by Jeff Niesel
Singer Demi Lovato is the nicest rock star you’ll (n)ever meet. During a 90-minute performance last night at Quicken Loans Arena, she graciously thanked her fans, saying things like “you guys are so awesome” and “I’m so excited to see all you guys here.” The platitudes sounded heartfelt too. And during “Let It Go,” she brought two girls (ages 10 and 6) from the crowd onto the stage to sing the song with her. But the best rock ’n’ roll singers are often not nice (and we all know what happens to nice guys). With her pink hair and partially shaved head, Lovato has adopted a rebellious look. Instead of keeping it strictly PG, it would be good if her music moved in that direction too.
Her 18-song set began with the bombastic “Heart Attack,” a song she delivered at the front of the stage with dramatic, exaggerated gestures. Because her six-piece band cranked up the guitars and put an emphasis on heavy percussion (the hard-hitting drummer sat atop a huge riser for the entire show), Lovato tended to yell more than she sang. That meant that her vocal performances on songs such as “Fire Starter” and “Got Dynamite” got short changed, even though her capable backing vocalists often did the heavy lifting.
She can certainly sing well, and that was something she proved on acoustic tunes such as “Catch Me,” a song she introduced by saying that it was something she wrote in her bedroom, and “Nightingale,” a ballad which she performed while sitting on a stool. But more often than not, she struggled to be heard above the din. While techno, club-like tunes such as “Unbroken” and “Neon Lights,” the latest single from last year's Demi, got the biggest response from the half-full arena, Lovato, who isn’t much of a dancer, did a better job at executing the ballads which she often sang with little-to-no accompaniment.
Opener Cher Lloyd capably warmed the crowd up with a rousing 30-minute set. The diminutive but athletic Lloyd pranced across the stage with a real swagger, energetically dancing during her set and effortlessly shifting from rapping to singing on tunes such as “Want U Back.” Her three-piece backing back ensured that the songs had some real punch to them. She fared much better than Fifth Harmony, a bland R&B/dance group that took the stage first. The group had such poorly choreographed dance moves, you’d think the five female singers were participating in a high school talent show.
Seventeen-year-old magician Collins Key served as MC for the night. His tricks involving everything from playing cards to cell phones were certainly clever, but he came off too much like a hype man as he relentlessly encouraged audience members to tweet about the concert and put pictures of themselves on Instagram.