Camila Cabello Sizzles at RodeoHouston

Camila Cabello made her HLSR debut last night at NRG Stadium.
Camila Cabello made her HLSR debut last night at NRG Stadium. Photo by Marco Torres

"Let's make the Astrodome shake!" proclaimed a fiery Camila Cabello two songs into her Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo debut. Whether she believed she was under the famed dome or understood she was headlining its more updated neighboring stadium remained unclear, but she and her crew of dancers shook and shimmied their way through a simmering, seductive Tuesday night set on the rotating star stage.

No stranger to the stadium, 22-year-old Cabello most recently performed at NRG in 2018 as an opening act for Taylor Swift's Reputation Stadium Tour. Now graduating to headliner status, her set last night varied little from her opening slot for Swift, or her performances on the 2018 music festival circuit; it was tight, fine tuned, and always kept Cabello in focus.

Set opener "Never Be The Same" revealed a bedazzled Cabello front and center sporting a cowgirl hat, backed by a barrage of thunderous drum fills. She spent the song warming up her voice and acclimating to the room before capping the song off with her fair share of head banging, or "hair-ography," alongside her guitarist.

click to enlarge Camila Cabello brought Havana ("Ooh-Na-Na") to HLSR. - PHOTO BY MARCO TORRES
Camila Cabello brought Havana ("Ooh-Na-Na") to HLSR.
Photo by Marco Torres

Despite the cooler temperatures outside, Cabello turned up the heat indoors, blazing her way through "She Loves Control" and "Inside Out," cuts from her eponymous debut solo album. Like most songs of the evening, her 2016 Machine Gun Kelly collaboration "Bad Things," a bizarre ear worm with a spine-tingling, song-defining misplaced note in the chorus, benefited from a thumping live arrangement.

Cabello continued the 2019 Star Entertainer tradition of honoring late Tejano icon Selena with a sincere, albeit abrupt, cover of "Dreaming of You." Too short to reach any sort of religious experience, her crystal clear vocals satiated the audience enough to proceed with the show as planned. A poignant take on the break-up ballad "Consequences" quickly followed as Cabello stood behind a keyboard, cozily accompanying herself while wearing gloves. Easily the most intimate moment of the evening, Cabello sang into the camera and called out to the audience in between lyrics, bridging the mammoth gap between the stage and the oh-so-far-away audience.

click to enlarge Camila Cabello at NRG Stadium. - PHOTO BY MARCO TORRES
Camila Cabello at NRG Stadium.
Photo by Marco Torres

Instead of reverting to any hits she accrued with Fifth Harmony to carry the show home, she dug deep into her catalog with the Major Lazer collaboration "Know No Better," Bright soundtrack cut "Crown," and the Pharrell-assisted "Sangria Wine." Neglecting her time spent with the group never felt like a gamble as Cabello's determination for a solo career of veteran stature reigned supreme by the time she reached set closer "Havana."

Though many artists' signature radio hit appears at the end of a show because it's the only pillar to their discography, Cabello's lunged for the kill. "Havana's" opening piano riff sent fans into a frenzy. Cabello's salsa infused dance breaks rivaled Jennifer Lopez's most agile moments. The mid-song call and response breathed new life into the stadium. The chorus' "ooh-na-nas" are just as infectious in person as they are in your car while stuck in traffic. When the song, an event in itself, came to a close, Cabello blew one last kiss into the camera, only this time as a Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo alum.

Not bad for a girl's first rodeo.

Never Be the Same
She Loves Control
Inside Out
Bad Things
Dreaming of You (Selena cover)
All These Years
In the Dark
Know No Better
Into It
Sangria Wine
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