Less than one week before performing to a crowd of screaming fans at the Fox Theatre on July 18, 17-year-old Shawn Mendes released the music video for his latest single, “Treat You Better.” While the video touched on the heavy subject of domestic abuse, his Atlanta show was much more lighthearted.
Whether the Canadian singer was performing singles (“Life of the Party”) or album cuts (“Bring it Back”) from his debut album “Handwritten” and his upcoming sophomore album “Illuminate,” fans overpowered him, screaming along to every word. He’s not just a teenage heartthrob. Mendes’ ability to craft catchy coming-of-age pop songs is clearly at the core of his growing fandom.
Wearing a grey t-shirt and black pants, Mendes strummed through the confident kiss-off track “Aftertaste” and introduced fans to “Three Empty Words,” a song from his upcoming album “Illuminate.” The simple moments throughout the show were where he shined.
For much of the concert, the staging was simple. Mendes stood with a microphone and a guitar, illuminated by a few spotlights. Even when joined by his band, much of the stage remained dark to keep the focus on Mendes. Occasionally, a translucent screen extending across the stage displayed images pertaining to the songs. For “A Little Too Much,” lyrics were scribbled across a faux wall as dark clouds outside of two windows set the mood.
Mendes’ voice isn’t extraordinary, but it’s good. Not that it would matter to fans if it wasn’t. Throughout the show, he belted out heartfelt lyrics about young love and heartbreak, and delivered clean vocal runs, but you had to strain to hear him singing over the audience.
Even when Mendes performed a mismatch mashup of “Air” with Drake’s “One Dance,” James Bay’s “Let It Go” and Rihanna’s “Work,” the crowd squealed.
During a performance of the bluesy “Illuminate” track “Ruin,” he showcased an impressive falsetto, but fell short when delivering an abbreviated, forgettable guitar solo. Similarly, an encore performance of the upbeat breakup anthem “Stitches” found Mendes kicking off the hit single with an extended intro at the piano. The simple stage production and lighting made sure Mendes and his instruments were the center of attention, but at times it felt like he was simply showing that he was capable of playing the instruments instead of using them to convey the feelings behind his music.
During a performance of “Never Be Alone” towards the end of the concert, fans held up sings that were given to them before the show began. “You made it” was typed into black hearts and pointed in the singer’s direction.
Sure, Mendes has a few things to learn as a performer, but with his fanbase and songwriting ability, he’s clearly on the right path.
Not bad for a teenage singer who got his start on Vine.