With His Fans Behind Him, Shawn Mendes Will Only Get Bigger and Better

With His Fans Behind Him, Shawn Mendes Will Only Get Bigger and Better
Photo by Violeta Alvarez

Shawn Mendes, Charlie Puth
Toyota Center
July 22, 2017

There are a lot of things you might expect from a big pop show like the one Shawn Mendes puts on – fancy graphics, a second stage in the back of the venue, copious calls for sing-alongs, to name just a few examples – but I imagine no one had “video where the artist drowns and sees highlights of his career flash before his eyes” in any of his or her bingo squares. That was what the audience was treated to during the break before Mendes's final song, and I’ll admit I thought it was a rather elegant way of allowing him to opine on his relationship with his fans while also showing off how cool he is.

It was infinitely better than how the show started, with his band onstage playing a song while audio clips played talking about all his accomplishments to date. You can do that when you’re 40, I guess, but it’ll still sound just as cheesy. People have bought their concert tickets already; you don’t have to sell yourself anymore, young Mr. Mendes.

With His Fans Behind Him, Shawn Mendes Will Only Get Bigger and Better
Photo by Violeta Alvarez

That duality of doing one thing that’s really great and doing something less than good really defined the night. Shawn Mendes is going to be a great artist one day, but right now he’s still in that “potential for greatness” stage of his career.

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Charlie Puth is also in that stage of his career, although to his credit he’s got a pretty killer 30-minute set to tour with. Onstage he seems like a big ball of energy in search of a release, to the point that even in his slower songs, you’ll catch him hopping on one leg just to keep himself moving. Give him another album or two, and he might just be headlining Toyota Center on his own; even now he comes off looking like that’s the right-size room for him to be in.

I subscribe to the theory that if you put a bikini on your body, you have a bikini body, no matter what size you are. As such, I must also subscribe to the theory that your songs are arena songs if you play them in an arena. Mendes’s tracks, in a vacuum, don’t strike me as arena-ready, but when the crowd roars the way it did at this show, everybody in the crowd feels like a banger.

With His Fans Behind Him, Shawn Mendes Will Only Get Bigger and Better
Photo by Violeta Alvarez

Dare I say it, but I would actually argue that Mendes is perhaps too popular to be playing a venue like Toyota Center. The crowd was so loud with their “I can’t believe we’re here with him” responses for the first few songs that it felt like he and the crowd couldn’t get into a rhythm, no matter how many times he asked them to sing. Once he slowed down to play a song alone, it was as if the crowd had a chance to catch their breath and focus, and for a long stretch after that, everything sounded great.

Still, it feels like right now Mendes has maybe a killer hour set he’s ruining by playing almost two hours. Lucky for him, the crowd had a second wind that made for a really stellar run of songs at the end of the show.

If he keeps that connection with his fans, he’ll eventually be playing spaces where it won’t matter that they’re going to go nuts for three songs before starting to really pay attention to the music. If he makes it to Minute Maid or Dynamo Stadium, let them cheer. The fans will have earned it just as much as Mendes himself.

And maybe when that day comes, he’ll have a show worthy of that attention. Judging by his work to date, he’s got that potential.

With His Fans Behind Him, Shawn Mendes Will Only Get Bigger and Better
Photo by Violeta Alvarez

Personal Bias: I had seen Shawn Mendes once previously, but for the life of me I don’t remember a thing about it. He didn’t even make my review of the show. With a new NIN EP out this week and the death of Chester Bennington, there wasn’t a lot of time to get myself up to speed on Mr. Mendes, so it was a genuine surprise when I discovered I disliked so much of his music.

The Crowd: Loud. So very, very loud.

Overheard In the Crowd: Lots of screaming during a song when Mendes asked for quiet. I get the logic behind yelling when everyone else is quiet, but it doesn’t matter how loud you scream; he’s still not going to sweep you off your feet. Sorry.

Random Notebook Dump: Creepshow is a great film, y’all. Props to the Alamo Drafthouse for giving me something excellent to watch on the big screen before speeding back to downtown to catch this show.

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