless vocal and 7 Days, on which she has an existential crisis. Standard.
She’s to be applauded for indulging the fair-weather fans too with a rendition of her Oscar nominated Moana feature, How Far I’ll Go. There’s an acapella to-and-fro with the crowd, before Stay, her collaboration with producer Zedd catches them off-guard. Cara’s distinctive sound ensures her career has longevity beyond being someone’s warm-up act, that’s for sure.
On to the main event: Mendes’ stage set-up is commendable, incorporating a much smaller standing area and more tiered seating than what’s been previously seen at the arena. For the most part, no matter where you are, you will be up close and personal with Shawn, much to the chagrin of the security personnel attempting to harangue the teenage girls for blocking the stairwells as they attempt to get even closer.
The floral motif of his most recent self-titled album makes an appearance in the form of an enormous rose that Sleeping Beauty would have been jealous of.
Say what you will about the Canadian YouTube cover-artist turned global-star, he’s not one to keep anyone waiting. On stage promptly at 8.30pm, he opens with arguably two of his biggest hits Lost in Japan and There’s Nothin’ Holding Me Back. Initially, it’s hard to ignore the sense of the cork being popped too early when rather it’s a sign of the everyman’s underestimation of what it is Mendes actually does.
As easy as it is to view Mendes’ material as formulaic – boy meets girl, and he was never the same again – in a live setting, it’s brought to another level, without feeling overly produced. His I Know What You Did Last Summer/Mutual marks the beginning of this dialled up intensity, taking to the piano as the lights flicker like a storm surge as the stage floods with smoke.
The high drama continues as he teases an astonishing falsetto between vocal takes, giving fans licks and yelps, getting almost complete silence in return during the more subdued segments like Never Be Alone. He shows shades of Sheeran when he whips out the loop pedal for Like To Be You: on Ruin, he cosplays as John Mayer with a forlorn yet fun guitar solo. There’s an unusually sexual energy radiating off him and from his tunes which ceases to dissipate throughout the night without feeling crude given the collective age of the people in attendance – see Particular Taste, which has bolts of funk running through it.
It’s a very well connected show, from production to output. There’s minor dip as the set veers from album tracks to a tepid Coldplay cover as a means to drum up the tension for the final number, In My Blood.
Despite masquerading as a one dimensional white male, Shawn Mendes can now be considered a fully fledged popstar: one who puts the die-hard fan experience above everything else. Abandoning gimmicks to deliver songs from the archives to the people who appreciate it most, while channeling his new found energy as a performer, he’s proof that occasionally, men with guitars are worth paying attention to.