My parents will swear to me that they saw Led Zeppelin in concert decades ago and the band didn’t play “Stairway to Heaven.” Whether this was because they were taking chances or just because they understood they may have been staring down the barrel of the forthcoming years playing the song every single night into foreseeable perpetuity, it can’t be determined.
Its relevant here because I think it’s a respectable, if not entertaining, device for an artist to veer from “giving the crowd what they want.” So when Carly Rae Jepsen performed her biggest hit, ‘Call Me Maybe’ early in her set list Saturday and with no fanfare – just sliding it into her set and then carrying on immediately afterward – it was clear that the night’s direction at Reno’s Grand Sierra Resort and Casino would be on her catalog of ambitious pop songs with much more of an indie sound.
On tour for her fourth album, “Dedicated,” Jepsen’s appearance took on the feeling of a Broadway show. Multiple outfit changes putting her front and center before a band and backup singers dressed entirely in black, the contrast focused the Grand Theater’s attention solely on Jepsen. She has taken a cue from her theatrical performances in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” on Broadway uses all the nuances — from her facial expressions, body language and non-stop energy — to communicate a feeling with each song.
Playing through a 22 song set list that left off some bigger songs such as “This Kiss” to instead forge a tapestry of sounds incorporating slower and more cerebral songs with the upbeat synth-heavy tracks that she is more known for, along with a few songs full of arena-banger bass lines that left the stage awash in enveloping neon disco glow.
While associations may still be with a tweeny bopper pop hit, those tweens in the crowd numbered far fewer than the LGBT fanbase that seemed to be the largest group in the audience, packing the floor with outfits coming close to upstaging any of Jepsen’s multiple dress changes. That the concert took place on the final Saturday night of Pride month seemed to be an occasion not lost on the festive crowd, which came in with gifts handed onstage to the singer mid-set.
In all, Jepsen hit the stage, blasted through a nearly two-hour set list, and maintained an explosive display of energy – twisting, sprinting, crawling, traipsing and smiling – across the space throughout. Her voice reached the heights on a few songs, and showed that the music most people know her for may be a thing of the past while her “Dedicated” material is much more that of a theater — and new wave-inspired pop juggernaut. But then, surprise always has been one of her best traits as an artist, so it shouldn’t come as a shock when her concert invites the audience along on a night full of it.
— Shaun Astor