Shawn Mendes / Alessia Cara Canadian Tire Centre, Kanata ON, August 18

Shawn Mendes / Alessia Cara Canadian Tire Centre, Kanata ON, August 18
Photo: Chris Bubinas
In the pop music world, word is that Shawn Mendes has been known to put on one of the most electrifying live performances around, eschewing big production values and gimmickry to focus on a raw, visceral, and workmanlike stage show. Returning to the Ottawa area for the second time in just over a year, Mendes was able to pack the Canadian Tire Centre based on his crystalline reputation as a tight live performer and bona fide pop superstar.
After touring together in Europe, fellow-GTA-er Alessia Cara once again joined Mendes as his opening act. Bringing along a simple three-piece band and modest stage setup, Cara bounced through a 45-minute set that focused on her string of Top 40 hits, including "Here," "Wild Things," "Scars to Your Beautiful" and "Stay," Looking comfortable on the large CTC stage, Cara was able to ignite the mostly female crowd with a high-energy sing-along performance that peaked with her rendition of "How Far I'll Go" from the Disney film Moana.
Walking out to waves of deafening screams and raised smart phones, Shawn Mendes entered the stage wearing a Springsteen-esque cut-off button-down (to properly show off his bodybuilt pipes) and impossibly skinny jeans. Kicking the set off with "Lost in Japan," one of the five singles from his 2018 self-titled LP, the Pickering, ON musician switched between playing his guitar, gripping the mic and imploring the animated crowd to sing along.
Moving into super hit "There's Nothing Holding Me Back" from his 2016's Illuminate, Mendes made sure the energy of the arena was at peak position from moment one.
After a fan-favourite-laden set that featured a bombastic version of "Stitches" from his 2015 debut Handwritten, Mendes migrated to the obligatory smaller "B" stage near the opposite side of the floor. Seated at a baby grand piano underneath a 35-foot illuminated rose, Mendes performed a brief cover of Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)" alongside lesser-known album tracks like "Like to Be You" and "Ruin."
Returning to the main stage, Mendes demonstrated just how well he can orchestrate massive crowds, leading the 17,000 people in attendance to cheer wildly and help him sing hits like "Treat You Better" and "If I Can't Have You" before ending the set with a moody version of "Mercy" that found his four-piece band playing amongst perfectly situated smoke machines.
Closing the show off with a cover of Coldplay's "Fix You" and a guitar-focused version of "In My Blood," Shawn Mendes, although utilizing some well-worn pop show tropes of his own, proved to his legion of admirers (and sceptics) that he can outperform any pop star, thanks to an impeccably honed combination of buff, sweat and cheers.

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