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Saturday, September 25, 2021

Mommy-daughter night at the Mondavi Center: Review of Carly Rae Jepsen concert

It’s a bad idea to go stag to a female pop star’s concert and sit in the front row. It’s an objectively bad idea when the audience consists of tween girls and their mothers.

On September 18th, the Mondavi Center hosted Canadian Idol runner-up Carly Rae Jepsen with Nashville pop rock band Hot Chelle Rae (a band that confirms my childhood fear that we are running out of names for things) as the opening act.

Unlike the Morrissey concert I gushed about, I knew very little about the performers when I went through the doors. All I knew was that Hot Chelle Rae have a hit song (“Tonight Tonight”) that I don’t like and that Carly Rae Jepsen has a hit song that I like.

Obviously, I’m not in the target demographic for this concert. I’m a childless, younger-sibling-less 23 year old male who spent all day listening to Swans and Japanese guitar pop. I went to this concert wearing a Joy Division shirt without a hint of irony. I’m really the worst possible person at The California Aggie to review a pop concert. Surprisingly, I actually kind of liked it.

Hot Chelle Rae, in typical rock n’ roll fashion, began performing promptly at 7:30. To be entirely honest—and this is coming from someone whose negative opinion of the band has changed very little since seeing them live—they should have shared the headlining spot with Jepsen. Their set was 15 minutes shorter than the headlining act and I got the feeling that the audience knew their songs better than they knew Jepsen’s.

Also, as of the morning after, I can’t remember anything Hot Chelle Rae played besides a Taylor Swift song, something that mentioned Skype, a Rihanna song and their hit. This is partly because I don’t care about Hot Chelle Rae and partly because the acoustics at the Mondavi Center made the vocals sound like My Bloody Valentine.

Hot Chelle Rae had a great stage presence though. The lead singer, a bleached blonde man named Ryan Follesé, performed with a huge smile on his face the entire time and really engaged with the audience. Unlike the bassist.

I wasn’t really able to focus on the last half of the show because the guitarist, who was fond of throwing guitar picks like they were shuriken, may have thrown one under my seat. The 12 year old girl in front of me noticed this and kept turning around to stare at me, which made the awkward feeling I had even worse. Even when I obviously couldn’t find the damn guitar pick, she kept staring at me. Eugh. Sorry. That was Hot Chelle Rae.

Half an hour after Hot Chelle Rae left my life forever, Carly Rae Jepsen entered it in full force. She just appeared in the middle of the stage and began to sing.

While Follesé had skill with the audience, Jepsen was a natural. She knew exactly how to talk to 14 year old girls. This was unusual for me, because every other concert I’ve been to was by a consciously distant performer, such as Bob Dylan or Morrissey.

The show was a damn spectacle too. Cannons shot giant balloons, there was a mad light show and I got covered in confetti twice. When I left, I felt like I had a fun hangover.

Also, in case you’re wondering, she ended her show with THAT song. She snuck up on the audience with it too, placing it after a five minute bit where she had some audience members (who consisted of four adorable little girls and one college aged male) come up on the stage.

It was a very abrupt ending to an otherwise decent show. She walked into the front rows and then went back up on stage and booked it. No encore. I’ve never seen that happen. I bet she hates singing that song now.

In all, it was a decent way to spend an evening I would have otherwise spent playing video games while listening to music and crying. I wasn’t the target audience for this show and I can say with authority that it lacks any sort of crossover appeal to people who aren’t into bubblegum pop. Go if you’re a fan.

 —John Kesler

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