Changing seasons always means there’s a virus going around, and as I headed to one of my favourite venues last Thursday night, with my concert bag stuffed full of tissues, I was wondering… Could Carly Rae Jepsen cure my cold?
Never one to miss out on an opportunity to pile a little more than I can handle onto my plate (Carrie-Ann loves a challenge!), I arrived an hour early, because I felt like it had been a while since I reviewed an opener. RALPH was either the perfect opener for CRJ or a total dud – her musical style was very similar to Jepsen’s, but it sounded a little sharp to me as I walked in to “Give It To Me.” She’s full of energy, seems genuine when she talks to the crowd, and clearly loves the stage, but she reminds me a lot of Ashlee Simpson with the forced rhymes on “Summer” and the decidedly average vocals on “No Muss No Fuss.” The lyrics on “Tease” are corny and cringe-worthy; I’m compelled to say – it’s faux Carly. It feels passé where Jepsen feels retro and hokey versus tongue in cheek.
She introduced a slower song, “Cereal,” and said it was a true story; I crossed my fingers she had spelled it “Serial.” Sadly, it was just a typical break-up song, about crying… into her cereal. You can imagine my disappointment – I take care to mention my love for true crime often. The true story part – “Even though I was the one who broke it off/I still feel all fucked up and in love” – isn’t enough to make up for misleading me in this way. But then RALPH describes herself as our fluffer for Carly as she leads back into dance music, and I feel a bit bad for opening acts generally. I think maybe she was done an injustice, being paired with someone who does what she does, only much better. That said, the crowd on the floor seemed to love it, and people are even dancing in the balcony. Maybe I’m just a miserable, critical critic with a cold.
In the break between sets, I found a seat so I could stare, glassy-eyed and sniffling, into the crowd until my sister, Lorie, who actually bought a ticket and is the reason I got into CRJ, arrived. Ahead of the concert, she recommended a playlist to get me in the mood, and I played it every time I got behind the wheel for a few days – being stuck in traffic is infinitely better with this soundtrack.
A sidebar, in case you’re coming to this review accidentally/ironically/out of confusion as to why this one-hit-wonder you haven’t heard of in seven years is playing at one of Montreal’s larger nicer venues: if you still think of Jepsen as the “Call Me Maybe” girl, you’re definitely not up to speed. Her 2015 album E•MO•TION inspired CarlyFest, a “big queer get together… dubbed the gayest party of the summer” and
Time did a piece on her titled “How Carly Rae Jepsen Became Pop’s Most Beloved Underdog” when her latest album, Dedicated, came out this spring. She might not be for you, and the show may not have sold out, but she is beloved amongst this crowd.
Carly came out at exactly 9pm and opened with “No Drug Like Me,” dressed in a bike-short-onesie of young-me’s dreams/closet. The audience shout-sings along – and I look around at a very similar cross-section of society as the one I saw at Robyn’s show six months ago, but about 15 years younger. She plays “E•MO•TION” next and after that song, she shouts “Montreal!” and the crowd goes crazy – there’s no way she could have gotten a word in edgewise before segueing into her next song, but it’s par for the course at this dance party. Jepsen does very little bantering with the audience, and that’s fine. As one concert-goer pointed out to me afterwards, some people are better at the banter than others but most of the people in that room came here to dance. And sure enough, on the chorus of “Run Away With Me,” I suddenly find myself in the middle of a mosh pit, but rather than join in, I try to soak up some of the energy coming off the crowd and will my cold away.
She delivers us a very Montreal story about “Julien” – a boy she dated when she lived here in her early twenties – and she makes it clear that it’s not a true story, or at least not anymore when she ends with, “Hey Julien, don’t call me!” This shout out makes the performance perfectly ironic, which is so her.
“Call Me Maybe” feels like perhaps her least favourite song to sing, the one she knows she has to, but she does it willingly if not wildly. It seems like a missed opportunity to connect with the audience, but she takes others throughout the show, like with “Now That I Found You,” a love song she wrote when she was painfully single, so she wrote it to her cat.
On my way to the show, I was listening to my Carly Complete Collection playlist and the last song that came on before I entered was “Store.” I think we can all agree that the first time you hear this song, you doubt Jepsen for a second, and that was my first time. I was sure she wouldn’t play it, and even though I had her setlist (she stuck to one from the previous shows on this tour), I still didn’t believe she would sing it. Then she introduced it by explaining how terrible she is at breaking up with people, and that she wishes she could avoid it by saying she’d be right back… It made the performance that followed super fun, as she practiced a comedic ‘casual walk’ on stage and the audience was in on the joke.
My sister pointed out that Carly Rae Jepsen is basically a modern-day Debbie Gibson, and nowhere is this more evident than on “Fever,” which is so retro it feels almost ironic to love it, especially with the refrain, “I stole your bike.” All of her songs are like this one, in a way. She’s totally open and honest about her emotions, even when it’s silly or embarrassing, and this in itself should explain her cult following. (That, and the fact that she reportedly wrote 200 songs for her latest album, then selected the best few.) On “Too Much” she rejects the idea that people can be too much and defends the beauty of feeling deeply, loving fully, and just generally being an exuberant person. The keyboardist busted out a saxophone toward the end of “Want You In My Room,” an interlude that was short but sweet and the crowd went nuts for it (apparently there was a popular meme about it, but I can’t explain it). The sax didn’t return until “Let’s Get Lost,” and everyone went really, really crazy.
She ended her solid nearly-90-minute set with “Cut To The Feeling,” as I knew she would, and even though it doesn’t seem fair to complain that you didn’t hear enough of an artist after a 22-song setlist, I’m going to do it anyway. Carly, “I Didn’t Just Come Here To Dance” – I came here to hear that song. “Your Type” has been (and will continue to be) on repeat in my car all week, and I had a Britney reference at the ready for when you played “All That.” (Is it not a mashup of “Sometimes” and “From the Bottom of My Broken Heart”?) After talking to some friends who went to the show (and asking them to please write this review for me because I’m both insecure and lazy) the consensus seems to be that it was a great show… and we all wanted a little more Carly. More banter, more of our favourite songs, just more. But I know what you really want to know: did the Carly Rae Jepsen concert heal my cold? Yes, it fucking did!!
- 1. No Drug Like Me
- 2. E•MO•TION
- 3. Run Away With Me
- 4. Julien
- 5. Happy Not Knowing
- 6. Call Me Maybe
- 7. Now That I Found You
- 8. Gimmie Love
- 9. Feels Right
- 10. Fever
- 11. Cry
- 12. Want You in My Room
- 13. Store
- 14. Too Much
- 15. When I Needed You
- 16. I Really Like You
- 17. Everything He Needs
- 18. Boy Problems
- 19. Party for One
- 20. Real Love
- 21. Let’s Get Lost
- 22. Cut To The Feeling
Review – Carrie-Ann Kloda
Photos – Jean-Michael Lacombe