Carly Rae Jepsen at Minnesota Zoo, 8/18/13

Categories: Last Night
Stacy Schwartz
Carly Rae Jepsen
With the Wanted
Minnesota Zoo, Apple Valley
Sunday, August 18, 2013

There couldn't have been a better location for Carly Rae Jepsen to visit in the Twin Cities than the Minnesota Zoo. (Sure, the Mall of America runs a close second, but just the same.) The stony amphitheater, nestled as it is into a secluded hillside with leafy overgrowth, is tailor-made for school field trips more than for concerts, so there was a distinct air of the whimsical about the whole evening. Oh, and there were all those kids. Lots and lots of screaming kids.

The most enthusiastic (and ear-splitting) of those screams weren't aimed at the "Call Me Maybe" singer, however. No, those were unleashed on the opening act, a U.K. boy band called the Wanted. In fact, the mood in the zoo was almost subdued by the time Jepsen took stage -- a fact that wasn't exactly an anticlimax, per se. It was just, well, its own, separate kind of reality.

See Also:
Slideshow: Carly Rae Jepsen and The Wanted at the Minnesota Zoo, 8/18/13
Carly Rae Jepsen on meeting Owl City's Adam Young and "Good Time"

In all fairness, comparing the energy of the two groups isn't exactly fair to Jepsen: The Wanted had five members to carry the load, plus a backing band of hardcore punk vets -- for example, guitarist Brian Deneeve used to play with From Autumn to Ashes -- that even a grizzled concertgoer would have to admit sounded tight. (Plus the libidinal preteen fervor of the audience to help keep the momentum going -- never something to be underestimated.) Jepsen had it all to do for herself, not to mention that her backing band left a lot to the imagination.

Stacy Schwartz
Stacy Schwartz
The even more curious fact of the night was that, by the time the Canadian singer took the stage, most of those young audience members seemed to have already worn themselves out. She didn't start until a quarter-past nine o'clock, early by most shows' standards but probably past bedtime for a large portion of the audience. In a way, she might have had her work cut out for her.

In any event, Jepsen never tried to compete with the Wanted, whose hour-long set ran about 15 minutes longer than hers -- and about 20 minutes longer than it should have. Hers was a comparative game of small ball, one which also said a great deal about her strengths and weaknesses as a performer. Frankly speaking, Jepsen's not an especially outstanding vocalist. Mind you, she's not bad, either -- it's just that she doesn't have the range to really be able to sing over a full band.

Her efforts to overcome that fact -- or at least to work around it -- were hit and miss. Mostly, she played coy, which suited the material: Each break-up phone call, passing crush, and missed opportunity was greeted with a twirl of her hair or a knocking of her knees. Dressed in a silver jacket and neon-green Chucks, she danced and spun and even ran in place, a spunky, modern-day reincarnation of Cyndi Lauper. Her long bangs, meanwhile, always provided a means of retreat when a song called for being bashful.

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