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Concert Reviews:
Charlie Puth plays pop hero at DTE

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

Posted: Friday, August 3, 2018

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- Charlie Puth said he "never planned on being a pop singer" early during his Honda Civic Tour show Thursday night, Aug. 2, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre.

But he's figuring out how to do it.

From the melodic earworms of his songs to his 100-watt smile and peeling his shirt off two-thirds of the way through his 90-minute set, Puth was indeed all pop star, a one-man boy band whose young career includes two Top 10 albums and an iconic, chart-topping ballad in "See You Again," his collaboration with Wiz Khalifa from the "Furious 7" film soundtrack. That he's a Teen Choice Awards winner, too, was evidenced by the screaming masses of teens, tweens and youngers who filled the DTE pavilion with cell phone flashlights and kept Twitter and Instagram busy through the 16-song set.

The 26-year-old Puth handled the adulation well, milking it but with a bit of aw-shucks awkwardness that made the keyboard-playing singer and songwriter look like he's still a work in progress.

And that he was. Following opener Hailee Steinfeld, Puth confidently rolled through his small catalog, focusing primarily on his more mature sophomore set "Voicenotes" and just hitting the big singles ("We Don't Talk Anymore," "One Call Away") from his 2016 debut "Nine Track Mind." On Thursday he demonstrated a strong falsetto, a solid ability to hold a note and a deft touch on the keytar -- particularly during a long jam with his four-piece band at the end of "Somebody Told Me."

But like many young headliner Puth was clearly still finding his footing at running an effective show. Simply put, he talked too much. A long, if unnecessary, introduction to himself early in the show was one thing; Other between-song padding meandered and served as speed bumps to the night's flow. Pointing out that he's a Berklee College of Music grad who mostly wanted to be a songwriter, Puth sought to straddle a line between pop spectacle and "Storytellers" sincerity, but the two did not mix well -- especially in front of more than 10,000 fans who mostly just wanted to sing along and see Puth, well, take off his shirt.

He showed plenty of promise, however, and Puth's songwriting is of a standard that's a notch or two above many of his pop peers. We will see him again, and there's even reason to look forward to that.

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