By MIKE CHAIKEN
It’s interesting to see an artist evolve over time.
The first time I had a chance to review Demi Lovato was in 2009. She had released her second album, “Here We Go Again,” and was America’s darling on “Sonny With A Chance” on the Disney channel.
And I had no idea who she was.
However, I was invited to catch her headlining tour, which opened at the XL Center in Hartford.
I went and I was impressed with her show. I liked her take on pop rock. She had a ton of energy. She had a great connection to the crowd. And I liked that although she was a Disney product at the time, she came off as genuine and sincere. I also liked that she was trying to push herself into being something more than just another teen idol.
Then earlier this year, in March, I had a chance to catch her again. I was invited to see one of her openers. But, I hung around to watch the headliner.
This was Demi’s first tour following a period of personal turmoil. And there were moments, touching moments, when she reached out to her fans… to let them know she’s been through some of the same troubles they may have been through. And she assured them that they can get through the heartache.
Musically, Demi was a much different performer than she had been six years earlier. The songs were still family friendly for her young audience. But she was trying new things. “Neon Lights,” which gave the tour its name, found her delving into EDM. And “Let It Go,” from the film, “Frozen,” showed she had a dramatic Broadway flair that was absent from her earlier “Here We Go” days.
Vocally, Demi still was finding herself as a singer. And there were moments when she seemed stretching herself to the limit. But she acquitted herself much better than some artists on the top 40 who appear in concert.
Fast forward to Friday, Oct. 17 at the Mohegan Sun.
This time on the Demi Lovato World Tour, it was clear that as a singer and a musician (and a performer) Demi is coming in to her own.
Her vocals had a distinctive sound already. But she’s finding her way to a much raspier, fuller vocal tone that’s more idiosyncratic. There’s also more power to her voice, which gives songs such as “Skyscraper” that much more emotional impact. (That song was one of the highlights of the evening.) And she has a better grasp at conveying her passion, as was evidenced by her take on “Let It Go,” on Oct. 17.
Demi also showed a willingness to take some musical risks. She decided to perform Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” That song is iconic MJ, and unless it’s a Vegas-style tribute show, most artists probably wouldn’t attempt it. But Demi, obviously a fan, opted to give the audiences a treat with her own rendition, complete with zombified choreography.
Was she better than MJ? Well, I don’t even think Demi would expect anyone to say she exceeded the performance of the Gloved One. But she more than held her own. And that is a testament to her growing talent.
As an entertainer, Demi also has stepped up her game. Back in 2009, her show consisted of her breathlessly running from one side of the stage to the other. Now, her show is complete with choreography. Although Demi might not be a dancer first, she did a great job keeping up with her dancers.
During the Neon Lights tour, a good deal of the show was spent addressing Demi’s “story.” On Friday, Demi said she wants to move beyond her story and put the emphasis on the music.
It’s clear that she is managing that and excelling as well.
Opening for Demi Lovato was Christina Perri, best known for tracks such as “Jar of Hearts” and “Human.”
I already was a fan of her music from her recordings. I love her sincerity. It’s clear her words are something she believes in. And her piano-centric music offers an organic counterpoint to the EDM dominating the airwaves these days.
This was my first chance to see her in performance. And I was wowed.
First of all, her performance was top notch. Her voice in concert is just as strong as it is on record. And her passion managed to carry throughout the auditorium.
Songs such as “Human,” “A Thousand Years,” “Arms,” and “Jar of Hearts” all give you chills thanks to her impassioned performance.
Bea Miller, the second act on the bill, was a pleasant surprise. Her pop rock stylings, in many ways, were reminiscent of Lovato’s first two albums. She had a strong voice with great potential. And her music had a definite earworm quality to it. Her single “Young Blood” latches onto your brain, but it does so with a very eerie, melancholy feel. I’m intrigued to see how her career proceeds from here.
MKTO, the openers, were a fabulous way to kick off the evening. These two have so much energy on stage. And they’re a great deal of fun. I saw them earlier this year opening for Emblem3, and like Demi, I can see how they’ve evolved in those few months that have passed.
Musically, they are much tighter than months ago. Their stage presence also has come leaps and bounds. And, face it, “Classic” may be one of the catchiest songs of 2014.
Overall, the sell out audience at the Mohegan Sun on Oct. 17 were blessed with a night of top notch artists from the top of the bill on down.
I give the Demi Lovato World Tour four out of four stars.
Comments? Email mchaiken@BristolObserver. com.
By MIKE CHAIKEN