Demi Lovato, Austin Mahone Reliant Stadium March 3, 2013
I'm determined to make it through this entire review without unleashing my sailor mouth, so bear with me as I use words like "heck" and "darn." I know; it's strange for me, too, but this review is about a tween heartthrob and a former Disney star, so I'm toning it down.
I would rather not have to wash my own mouth out with soap for scarring any children who happen to come upon this. The Internet can be a dangerous place, kiddos...
Last night was the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo's annual concert geared toward its younger audience, and on this year's concert bill was YouTube sensation turned radio star Austin Mahone, who opened up for headlining Texas native Demi Lovato.
Following true rodeo tradition, Mahone was delivered to the stage by truck, and just the mere glimpse of the vehicle carrying their idol had all of the Mahomies in a complete tizzy.
He kicked off the show with his tween-friendly hit, "Say Something." The shrieks being emitted by his fans did some serious damage to my eardrums; 52,000 screaming girls can holler at deafening decibels.
It took Mahone a few minutes to find his footing onstage. He seemed overwhelmed with the task at hand, and looked slightly lost as he took everything in. However, I would imagine there's quite a bit of difficulty to singing over a stadium full of squealing tween girls, so I'm going to cut him some slack. At least he was singing live, and those girls were really loud.
Perhaps he was overwhelmed by the huge stage at the rodeo, or maybe he was just worn out from trying to sing over the screaming "Mahomies" in the stands, but he seemed to struggle vocally at points throughout the show. There was marked improvement during the acoustic set, though, and he appeared to settle in a bit more during numbers like "Beautiful Soul."
His cover of Ne-Yo's "Let Me Love You" was a cute (albeit much more syrupy) rendition of the original song, and I'm sure all the girls in the audience appreciated the intense gaze Mahone gave them over the jumbo screen. He managed to work every corner of the stadium from the stool in the middle of the stage. Kudos, kid...you could teach grown men a thing or two about the science behind flirting.
His sappier numbers are fan favorites, judging by the reaction of my ten-year-old date, but she wasn't a huge fan of some of his earlier, more choreographed numbers, and neither was I. For what it's worth, she also pointed out that he looked better with his hat on. Things like that are important in the whole teen-heartthrob equation, I guess.
Mahone closed out his part of the show with his new single, "Say You're Just a Friend," a catchy little earworm that has already begun to take over mainstream radio airwaves. This song really trips me out, not only because it samples Biz Markie and features Flo Rida, but also because the combination of the two makes me want to sing along, despite my disdain for being sucked in by the ol' pop-music formula.
He's a cute kid, that little Austin Mahone, and it's easy to see why the throngs of teen girls flocked to the stadium to see him live. His set was pretty short, but Mahone showed some real promise in his ability to work the crowd (as well as one can from a stage in the middle of a football field, anyway). He looked around for his "special girl," had the crowd and the stage participate in yet another version of the "Harlem Shake," and joked around with his onstage DJ.
You could almost feel the Mahomies' collective disappointment as Mahone rode away in the back of that pickup truck; there was a mass exodus of girls in between Mahone and Demi Lovato's sets, and noticeably fewer people in the venue when Lovato's set started. Perhaps they all had to finish their homework?
When Lovato took the stage, my first thought was about how healthy she looked up there. It's been well-publicized that she's had to receive treatment for an eating disorder and substance abuse, but her demeanor was humble and honest, and she looked stoked to be onstage.
She opened with "Here We Go Again," a tough-girl anthem about the trials and tribulations of a crummy relationship. She was dressed in her glittered walking boot (does she have a broken toe?) and a studded jacket, and it was apparent that she's no longer playing into the act of a sickly-sweet Disney kid; no backup dancers, and I was surprised to see that she plays quite a few instruments. (Also, her tattoos were showing, so I gave her a little bit of street cred for that. Don't judge me.)
Her vocals are surprisingly strong; I half-expected backup tracks complete with Auto-Tune, but Lovato sang her heart out, flaws and all. "Skyscraper" was a toned down and impressive number. It was obvious that the song means more to her than some of the more bubbly tracks; she put quite a bit of emotion behind the shaky vocals.
The impact that the last couple of years have had on her became apparent when she played "How to Fix a Heart." She struggled to keep her composure throughout the song, with her voice breaking a couple of times. The tears kept welling up, and she kept apologizing to the crowd.
Lovato finally lost it during a country song dedicated to her best friend; with her lip trembling and a huge grin, she started bawling onstage, and darn it, I almost lost it, too. I bought it, hook, line and sinker.
She's a decent live act, that girl. I was not even slightly enthused about the idea of reviewing her show; I saw her when she opened for the Jonas Brothers a few years ago (don't ask), and it was such a canned and, well, staged performance that I figured I was in for a couple hours of torture.
Last night was anything but that. Apparently, when you write your own music, play your own instruments and really step out of that Disney box, there's a potential there to become a pretty solid performer. She sang live (which was highly suspect during her previous Houston show), and you could see her hands shake from the nerves of the enormity of the stage and venue. It was really damn cute, and I hate that she touched my heart a lil' bit.
The show, it its entirety, lasted a little more than an hour, which may be the shortest rodeo performance I've ever attended. There was no encore from either performer, but the schools of parents and children leaving the venue all seemed pretty darn satisfied with the concert despite the brief nature of it.
As long as the parents managed to stave off the pleas about the carnival and dodged the lines for fried Oreos that headed into oblivion, that condensed concert hour touched on all the hits and still got those kids into bed on time. Total kid-friendly rodeo success, if you ask me.
Personal Bias: I kept confusing Lovato with Selena Gomez, much to the disdain of the ten-year-old in tow. Apparently Demi does not sing that "repeatpeatpeatpeatpeat" song.
The Crowd: Overwhelmed parents and sugared-up kiddos
Overheard in the Crowd: "Oh my GAAAAAAWD I LOVE HIM!!!"
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Random Notebook Dump: Screw you, stupid food stands. I could have gone my whole life not knowing there's such a thing as fried cheesecake, and now I'm tempted to buy a deep fryer for when the rodeo closes its doors.