It feels like an eternity since Carly Rae Jepsen released “Call Me Maybe” and first took the pop world by storm. Well, last year, she made a triumphant return and has been on a roll since, from the release of her passion project album Emotion to the recording of the Fuller House theme song to a role in Fox’s live musical Grease. Since her latest album hit shelves, she’s also been touring quite a bit, and it’s an aspect of her career that definitely shouldn’t be overlooked. On March 8, as part of the Gimmie Love Tour, she played The Granada Theater in Lawrence, Kansas, to the acclaim of a packed audience.
Cardiknox: Opening for a renowned pop star is no easy task, but synthpop duo Cardiknox was a solid fit to the bill. That they’re a newer band is even more impressive, as they only have a little over 7,000 Facebook likes in comparison to Carly Rae Jepsen’s 13 million. The discrepancy didn’t stop the group from having a blast on stage, however, with their synth-driven pop tunes being delivered with precision and a ton of energy. Since they were set to release their debut full-length, Portrait, just a few days later, they played a fair amount of songs from the album. One of the standouts from the performance was “Wild Child”, a song that is impressive for its immaculately catchy chorus and breezy movement. With the movement came a typical pop build-up, but instead of relying on an empty bass drop, the song dropped into smooth instrumentation courtesy of a full live band.
Vocalist Lonnie Angle really shined throughout the set. A former theater singer, Angle showcased both a stellar range and a knack for great dance moves. As a unit, Cardiknox was able to get the crowd involved early on, which is a tough task for anyone opening a pop show. The songs themselves were a big help, as the mix of indie rock and Top 40 pop was a warm combination. As they finished their set, Angle left the audience with a simple message to love one another. Just like the message, everything about their performance breathed positivity, but without much of the shallowness that often contaminates mainstream music.
Rating: 7.5 / 10 stars
Carly Rae Jepsen: By the time Carly took the stage, the crowd had grown to enormous size, with fans pouring down the stairs onto the floor level of the venue. Though it’s not surprising to see someone who had a #1 single play to such a large crowd, it was a question whether people still saw her as “relevant.” Considering she just released the best album of her career (and one of the best pop albums of the decade), I would like to think her relevance is back — if it was even gone to begin with. Fans yelled “Carly!” as she came out with the rest of her live band, and from there, a lengthy set initiated with the title track off her new record. Just like the recording, the song’s soaring chorus and exotic instrumentation were a delight in the live setting, getting the crowd moving around from the first note. She continued her set with a slew of songs off Emotion, including “Run Away With Me,” “Warm Blood,” and my personal favorite, “Your Type.” The elated reactions of the crowd showed that they were invested in her newer material as well as her older material, especially as they chanted out the title line from “Run Away With Me.”
By the middle of her set, Carly and the rest of the band had slowed down the load of new songs and played a few from her 2012 release, Kiss. The most notable was “Good Time,” a song originally featuring Adam Young of Owl City that gained massive exposure in television ads and movie trailers. As Young was obviously not available live, a member of the backing band sung his parts, trading lines with Carly as the chorus of “whoa”s shook the building. The last song in her set was the most successful offering from Kiss (and, of course, Carly’s biggest song to date), “Call Me Maybe.” Right when the song began, dozens of audience members began filming with their cell phones, possibly trying to capture any sense of nostalgia from when they first heard the song in high school or college. Fans screamed the lyrics at the top of their lungs; if “Good Time” shook the building, then the finale nearly brought the building down.
Carly’s vocal performance throughout the set showed why she’s one of the better pop stars when it comes to pure delivery. She can hit high notes with ease, while entertaining with sleek, saccharine verses. Her backing band was equally impressive. They displayed exactly what makes Emotion such a superb album: the added textures and dimensions to her music that keep things fresh and inviting at all times. You could tell the audience loved the show, and not just for the few standouts. I’m sure they went home and bragged to their roommates about hearing “Call Me Maybe” live, but apart from that offering, there was enough substance to go around. Carly Rae Jepsen’s live act shined from beginning to end, proving that it’s one of the best in pop music today.
Rating: 9 / 10 stars
Carly’s vocal performance throughout the set showed why she’s one of the better pop stars when it comes to pure delivery. She can hit high notes with ease, while entertaining with sleek, saccharine verses. Her backing band was equally impressive.