Review by Liam Brown. Carly photos supplied by Reuben Raj. Starlet photos by Liam Brown.
Nobody else is doing it like Carly Rae Jepsen. As the underdog of the pop world, and undoubtedly one of the most underrated names within the pop genre, the expectations were high for her debut New Zealand show at the Auckland Town Hall. ’The Call Me Maybe’ star hasn’t had the smoothest career, dipping in and out of mainstream media since the early 2010’s, but she has a loyal fanbase that has stuck with her ever since her rise to fame. This show marked the end of the Dedicated tour for 2019, with Carly finishing with her first ever show in Auckland on her 70th show of the tour.
As the crowd slowly started to fill the soon to be bustling Town Hall, with fans dressed in sparkles and a few sporting flower crowns, Sydney born opening act Starley came on stage, accompanied by her guitarist. After yelling the obligatory “WHAT’S UP AUCKLAND!”, Starley bounced on stage wearing what looked like an iridescent duvet cover over an iridescent sheer shirt – not complaining, she rocked it! Starley was somewhat boosted to mainstream fame with her song ‘Call on Me’, which gained major airtime throughout mainstream radio. I had listened to Starley’s music prior to the show, and to say that I was excited for her set was an understatement – and she did not disappoint one bit. Starleywas energetic, she kept the crowd going, and got them hyped for Carly. A special part of her set was the song ’Love is Love’, where she sang about the time in her life where she realized that she was in fact, gay. Lyrics such as “You say you cried for three days straight daddy, and I don’t understand you, ‘cause loving her, it ain’t an illness, and she makes me happy” and “You say, why can’t it be a man? Why can’t I learn to live in God’s Plan?” really resonated with both me, and a large majority of the crowd. At the end of her set, she got off the stage and let fans on the barrier help her sing her hit ’Call on Me’, which everyone ate up and left the crowd wanting more of Starley.
Before the crowd knew it, 9pm rolled around, the house lights dimmed and Carly’s band entered the stage with an intense introduction before the of, Carly Rae Jepsen, walked on stage in quite possibly the best concert outfit I’ve ever seen. Wearing a fluorescent yellow dress with rhinestoned stars on it with a matching jacket, Carly struck a pose before getting into the funky, high energy ‘No Drug Like Me’, the lead song from her fourth studio album, Dedicated, that came out earlier this year. The crowd sang every single lyric back to Carly. Although the show wasn’t sold out, the atmosphere in that venue made it feel like it was. Every single, living soul was singing every lyric, whether they were in the seats or on the floor.
After ‘No Drug Like Me’, Carly got straight into ‘Emotion’, the lead song from her third studio album EM . OTI . ON, which came out in 2015. The setlist was very well balanced between the two albums, even when a couple of songs from Emotion Side B were thrown into the mix. The crowd sang every single lyric back to Carly. It became clear that all the petitions, all the tweets, all the Facebook posts and all the begging to get Carly to this side of the world was worth it. Not only did this crowd love Carly, but Carly loved the crowd. From interacting with people in the balcony, to singing lines to fans in the crowd, Carly made every single person in the venue feel like they were involved in the show. In such a big venue, she made the show feel so intimate, and I am constantly blown away when artists manage to do that, because it’s not an easy feat to make someone in the balcony feel so close to the stage.
One thing that sets Carly apart from her pop-queen counterparts is the fact that she is extremely campy when she performs her music. By saying this, I mean that she is extremely theatrical. Carly doesn’t just sing her songs – she performs them as if it’s her first time singing them, with the same emotion, meaning and intention that one can assume was involved during the songwriting process. Each song had a storyline, which coupled with emotions portrayed through almost exquisite body language, made for an amazing show. She did this effortlessly with songs like ’Happy not Knowing’, which although is an extremely poppy song, lyrics such as “I don’t have the energy to risk a broken heart, when you’re already killing me” were sung with such attitude, both physically and emotionally.
You can tell that Carly is not just any average pop star, because she doesn’t just come on stage, sing her songs and talk to the crowd in between tracks – she wants the crowd to know what she’s singing about. Transparency is very important to her, and this show proved that. Carly made a few confessions before three songs to aid as an explanation as to what they meant. ‘Store’, she explained, is about how she is famously bad at the breakup talk, because of how awkward it is. “I wish that when I felt like breaking up with someone, I could just, go to the Store!” I think that in doing this, not only did the crowd feel like they knew Carly a bit better, but it helped them relate to the songs a bit more. Carly normalized things that we all do somewhat in the name of love, and it gave the music a lot more meaning, allowing her to perform these songs with more power than she would have without the explanations.
The audience would agree with me when I say that every small detail in this show made the entire night so much better.
Crowd favourites included ‘Run Away With Me’, ’Party for One’, ’I Really Like You’, ’Cut to the Feeling’, ’Boy Problems’, ’When I Needed You’ and the song that shot her to fame all the way back all the way back in 2011, ‘Call Me Maybe’. The energy in these songs, paired with the outstanding attitude, sass, and flirtatiousness that Carly bought to these songs allowed the crowd to let loose and scream their hearts out to every single lyric of each song. Towards the end of the set, at the end of ’When I Needed You’, the band stopped playing, but the crowd sang the chorus one last time, acapella, without any help from anyone on stage, including Carly. Blew. My. Socks. Off.
After closing with the energetic ‘Party for One’, the crowd chanted for an encore, and actually shook the balcony we were stood on before Carly and her band came out to finish the night with ’Real Love’, ’Let’s Get Lost’ and, after thanking Starley, her band, crew, and everyone in the audience for coming, Carly closed the night with ‘Cut To The Feeling’. The firing of two massive confetti cannons signaled the end of the night, before everyone flooded out of the venue, adrenaline still rushing, after (to me) witnessing one of the best shows of this year.
If you ever get the chance to see Carly Rae Jepsen live, go. I’m not lying when I say you that you’re not just getting any regular concert. Carly Rae Jepsen is a force to be reckoned with.
No Drug Like Me
Run Away With Me
Happy Not Knowing
Call Me Maybe
Now That I’ve Found You
Want You In My Room
When I Needed You
I Really Like You
Everything He Needs
Party For One
Let’s Get Lost
Cut To The Feeling