It’s hard to believe that it’s been four years since Carly Rae Jepsen’s ubiquitous Call Me Maybe wormed its way into the minds of American music listeners. Entire popstar careers have come and gone in those four years, yet Jepsen found herself at an interesting point in her trajectory when she released the great Emotion LP last summer.
It failed to really light up the charts, despite the fact that just a few years prior Jepsen found herself behind one of the biggest pop songs of the last decade. Regardless of record sales, Emotion was a master craft in 80s pop production, a love letter to one of the strongest decades in pop history. From the ridiculous saxophone solos to the buzzing synths, the entire album comes across like the best possible 80s-prom playlist. In short – Jepsen proved herself to be far more than what Call Me Maybe would have you believe.
So of course I had to go check her out on tour, bringing the new songs to life at Tulsa’s Cain’s Ballroom. Throughout her short, 90 minute set, Jepsen touched a significant portion of the new record while also dusting off an oldie or two (and of course, the aforementioned Call Me Maybe). The crowd wasn’t huge, but they were passionate, and you could tell Jepsen was just happy to be performing.
Jepsen had the stage presence of a stadium-sized pop act, and it was pretty amazing to see her strut her stuff on such a small scale. Without the backup dancers or props most major female pop stars bring along, Jepsen controlled the stage with her four-piece band.
Slow jam All That was one of Jepsen’s strongest vocal performances of the evening, while stone cold house jam I Didn’t Just Come Here to Dance got everyone in the audience bopping up and down. Based solely on audience reaction, it seemed that Let’s Get Lost was the fan favorite song of the night, propelled by a pulsating synth bassline and featuring a really, really over the top saxophone solo.
Call Me Maybe was a giant sing-along, of course, but by the time it came up almost 20 songs into the set it was very clear just how far she’s come from a production (and quality) standpoint. Nearly every song of the set sounded like it could be a major single, and it’s a shame that she’s still primarily known as the Call Me Maybe girl. Regardless, she had everyone in the crowd smiling and singing along with her, and there’s not much else a pop star can ask for.
Even better was the fact that both of the two opening acts – the synthpoppy Cardiknox and the folk pop trio Fairground Saints — were great in their own way. Fairground Saints didn’t really fit the overall 80s synth vibe of the night, instead relying solely on acoustic instrumentation and some haunting, Fleetwood Mac-styled harmony work. A surprising high point of their opening set was a take on Justin Bieber’s Love Yourself which was far better than it had any business being.
Cardiknox, fronted by the effervescent Lonnie Angle, ran through a brief set that sounded like an edgier take on the pop style that Jepsen herself would play shortly after they wrapped up. With their first album set to release just a few days after this show ended, they were doing everything they could to win over the crowd and by the end of their allotted time they had done just that.
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Carly Rae Jepsen: