Demi Lovato at Toyota Center, 2/19/2014
Photos by Nicholas Zalud
Demi Lovato Toyota Center February 19, 2014
Hey, you know what's important? Eardrums. Too bad I don't have mine anymore, now that the Demi Lovato concert is over.
Wednesday night, Texas' own pop princess graced the city with her presence for the second time in a year, following the 2013 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. That one seemed really loud at the time. This one? It was louder. Luckily, it was also more interesting.
Arriving at the arena, I was a bit surprised at the lack of chaos outside. Lovato is pretty much equivalent to everything tween in my book, so I expected to see massive crowds of shiny, shrieking children all hanging out and, well, shrieking about stuff. But the outside of that place was like a ghost town. I was a bit relieved.
Until I walked inside, that is. Good Lord. Anyone who doubted Lovato's ability to fill up a stadium should have had a look inside Toyota Center Wednesday. Every single teen girl in the city must be rockin' a late-nite concert hangover this morning. They were everywhere, but despite my relatively late arrival, Lovato was nowhere.
Onstage instead was a magician charged with entertaining us between opening acts, the second of which hadn't taken the stage yet. This magician said "swag," a lot, so I half-expected "YOLO" to follow. But nope. We got #whatsinsidethebox instead. "HASHTAG what's inside the box" was said as a sentence. I will never speak tween, and really had no idea what was happening, or why the hell there was a magician. You're on your own for that part.
Up next was a British girl group called Little Mix, who had been way, way off my musical radar. Knowing my limitations, I had brought backup with me -- a 7-year-old second grader, who I assumed to be the target demographic for this thing -- to school me on what was going on. Unfortunately, she was equally confused.
For their part, Little Mix covered a ton of songs -- Beyonce, TLC and even freaking En Vogue -- but the child sat there covering her ears during the entire set. I kind of had to agree with her. Being the adult, I urged her to remove her hands and summarize for me, so I could relay to our readers. Here's what I got.
That's really her. The look of fear is genuine.
Photo by Angelica Leicht
"You know, that thing she's wearing looks like a leather diaper," she said. "They can sing well, but they just don't play such good songs.
She then gave me the universal hand-signal for "meh" and covered her ears again. I didn't blame her.
Fortunately, the hands came down relatively quickly once they went offstage. Unfortunately, that darn magician came back on, and the volume stayed at a horrible level. Someone should have sent a warning about this thing.
It got to be nearly 9:15, and we were still going back and forth with the magician, who was now hawking shirts at the merch table. Both I and the 7-year-old started to wonder if Lovato was ever going to take the stage. We'd had enough of the cheesy other stuff.
Review continues on the next page.
And seemingly right on cue, Demi Lovato appeared out of nowhere in a haze of violet hair and fog. As did the screams. It's so easy to forget just how freaking loud girls of that age can be, but it's loud loud. Cue the child's ear-coverage, right in time with those shrieking, ear-piercing screams of joy.
I almost wish she hadn't covered her ears, though. Demi Lovato was pretty great. She came out with "Heart Attack," her radio-saturating hit from late 2013, and that mess of lavender-colored hair, ripped leggings and her straight-up joy of being onstage made the entire thing tolerable.
Of all the pop starlets, Lovato is probably the most likable in concert. This girl straight doesn't care what anyone thinks of what she's doing. Well, other than her fans, that is. She seems to really value her connection with them -- she takes the time to chat about saving her emotions for the stage, and to tell little anecdotes about the songs -- and the fans seem to give that love right back in screaming spades. As migraine-inducing as that can be, it's also quite sweet.
Lovato ran through all her hits, everything from "Firestarter" to "Catch Me," and those screams of validation did not stop. It's clear to see why she's overjoyed to be onstage. There was utter approval from the girls in the seats, who were entirely overjoyed to be there. It's a strange, screaming symbiosis, but it works for them.
Are her vocals impeccable? No. Are her stage theatrics that of a larger pop star? Nah, but they don't need to be. Lovato's honesty with the fans garners her just the same type of devotion that some of the bigger, louder voices get. She's honest, and kind of real, and to be honest, that's refreshing, even for the second time in a year.
Well, to me, anyway. The child just sat there holding her ears until we left. So much for my pop-music cheat sheet. She promptly passed out in the car, but not before uttering the words, "I can't hear much anymore. Does this last?"
Nah, kid. It doesn't last. But hopefully Demi will. It's nice to see tweens and teens have a role model who can just be herself, on the stage and off. The flaws? Well, they just make her a bit more real.
Personal Bias: Okay, fine. I guess I like Demi Lovato, and it wasn't that bad to suffer through a bunch of screaming. I don't give a shit about being cool anyway.
The Crowd: Was seriously all under 19 years of age. No parents in sight; they must have been playing dump and run.
Overheard In the Crowd: "Justin Bieber's a weird word, asshole!" -- the three teenage girls behind me had the most epic use of curse words that I've ever encountered in the under-21 set. I started to wonder if it was possible that I had three love-children I wasn't aware of.
Random Notebook Dump: Great. Little Mix is covering "Bootylicious." I'm teaching the 7-year-old not only to twerk, but to also have horrible taste in music.
ROCKS OFF'S GREATEST HITS
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Houston, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.