Concert Reviews

Shawn Mendes with James TW at the Air Canada Centre

Photographs by Daniela Tantalo.

The house lights were still on when the video intro reel started.  Instantly, a roar took over the arena.  The Air Canada Centre (ACC) was packed to the rooftop with a crowd comprised primarily of excited, young girls, many accompanied by equally giddy parents who had waited months and months for this night.  The anticipation was undeniable.   

Shawn Mendes has had a dazzling ascent in the music world.  With his talent, boy-next-door good looks and natural charm, it’s easy to see why.  Looking around the ACC, it is hard to imagine that just 3 years ago, he was an unknown singer who decided to post snippets of cover songs on Vine.  Social media stars are not uncommon; there are many popular artists who got their start on YouTube.  For musicians, Vine, with its 6 second video bursts, is not the obvious choice for building a following, yet that’s exactly what Mendes did.  

Mendes kicked off the night with Something Big from his debut album, Handwritten.  With only one full-length album released, the audience of loyal fans was able to sing along to every lyric, and Mendes encouraged them to do so.  He has a keen instinct for simple melodies and humble showmanship.  He wove together a stage show that struck a perfect balance.  The lighting and imagery surrounding him was  high-tech and flashy, but he remained unpretentious.  Not every artist could have pulled this off.  He did.  

Mendes played the first few songs solo, accompanying himself on guitar.  Tunes like Life of the Party shone when there was a chorus of voices lifting the song to the rafters.  When the band joined him, the energy bumped up a notch and gave the crowd a fuller, rocked out sound.  Mendes then played a few songs from the soon to be released sophomore album, Illuminate.  These newer tunes were delivered with poise and confidence.  At one point Mendes talked about song-writing; he postulated that sometimes it’s not about the big hit but more about “the songs in the middle of the album that you fall asleep to,” showing a maturity beyond his 18 years.  Mendes, perhaps as a nod to his early days on Vine, peppered his songs with snippets from other songs from respected artists like Eminem, Plain White T’s and the Jackson 5.  He also asked show opener, James TW, to join him onstage for a mash-up/medley that added a note of playfulness to the set.  Earlier in the evening, TW, a talented 18 year-old, British songwriter played a solid set that called to mind other Brits like Ed Sheeran and James Bay. 

Mendes ended the night on a high note with his big hit, Stitches.  The kid from Pickering delivered a fun, heartfelt show to a hometown crowd that is wild about him.  He is clearly serious about his craft and he cares about his fanbase.  If he keeps this up, there are only good things in this young man’s future.


About author

From folk to pop to punk, Neloufer believes that music matters; that it is almost as vital as oxygen. She also has a deep love of language, et voilà! - music reviewer.