Selena Gomez isn’t the brightest star in the music world but she’s certainly one of the busiest – she’s an actress, an ex-girlfriend, a fashionista, and has appeared in commercials for everything from shampoo to Sears.
But she’s a singer too, and Saturday night’s concert at Rogers Arena was a treat for fans who came expecting the expected – fun songs, cool costumes, and lots and lots of hair tossing.
The crowd was a mix of pre-teen girls with their embarrassed-looking dads, and a handful of embarrassed-looking older men that came to the concert by themselves. I was in the latter category, but that’s because concert reviewing is a crap shoot. Sometimes you’re 10 rows away from Paul McCartney while he’s telling stories about his “old friend John”, and other times you’re in the rafters at a Selena Gomez show trying to figure out what sets her apart from the other singer-actress-Instagram stars that litter the pop music landscape.
I’ll admit that I came into the show last night with a lot of preconceived notions as to what makes the singer tick. I thought I wasn’t super familiar with Gomez’s music before the concert but found myself singing along to the chorus of every other song. Turns out I’ve been hearing them for years at drag shows and grocery stores, but never realized I was rocking out to tunes by that Disney television star that isn’t Hannah Montana.
See? Another preconceived idea.
Saturday night’s show was mostly comprised of songs from Gomez’s latest album Revival, which I’ve been listening to on repeat since the concert. The disc is chockfull of club bangers and was mostly written by Gomez herself. As she told us, “when I get irritated or inspired, I like to use writing as my therapy.”
Singles “Good For You” and “Same Old Love” killed with the Vancouver audience, as did “Feel Me”, a new song that doesn’t appear on any of Gomez’s albums. Not much is known about the song but with lyrics like “Do you stay up late, just so you don’t dream?”, it’s likely she penned the track herself.
Gomez sounded fine when she slowed things down and focused on her vocals. She performed a beautiful version of her breakthrough single “Who Says” at a piano and said “I know this song has helped people through some hard times, but the funny thing is that I needed the song more than anybody else.”
Also great was her cover of Hillsong Worship’s “Transfiguration” and told us the track has gotten her through some very difficult times. “Most of the time, what we’re searching for is already inside us,” she said. “I hope you guys can take something away from this.”
The rest of the concert was basically a retread of every production show that’s blown through Vancouver over the last couple of years. Laser beams? Check. Clunky set pieces? You got it. And all those costume changes! Gomez left the stage a half-dozen times to play dress up while her captive audience was stuck watching video footage of the singer posing and pouting on the arena’s giant screens. Self indulgent? Sure, but as Gomez said recently, “the show is so centered around me. It has a beautiful feel to it, but it is about me.”
The singer is smart enough to recognize her strengths (walking, hair-flipping, some live vocals) and left the heavy lifting to her production crew. Her troupe of backup dancers thrilled on top of a giant mechanical structure during “Survivors” while Gomez kind of shimmied in between them.
Same goes for “Kill Em With Kindness” that had her dancers bouncing on yoga exercise balls while Gomez stopped to catch her breath. This “triple-threat” business isn’t always easy.
The singer did bust out some funky moves during a remixed “Love You Like A Love Song” and turned the entire arena into a giant dance party for show closer “I Want You To Know”. “I think that’s the best I’ve ever done that one because I’m kinda tired,” she told us.
I was kind of tired by that point too but after scanning the crowd in the final minutes, it dawned on me that shows like hers aren’t necessarily intended for jaded critics like me. I was making notes in my phone about the dopey lyrics to one of Gomez’s “inspirational anthems” but saw one girl crying her eyes out while singing along to every word. And earlier I was rolling my eyes over the cringe-worthy choreography that accompanied “Hands To Myself”, but ended up cheering on an awesome little dude in the next row who had all of the singer’s moves down pat.
An evening spent listening to Sir Paul’s stories is definitely more my cup of tea, but for thousands of young Vancouver fans last night, Gomez’s Revival Tour wasn’t just a concert – it was a moment.