On the rooftop of the Fonda in Hollywood tonight, Carly Rae Jepsen, fresh from a 90-minute power pop set downstairs, is telling me about the time she wound up on Japanese television teaching the host how to make avocado toast. “Instead of taking the stone out with the knife, I got a bit excited and removed it with my mouth!” she howls. A quick Google of ‘Carly Rae Jepsen avocado toast’ will bring up the evidence on YouTube. Jepsen picks up the stone-y half avocado and whips out the massive round middle with her teeny face. Perhaps it’s the fact that Jepsen is so unashamed in her demeanor that makes her our most accessible popstar. Certainly tonight that carnal approach to preparing avocados encapsulates everything about the way the Canadian sensation performs onstage — all teeth, head first and hungry like a tiny, porcelain-skinned wolf.
There is nothing delicate about the LA stop of Jepsen’s Gimmie Love Tour, which brings to life the ’80s driving pop of last year’s criminally under-selling album E.MO.TION. She pummels the 1,200-strong crowd of hardcore CRJ fans relentlessly with would-be #1 hit after potential global anthem, like she’s playing to a stadium-sized audience. If there were any justice in the world, she would be playing stadiums, such was the unanimous critical acclaim that met the release of E.MO.TION last August. The album didn’t achieve the lift-off commercially that each of the choruses on its 12 heart-possessing tracks did sonically. Notably, it wasn’t acknowledged at the Grammys two weeks ago, either. Not that this puts a damper upon Jepsen’s impervious spirits. As she says tonight while introducing ‘LA Hallucinations’, she’s finally bought some bricks in her adopted hometown of LA here, and she’s having the time of her life performing to adoring audiences who don’t need convincing that E.MO.TION was potentially the best pop album of the past few years. Jepsen owns her confidence in a manner you or I might were we playing a fantasy videogame where we get to be Pat Benatar onstage for the night.
Opening with “Run Away With Me” and that undeniable lyric “baby, take me to the feeling!”, Jepsen’s show promises to live inside Steve Perry’s vocals on “Don’t Stop Believin'” for the rest of the evening. What Jepsen lacks in height, she more than makes up for in air-punching, lofty sentiments as she jumps about in a velvet nightie, flexing her sinewy muscles, pointing at members of the crowd, singing words of positivity in their faces, promising “Here I come to hijack you!” (“Making The Most Of The Night”), which they willingly go along with. On the album’s title track, she seeks saccharine glorious retribution for a relationship that didn’t work out – “I feel it!” she repeats. During ‘Warm Blood’ – a co-write with ex-Vampire Weekend‘s Rostam Batmanjlig that sounds like a summer-y Chvrches – the audience becomes so emotional, you can barely hear Jepsen herself sing. The singalongs grow ever more deafening as she veers into older material from 2012 album Kiss, including “This Kiss”, “Curiosity” and “Tonight I’m Getting Over You.”
On “Your Type,” two men in the crowd start kissing affectionately, then stare into each other’s eyes and sing, “I’m not the type of girl for you.” Every song receives an introductory preamble, none more powerful than “When I Needed You” before which she explains, “Guys this one is about realizing the hard way that you should never really change yourself for someone else.” The sentences might seem well-trodden, but they’re always accompanied by heart-eye emojis. The songs’ themes of love won and lost, survival and staying true to yourself feel lovingly earnest tonight. Her story is the crowd’s story – a humanist search for happiness. “Do you think I want too much?” she asks on “Gimmie Love,” then simply hollers: “Fall into me” like she’s offering up a giant cushioning hug from reality. On every song she smiles through all the sentiments: fear, rejection, heartache, disappointment. The joy of Jepsen is in her ability to take over our search for pure elation and prolong it over the course of a vocally exquisite pop set. She can take that refreshing fizz you taste with a first champagne sip, bottle it up and make it last all night.
It’s Jepsen’s romanticism that sees her fans rooting for her the only way they know how. A rendition of her enormo-hit “Call Me Maybe” generates not a mosh pit, but a glee pit, all around the room. You’d forgive Jepsen for going through the motions on a track that’s arguably shot the rest of her career in the foot. But Jepsen never goes through the motions. She takes the motions and bites them apart, then bursts into a cheeky smile. “We can’t thank you enough,” she says. “We don’t just love you. We really really really really really like you.” As the crowd sweat every last drop of bodily fluid for the closing ‘I Really Like You’, it’s clear the feeling is resoundingly mutual. Carly Rae Jepsen came here tonight to ask for love, and she receives nothing but.