REVIEW: Carly Rae Jepsen flush with Pride, full of steam at Bill Graham Civic

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Carly Rae Jepsen

Carly Rae Jepsen performs at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco on June 28, 2019. Photos: Joaquin Cabello.

SAN FRANCISCO — Carly Rae Jepsen hardly gave fans at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium a chance to catch their breath on the second night of her tour in support of new album Dedicated. The pop singer-songwriter kicked off with a bang to “No Drug Like Me.” After her band and backing singers took the stage, she casually strolled in, clad in a metallic rainbow jacket atop a shiny magenta bodysuit. And while she’d routinely acknowledge the crowd with a few words here and there, the set bumped from banger to banger, slowing things down only twice. That was mostly a good thing, though there were a couple of times in the set that songs blurred together.

Carly Rae Jepsen

Carly Rae Jepsen performs at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco on June 28, 2019.

About half of the performance was composed of songs from Dedicated, released in May. The majority of rest came from 2015’s E•MO•TION, such as the title track, which came second in the set. The hit tune still sounded fresh and was accentuated by some choreographed arm and hand movements by Carly Rae Jepsen and her two backing singers. “Run Away with Me,” another E•MO•TION cut, was an early set highlight, with a collective scream from the crowd both at the outset and when one of the musicians picked up a saxophone for his sexy solos. Jepsen stood on one of two short risers, pumping her arms while singing, “I’ll be your hero, baby.”

Large hanging LED frames flashed colorful patterns over the band, but the production was mostly low-key in order to shine a spotlight on Jepsen and her band. The lights couldn’t compete with the singer’s colorful outfit. Dedicated track “Julien” came next. Wearing her love on her sleeve, Jepsen unabashedly went all in on a crush.

“Do you have somebody you think about? Let’s call that person Julien,” she said. While that new cut and others went over well, “Happy Not Knowing” wasn’t quite perfected yet, with the timing seeming off at times. That’s understandable, given that the band had just debuted the song a night earlier on the first night of Jepsen’s tour, in Anaheim.

Carly Rae Jepsen

Carly Rae Jepsen performs at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco on June 28, 2019.

Jepsen doesn’t have to rely on her biggest hit, “Call Me Maybe,” to carry a concert anymore, so she confidently burned through the song next, and was throughly overpowered by fans who sung every word. “Now That I Found You,” a new song, proved to be a feet-off-the-ground thumper, with the pace between songs speeding up. During “Gimmie Love” a mirrorball filled the room with speckled red light.

That song rolled into “Feels Right,” which rolled into “I’ll Be Your Girl,” which Jepsen described as a song about jealousy. It was still upbeat, as was most of the set, but carried a sinister edge. In all, it felt like a reverse “Jessie’s Girl,” with Jepsen scorching another woman who was throwing herself at her man. The following “For Sure,” was more layered and complex than Jepsen’s early sugary material. The singer left the stage for an outfit change at the end while the backing singers picked up the slack and the band went into an extended jam session.

Jepsen returned wearing a colorful dress ringed with feathery pink fluff for “Want You in My Room” and “Store,” off  E•MO•TION: Side B, the companion to the 2015 album. It was the closest thing to a ballad at that point in the set and the first of two aforementioned breathers. The second half of the set went into overdrive with cuts like “Too Much,” “When I Needed You,” “I Really Like You,” “Everything He Needs,” “Boy Problems” and set closer “Party for One,” coming one right after the other. “When I Needed You” was another fan favorite that turned into a sing-along. After the song ended, Jepsen kept dancing to the music in her head as the band queued up the next tune. Compared to the pop bangers, “Everything He Needs” came off as the most unlikely change of pace in the show with a cabaret feel.



Following a short encore break, the band returned to the stage for the first true ballad of the night—”All That”—as well as “Let’s Get Lost” and hit “Cut to the Feeling.” Before the final song, Jepsen wished attendees a happy Pride, and during the song, a rainbow-clad male dancer in shiny platform boots danced onto the stage, removing layers of colorful clothing and wigs until a cape and short jean shorts remained. The performance was punctuated by confetti explosions and fans, many of whom read for Pride weekend dancing in the aisles.

The show was opened by Sydney electro pop trio Mansionair, whose key sound signature was singer Jack Froggatt’s falsetto atop bubbling, airy synths. The band’s set included songs like “Alibi,” which was at times dreamy and melodic, and at other times off-kilter, woozy and percussion-heavy, not unlike A-Rush-of-Blood-to-the-Head-era Coldplay.

Mansionair

Mansionair performs at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco on June 28, 2019.

On “Falling,” higher register fingerpicking sat atop thundering drumming. And on the set closer, “Astronaut,” Auto-Tuned backing vocals and electronic percussion created a club beat that was heightened further when an ’80s guitar solo kicked in.

New York synth-pop band St. Lucia preceded Jepsen with an exciting and too-short set that combined the best elements from its most recent LP, Hyperion, with its spring acoustic EP and following tour. In short, it was a combination of pulsating head boppers with more experimental and jazzy versions of older material. The quintet opened with keyboard-led nostalgia kick “Bigger,” from Hyperion.

St. Lucia

St. Lucia performs at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco on June 28, 2019.

Before “China Shop,” frontman Jean-Philip Grobler was the first to wish attendees happy Pride weekend. The song bled into “Closer Than This,” from St. Lucia’s 2012 self-titled EP. Keyboardist Patti Beranek then took the vocal lead on the band’s Portuguese-language version of “Love Somebody.” Nicky Paul tickled the ivories on a very jazzy interlude, which some of the pop fans in the room didn’t know what to do with. “All Eyes on You” was a highlight, as usual.

Grobler and co. finished with “Dancing On Glass,” which got the loudest cheers of the set, a cover of Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al” and “Wait for Love.”



 

Follow editor Roman Gokhman at Twitter.com/RomiTheWriterFollow photographer Joaquin Cabello at Instagram.com/joaquinxcabello

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