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Concert Reviews:
Shawn Mendes was the life of the part at Little Caesars Arena

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Tuesday, August 6, 2019

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DETROIT -- In this age of streaming and singles, Shawn Mendes may be part of a rare and endangered species -- an album artist.

If the 20-year old singer, songwriter, Wilhelmina model and pop sensation from Ontario didn't sing a single word on Monday night, Aug. 5, at Little Caesars Arena the crowd of overwhelmingly young women (and some visibly beleaguered dads) would not have missed a beat. The packed house sang along to all 27 of the songs (full and partial) Mendes and his four-piece band played throughout the night -- not just the big, earnest hits such as "Stitches," "Treat You Better," "If I Can't Have You" and a severely truncated "Senorita" (his current single with girlfriend Camila Cabello) but also deeper digs like "Never Be Alone," "Bad Reputation," "Ruin" and more.

That's was a sign of genuine engagement and dedication most pop stars of Mendes' ilk don't enjoy, and perhaps an indication that after three consecutive No. 1 albums he's setting up for a career that will be more Ed Sheeran than, say, O-Town.

Following a confident 40-minute opening set by Alessia Cara, Mendes certainly looked primed for the part on Monday night. His sleeveless shirts nodded to the iconic 80s poses of Bruce Springsteen and Rick Springfield. Mendes kept a guitar slung around his shoulder most of the hour and 50 minutes while also switching to some songs on piano -- including a snippet of Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" and a medley of "Because I had You," "A little Too Much," "Patience" and "When You're Ready" beneath a large, lighted rose on a second stage at the rear of the arena floor.

And while a large, circular screen behind and above the main stage showed its share of scream-inducing Mendes close-ups, it was more often used for artful video projections or simply as an extra light source.

There were certainly plenty of Big Pop Show touches of course -- including the synchronized light bracelets fans were given as they entered the arena. Mendes also told a sweet story before "Like to Be You" about his father surprising him when Mendes opened for Austin Mahone at the Freedom Hill Amphitheatre during September of 2014; While driving back to Canada afterwards Mendes heard himself on the radio for what he said was the very first time.

Mendes' act was not immune from some pop show flaws. There was a bit of bloat and the show would have been more impactful with, say, 15 or 20 minutes shaved off. And there were some pacing issues -- most notably when Mendes followed the pumping "If I Can't Have You" with a momentum-stalling "Why" and an overwrought "Mercy." But with his career still young there's time for Mendes to learn and grow, and on Monday night's crowd gave every indication it will stay with him for that.

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