Words: Will Stroude
He might have started his career by sharing Justin Bieber covers on YouTube, but almost five years later Shawn Mendes has come to represent his countryman’s antithesis.
Three albums in and still just 20, Mendes has seemed impervious to the burnout which has dogged his fellow Canadian pop idol, maintaining a ruthlessly clean-cut image as he’s racked up millions of sales around the globe. While Bieber is off egging neighbours’ houses, Mendes is the boy next door who’d be whipping you up eggs benedict and winning over your mum.
The legions of tween girls packed into London’s O2 Arena last night for the second of Mendes’s three sold-out shows at the venue didn’t stand a chance, basically. From the souped-up opening riffs of recent single ‘Lost in Japan’, the crowd of adolescents and dutiful parents were putty in Mendes’s hands, as the singer played to role of winsome teen heartthrob to perfection.
Flanked by a band of live guitars and (very deliberately) sporting a cut-off denim jacket, Mendes’s certainly looked the part of a rock star, but make no mistake; this was a carefully choreographed pop spectacle.
Lively early hits like ‘There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back’, ‘Stitches’ and a solo version of Camila Cabello collab and ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’ were rattled through with polished efficiency, while romantic favourites like ‘Bad Reputation’ and ‘Never Be Alone’ from 2016’s Illuminate and 2015’s Handwritten kept audience gush levels dialled up to a 10.
A chance to flex Mendes’s considerable musical talents came in an intimate second act which saw the star take to the piano on a smaller second stage in the centre of the crowd for a segment consisting of heartfelt ballads and slow-jams like ‘A Little Too Much’ and ‘Because I Had You’, and ‘Ruin’.
The rapport with the crowd was earnest but relatively perfunctory – though with the chorus of Earth-shattering screams that greeted his every aside, you’d forgive Shawn for not feeling the need to stray too far off-script.
Things kicked up a gear as the show enter its final third, with Mendes apearing increasingly animated as he launched into the more soulful numbers of his most recent, self-tilted, album. The undeniable funk of ‘Particular Taste’, ‘Where You In the Morning?’ and ‘Fallin’ All In You’ gave the Toronto-born star a chance to show off his impressive falsetto, while proving he’s got more natural musicianship than most self-proclaimed 'edgy' rock stars.
Dedicating self-empowerment single ‘Youth’ the adoring fans who’ll no doubt keep his success assured for years to come, there was time for a riotous rendition of UK Top 10 hit ‘Mercy’ before a encore consisting of an assured cover of Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’ and a confetti-filled burst of stadium-ready anthem ‘In My Blood’.
While doing little to expand on the family-friendly reputation on which his career is built, there were enough signs at The O2 that Shawn Mendes is a musician who could one day be ranked alongside the industry's biggest players: The real test will be how – and whether – he can navigate the transition from adored teen idol to household superstar upon which that will depend.
‘Lost in Japan’
‘There's Nothing Holdin' Me Back’
‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’ / ‘Mutual’
‘Never Be Alone’
‘A Little Too Much’ / ‘Because I Had You’
‘When You’re Ready’
‘Life of the Party’
‘Like to Be You"
‘Treat You Better"
‘Where Were You In the Morning?"
‘Fallin’ All In You"
'Fix You' (Coldplay cover)
‘In My Blood’