Photos by Katrina Wong Shue
After celebrating his nineteenth birthday this past week, Shawn Mendes was welcomed home for two back-to-back sold out shows in his hometown. Fans lined up well before doors opened and were just bursting with excitement (and some tears). With a hometown show you could catch glimpses of Shawn’s family and friends, and a couple of famous faces in the crowd, who were just as ecstatic for what was yet to come.
New Jersery born singer/songwriter Charlie Puth, joined Mendes on the Illuminate World Tour, much to the delight of screaming fans. He opened the show with “We Don’t Talk Anymore”, which was his hit collaboration with Selena Gomez from this past year. Charlie praised Toronto, and the fans for welcoming him to the city with open arms and supporting him for the last few years. In between each song, he would explain the inspirations of his songs and how there were different sides of “Charlie” depending how he was emotionally feeling that day.
From “Marvin Gaye” to “Suffer”, Puth showed those extremely different emotions through song. He has this incredible ability to capture the audience with just a simple set up. He is exceptional on the piano and his abilities really take you on an emotional rollercoaster. As the camera lights began to illuminate the arena, fans harmonized with Puth as he closed out his set with probably his most favourite song “See You Again”. His second studio album Voice Notes is due out this fall, and I cannot wait to see what he has in store.
One of the best things about seeing young pop stars in concert is that their concerts not only start early, but the transition time between acts is no longer than 30 mins; they really get down to business.
Hanging over the B stage was a gigantic ball that began to illuminate and pulse various colours indicating the show was about to begin. Just before Shawn was set to take the stage, an introduction video played that had aesthetically pleasing visuals with voice clips of Jimmy Fallon, Ellen Degeneres and various other hosts listing his accolades. The screams were piercing as Mendes rose from under the stage, hitting the crowd with a one-two-punch and starting the show off with “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back” and “Lights On”. Every single person in that arena was on their feet, singing the words back to Shawn, it was truly the warm welcome he deserved.
Mendes carried this ecstatic, yet nervous energy throughout the entire show. You could see it on his face that he could not believe his life at that moment in time but he was grateful for every single second of it. He mentioned a few times, that this was the most nervous he had ever been heading into a show. The fact that he was playing in front of his hometown raised the stakes that much higher; he wanted to give everyone the best show in the entire world. Every time he asked the crowd to harmonize and sing with them, they participated with no hesitation and you could see that uplift and energize him.
While this was the Illuminate World Tour, Mendes’ setlist did a very good job while incorporating as many songs from his first album Handwritten, as he could. Early on in the show he played a medley of “I Don’t Even Know Your Name”, “Aftertaste”, “Kid in Love” and “I Want You Back”, which was arranged beautifully on the acoustic guitar. What’s incredible about the songs he has not only selected for the tour but also written for the albums is that they both have different sounds musically. Handwritten was a very stripped down, acoustic album. Whereas Illuminate has more of an electric guitar undertone, which gives you that soft rock feel, which is then amplified by his bluesy voice.
I talk about this a lot in artists’ reviews, but there is always that one song that you relate to on a deeper level. While introducing “A Little Too Much”, Shawn mentioned that it was a song that meant a lot to his fans; it was one that they constantly came up to him and thanked him for writing it. He is always reminded of the true power of music, every single time he performs it. Hearing him say that put a little bit more emotion and emphasis on the lyrics, that really hit home for me, as I am sure it did many others.
Mendes hits you with that soft rock during “Bad Reputation” and “Ruin” where he comes out with an electric guitar and you really bask in his musicality. I felt like he was channeling his inner John Mayer, which is a comparison that gets drawn a lot. He plays the guitar so well and has riffs back and forth with his accompanying bandmates up on stage; it is truly captivating. While his band continues the outro for “Ruin”, Shawn made his way to the B stage, much to the delight of the sections at the back of the arena. The secondary stage was treated to five songs, including a stripped down piano cover of Ed Sheeran’s “Castle on The Hill” (which flowed seamlessly into “Life of the Party”), “Three Empty Words”, “Patience” and “Roses”.
I think “Mercy” is one of the strongest songs Shawn has ever co-written thus far in his career, and one of the best songs I’ve seen him perform live on multiple television shows. The song is full of so much emotion, and at the height of the emotion, you are able to hear the raw power in his voice, which leaves you in awe. In it was the perfect way to kick off the final three songs.
As the show was coming to a close an outro video began to show archived Mendes hugging his fans on the streets around the world. There was a quote from him that said that he does not treat his relationship with his fans as fan to artist. He treats their (our) relationship as a person-to-person relationship. That is what makes this young pop star so incredible, is his humbleness and pure love for what he does. As Shawn returned to the stage for his final moment, he sat down at the piano, a spot light beaming down. He played a stripped down version of “Treat You Better”, before breaking out the electric guitar one last time.
The entire concert was full of so much pure joy, from the fans to Shawn. You could tell there was nowhere else anyone would rather be that night than in the moment. Seeing Mendes smile from ear to ear, and stop to take out his earpiece to listen to the crowd sing was really incredible. For those who had been waiting months to see the Illuminate World Tour, they definitely were not disappointed. It truly was an unforgettable night and a great way to welcome Shawn Mendes back home to Toronto.