On February 9th, Demi Lovato kicked off her Neon Lights Tour at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. This is the pop star’s first major stadium-sized headlining tour. To make this occasion even more special, she recruited two rising girl groups from her X Factor family, Little Mix and Fifth Harmony, to join this girl power party as her opening acts.
First up on the stage was Fifth Harmony, the third-place finalists from The X Factor US Season 2. The five girls (Ally Brooke Hernandez, Normani Hamilton, Dinah Jane Hansen, Camila Cabello, and Lauren Jauregui) harmoniously sang and danced to songs from their Better Together EP (“Me And My Girls”, “Better Together”, “Leave My Heart Out Of This”, “Don’t Wanna Dance Alone”, and “Miss. Movin’ On”) and did a pumped-up cover of Destiny’s Child’s “Independent Women”. The Fifth Harmony girls certainly left a positive impression on the crowd with their adorable and cheery brand of bubblegum pop.
Little Mix flew onto our radars last year with their hit single, “Wings”, and with the recent release of their sophomore record, Salute, the beautiful Brits continue to be the girl group to watch. The fine, fierce, and fabulous foursome (consisting of Perrie Edwards, Jesy Nelson, Leigh-Anne Pinnock, and Jade Thirlwall) grabbed the audiences’ attention from the get-go with the booming and striking “Salute” (my favourite song of theirs as well as my new female battle cry). With hot choreography and even hotter vocals, the fly girls showed off their stuff with a setlist that included “Move”, “DNA”, “Little Me”, and “Word Up” (a Cameo cover), and “Wings”. They gave a nod to their R&B influences with tributes to TLC (“No Scrubs”), Destiny’s Child (“Bootylicious”), and En Vogue (“Don’t Let Go”). Their smashing set showed why they are the reigning Queens of The X Factor UK‘s eighth series.
The Neon Lights Tour’s sole gentleman (and the luckiest guy on the planet right now) is Collins Key, the teenaged magician from Season 8 of America’s Got Talent. During the show, he plays the duel roles of MC and magician, showing off his array of creative and astonishing tricks – including a dream date box trick that still boggles my mind. It was a genius way to keep the audience entertained in-between acts throughout the night, and with his awkward yet endearingly cute charm, the talented Collins is guaranteed to be adding new fans to his legion of Keypers!
Beautiful, bold, and a total badass, Demi Lovato truly lives up to her promise of delivering a show that is bigger and better than any tour she’s ever done before. With her pink hair, red plaid, and black boots, the spunky pop-rocker blasted the arena immediately with a dynamic opening of “Heart Attack”. Her setlist included tracks from her latest studio album, Demi (“Firestarter”, “The Middle”, “Really Don’t Care”, “Made in the USA”, “Two Pieces”, “Nightingale”), and from her previous works, Unbroken, Here We Go Again, and Don’t Forget. The crowd went absolutely wild when her friend, Nick Jonas (also her creative and musical director for this tour) made a surprise guest appearance to accompany and sing with Demi (both on their guitars) on a few songs from Here We Go Again, “Stop the World”, “Catch Me“, and “Here We Go Again” (introducing a slowed-down, stripped-down, and slightly-jazzy re-arrangement of the pop track that I really dug). My personal favourite performances of the night were inspirational “Warrior” (with Demi on piano), the incredible “Let It Go” (from Disney’s Frozen), and the rockin’ “Got Dynamite” (please record more songs like this, Demi). Throughout the show, there were mini music-videos accompanying the songs on the large screen, and an emotional video package of Demi – from her childhood with Disney, through her challenges and comeback, to now – played as she launched into her first hit single, “Don’t Forget” (the whole thing made me teary because it reminded me of how much she’s overcome, grown, and accomplished over these last five years). There was a cool segment during “Neon Lights”, which integrated her social media app to create a neon lights experience with the audiences’ cell phones, that electrified the crowd into participating in a full-scale dance party with bright lights and a confetti storm. The two-punch encore of the stunning “Skyscraper” (where Demi literally rose from the ground on an elevated platform ladder) and the infectious “Give Your Heart A Break” left people in high spirits by the set’s official end.
Demi is a multi-talented entertainer (vocalist, songwriter, guitarist, pianist, and drummer, as I just learned), as well as an emotional and energetic performer (just like her favourite artist, Kelly Clarkson, and I can definitely see and agree with the resemblances in their styles!) Besides her powerful voice, Demi’s strengths lie with her willingness to be personal, vulnerable, and human with her fans. As she said during one of her talks with the audience, music is important to have as an escape, and as an avenue for connecting with others. For Demi, this means her supporters, and she wants to do everything she can to get as close to her fans as possible. Something that I loved during the show was seeing those little moments when Demi got choked up during songs, no doubt feeling overcome by the love and gratitude she has for everyone who came out to see her in concert. You can tell that she’s really genuine with her intentions as an artist – for her, it’s not just about singing songs, it’s about inspiring her fans with her music, and being inspired by them in return. And that right there is what music is all about.
Setlist: “Heart Attack”, “Remember December”, “Firestarter”, “The Middle”, “Really Don’t Care”, “Stop the World” / “Catch Me” / “Here We Go Again” (stripped version, with Nick Jonas, both on guitar), “Made in the USA”, “Nightingale”, “Two Pieces”, “Warrior” (on piano), “Let It Go”, “Don’t Forget”, “Got Dynamite”, “Unbroken”, “Neon Lights” (app effects), and an encore of “Skyscraper” and “Give Your Heart A Break”
Major props to Demi for including alums from the reality talent show competitions on her tour, and as well as giving us a much-needed all-girls driven music affair. There’s nothing I love more than seeing girls come together to do something special. It makes me really happy to see so many young girls looking up to Demi, Little Mix, and Fifth Harmony. We need more talented ladies like them. Girls who wanna have fun. Girls who wanna stand up and move. Girls who wanna be free to be themselves, flaws and all. They are leading a revolution in pop music right now, and I’m excited to see it all unfold. Girl power!
(Images and videos by yours truly.)