Demi Lovato at Xcel Energy Center, 3/18/14

Categories: Last Night
Photo by Tony Nelson

Demi Lovato
with Little Mix and Fifth Harmony
Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul
Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Disney has been the cultivator for many arena acts, from Justin Timberlake to Miley Cyrus to Britney Spears (Demi's former The X Factor co-judge), and now Demi Lovato. Lovato certainly has what her predecessors also offered: good looks, commercial appeal, and a good voice. It's just that Demi lacks the stage presence to carry on an arena show.

See Also: Slideshow: Demi Lovato at Xcel, 3/18/14

There were too many cringe-worthy moments in the evening -- from her chest-thumping to her leaning on her guitarist as he guitar-soloed his way through the bridge of "The Middle." Come on, Demi, show us a little more character. The reason why people enjoy live performances is they want to lose themselves for a few hours.

Perhaps it's not fair to compare Lovato to synth-pop band Future Islands, but in the group's recent performance on Letterman, the band delivered an unpolished, visceral act. When lead singer Samuel Herring pounded his chest, his performance was so extraordinarily expressive that it caused people to talk -- because it was so rare to see a man lose himself on stage like that. Maybe that's what Demi needs, to show a little bit more vulnerability and let loose. Stop playing it so safe.

Photos by Tony Nelson
From her stage outfits -- only two! -- to the stage layout, the evening had a played-out feeling to it, as if everything was recycled from another star's set. The lack of costume change was understandable because Lovato seems to want to be known for the music rather than her flashy show. The singer was decked out in all black, as were her backup singers and band, and hot pink hair that she used as an accessory when "headbanging" -- and I use that term loosely.

As if she isn't sure if she wants to be a rocker or a pop musician, Demi can be described as a mix of Katy Perry -- just not as fun -- and Paramore's Hayley Williams -- just not as cool. Her message is female empowerment, which is clear from her lyrics in "Fire Starter" and "Really Don't Care." Concerns for the evening began with the opening piece "Heart Attack," one of her bigger hits. Her songs are respectably passable, but barely entertaining enough to keep one's attention -- unless you were an impressionable young girl at her first concert.

The show was comparable to a sitcom that has the same plot as every other on television. Clichés were in abundance from the light rock/mediocre pop songs like "Made in the USA," which Demi dedicated to some fans that she had met earlier in the evening that served the country with military service, and "The Middle," where she grabbed some drum sticks and pounded out the beat a la Imagine Dragons.

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