“We want Shawn! We want Shawn!” chants erupted, penetrating through a galactic themed Madison Square Garden as “Illuminate MSG” was plastered on three large screens in the stadium. With bated breath, fans’ patience grew weary as they waited for the start of Shawn Mendes’ first headlining concert at the iconic arena, which took place on Saturday (Sept. 10).
Blue lights illuminated MSG while crowd wave surges began. “Shawn, wake up! You need to focus or you’ll never make it,” an artificial intelligence voice said over the stadium’s speakers. Then: boom. Shawn Mendes, the teenage heartthrob responsible for luring thousands of fans to the venue, took the stage. Mendes began the night showing off his vocal range with a performance of “Something Big” — off his 2015 studio album Handwritten — and displayed his beat-boxing skills as well as a slick rap verse, especially fitting as NYC is one of the birth places of hip-hop.
“I wish you guys could see what this looks like from my perspective,” the 18-year-old headliner announced before belting out the lyrics to “A Little Too Much.” Just a day before his MSG appearance, the singer expressed his “nerves” about the performance to his seven million fans on Twitter:
Hello MSG nerves. Please go away.
— Shawn Mendes (@ShawnMendes) September 9, 2016
Though nerves may have gotten the best of him within the hours leading up to the show, Mendes commanded the Garden’s stage with just his voice and a guitar, making it impossible to believe there were any nerves there to begin with. The Toronto native ditched his beloved acoustic guitar and grabbed an electric one for a rock star-esque performance of “Treat You Better,” which has so far peaked at No. 8 on Billboard’s Hot 100.
The singer has had quite the track record since his Vine days, gaining recognition with “Life of the Party” and “Stitches.” Mendes recently announced his upcoming 2016 Illuminate world tour — the first world tour he’ll headline — where he’ll perform in Germany, Australia, Spain, Italy and more.
Mendes’ devoted and loyal fans sang each and every song’s lyric with assertiveness and ease. Mendes treated his fans to “Light’s On,” a new song off his upcoming offering, Illuminate. “Light’s On” is a sultry dance track that reveals the singer’s maturity as he coos “Darling I wanna see every inch of you / I get lost in the way you move.” He even performed a medley of “Kid in Love,” in which he led into the Jackson 5’s famous “I Want You Back.” He also, of course, performed “Ruin,” the song for which he created a chilling black-and-white video that shows him singing his heart out to an empty Madison Square Garden just days before he was set to appear there.
“I have to say I cannot hear myself right now, and I love it so much,” the “Treat You Better” singer said as he stood on a circular stage — in the middle of the arena — with a large moon hovering over him. Never-ending screams and cries from his fans continued to fill Madison Square Garden as he went on to perform more songs off of Illuminate, such as the hushed love ballad “Three Empty Words,” “Like This,” and “No Promises.”
Mendes’ Illuminate album hosts no features, and judging by his MSG concert, the singer can hold his own. Never taking a break, a futuristic, machine-like female took residence on the stage’s backdrop as Mendes began “Mercy” before throwing it back to a medley of “Never Be Alone” off of Handwritten and a cover of the Plain White T’s “Hey There Delilah.”
At last, raindrops fell down the backdrop on stage as a black Baldwin grand piano appeared to assist Mendes in his final performance of the night, “Stitches.” He started off with a stripped down, emotional version of the track, which peaked at No. 4 on Billboard’s Hot 100, then later ditched the grand piano to return back to his roots. Mendes picked up an acoustic guitar and, with help from a few of his background guitar players, ended the memorable night with a high-energy performance of his most famous hit to date. As screams from pre-teen and teenage girls shook the stadium, the singer’s smile beamed with contentment and glee onstage and he finished out the night strong.
“Couldn’t be happier with tonight. I love you,” Mendes tweeted after his concert. “All I can say is thank you.”
Shawn Mendes’ Illuminate is due on Sept. 23.