Shawn Mendes Gets Warm Reception at Hometown Arena Show in Toronto
Hits? What hits? To the thousands of fans inside Toronto’s Air Canada Centre for the first of Shawn Mendes’ back-to-back hometown shows Friday (Aug. 11), every song is a hit. They screamed and sang along to every one, not just to radio smashes “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back,” “Stitches,” “Mercy” and “Treat You Better.”
It was not the first time the 19-year-old has played the arena. While his current tour is his first all-arena world run, in 2016 the singer added a summer date at the ACC and 13,000-plus tickets sold out in minutes. He previously headlined the Danforth Music Hall with a capacity of 1,500 in late 2014.
His rise -- from Vine sensation in 2013 to Billboard chart-topper and arena headliner over just two albums, 2015’s Handwritten and 2016’s Illuminate -- is meteoric but the teen heartthrob has slid into the role easily.
He plays guitars (electric, acoustic), piano, and has a bluesy soulful voice that takes a lot of his songs out of the pure pop realm. His music points to a future not unlike one of his heroes, Ed Sheeran, who now counts “old people” as fans, not just smitten squealing teen girls and tykes who fall asleep on their parent’s shoulder by night’s end.
Just a few songs into the 90-minute set, Mendes confessed that before he came out he’d “never felt more nervous in my entire life.” He reasoned it was because, “When it’s your hometown, people who have been supporting you from the beginning, all you want to do is show them the best show in the entire world because that’s what you deserve.” He added, with a chuckle, a thank you for not only one night at the ACC but two nights, perhaps a little shocked himself.
Other than that, Mendes didn’t talk that much. He introduced songs, asked “Toronto” how we were doing, encouraged sing-alongs, and at one point laughed about some girls bringing fake lighters to the show. The arena often lit up with mobile phones for the ballads.
For “A Little Too Much,” Mendes did make a point to say, “This is a song, out of all the music I’ve released, that has connected with you guys more than anything else in a personal way.” (The lyric is about a girl overwhelmed by life and having a tough time carrying on.)
“As a songwriter, as a creator, and as a person, I could not ask for anything more when it comes to a song. Every single night when I stand on stage and I perform this, I am reminded of the actual power music has on people and that's a wonderful feeling,” he said.
With only two albums to his name, Mendes did play most of Illuminate, including “Ruin,” “Three Empty Words,” “Don’t Be A Fool” and “Bad Reputation,” and about a handful from Handwritten, throwing in a snippet of Sheeran’s “Castle on the Hill” before “Life of the Party.” It’s the same set he’s been doing on this tour that ends a week before Christmas in Tokyo.
Mendes really couldn’t have done anything any better at this stage in his career. He has a solid live band. He played electric or acoustic guitar for almost every song. He did some solo numbers and played grand piano on a smaller stage at the far end of the arena. He engaged the audience, occasionally roamed to the foot of the stage to touch some hands, but mostly showed that he has legs as a singer, songwriter and performer.
Round two Saturday night.