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Concert Reviews:
Demi Lovato opens tour on shaky ground at Fox Theatre

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Thursday, November 17, 2011

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DETROIT -- Demi Lovato may be "Unbroken," as she sings on her latest album. But on the opening night of her Unbroken World Tour Wednesday (Nov. 16) at the Fox Theatre, she was still a bit...shaky.

Starting as a Disney Channel actress ("Sonny With a Chance," the two "Camp Rock" movies with the Jonas Brothers) -- with, of course, plenty of music in her background -- the 19-year-old Texas native has always seemed an uncomfortable kind of pop diva. She has the pipes, just not the 'tude, and after a well-publicized emotional breakdown a year ago that landed her in a treatment facility, Lovato became more about the tabloids than the tunes.

To her credit, though, she's pushed past that. "Unbroken" is her third straight Top 10 album and a notably more mature work than its predecessors, and it's launched her biggest solo hit in "Skyscraper." So she came into the tour, and into the Fox on Wednesday, with some momentum and something to prove, and she left looking game but not yet expert at this headlining thing.

Save for a romp through the Christina Aguilera/Maroon5 hit "Moves Like Jagger," Lovato kept the 75-minute show focused on her own material -- mostly (nine tracks) from "Unbroken," and with no "Camp Rock" or other artists' songs on which she appears as a guest. She played guitar on a medley of "Catch Me" and "Don't Forget," and piano for part of an anti-climatic performance of "Skyscraper" (blame some odd positioning in the show for that). The pacing was fairly brisk, and Lovato, moving up and down three steel staircases that took her to a raised level at the back of the stage, managed to make her four outfit changes seamlessly; a furry vest she sported at one point looked like it was heisted from "The Flinstones" prop closet, while her final look actually combined two previous ensembles, certainly not something Britney or Katie or Rihanna would ever try.

Yet Lovato, supported by a four-piece band, two backup singers and four dancers, seemed more than a bit stiff throughout the night. Her between-song patter, while gracious, felt tightly scripted and unemotional. The rare moments she joined the choreography were awkward, and her attempt to wade off the stage and into the crowd during "Skyscraper" lasted just a few seconds. Lovato's vocals were emotive, but the long, sustained song-ending crescendos frequently fell off key.

And after a crunchy "Remember December," the show just...ended. No bows, no thank-yous. Lovato certainly gave her fans plenty of props throughout the night, but bringing the show to an actual conclusion is one of just many things that needs to be part of her seasoning as a headline act.

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