Demi Lovato – Vector Arena

IMG_9775If we’re being polite, we’ll call Demi Lovato’s first New Zealand concert “stripped down,” if only because it’s more charitable than “can’t be bothered,” which, based on last night’s performance, wouldn’t be entirely fair. In a show that finished well under ninety minutes after Lovato first walked onto the Vector Arena stage to a wall of screams from a packed-house audience — and that includes an encore, and a haka from a local Maori group to open the show — the one-time Disney teen star played a collection of hits that her audience, mostly teenaged girls, lapped up.

Lovato’s American shows, I’m reliably informed by my teenaged daughter, who was my beard for last night’s show, are typically full-scale arena productions, with lightshows, pyrotechnics, costume changes, dancers; Lovato down under was a straight-ahead pop-rock show, Demi herself front and center with two backing singers in the wings of the stage and a backing band of drums, bass, guitar and keys on risers behind her. A minimal lighting rig and a projection screen behind the stage were the extent of the stageshow she brought to New Zealand; in her defence, she was in Melbourne two days earlier, and she would play in Singapore two days later, and a much bigger setup would be a logistical headache. What this meant, then, was that the focus was squarely on her.

And her performance was, well, interesting. She’s a very static performer, tending to stand, centre-stage, as she sings. There was the occasional strut across the stage to the wings, the mercifully-infrequent pole-dancer squat, a strum on an acoustic guitar for Don’t Forget, even a head-banging wigout during Got Dynamite, but for much of the show, she either stood, or sat on a stool, to face the crush of girls on the floor of the Vector Arena. Absent the visual interest that accompanies her more full-blown performances, the focus was on Lovato, the singer, and last night she gave a reasonable account of herself. For the first three or four numbers, her voice was so far down in the mix that it was hard even to hear her; as the show progressed, her singing cut through more clearly and showed that she can, indeed, sing. Let It Go, the song from Frozen that has become the ear-worm bane of many a parent’s existence, was, on stage, a surprisingly powerful number. Encore Neon Life, in its intro, wanted to be New Order’s Blue Monday; My Love Is Like A Star, which showcased her voice as well as almost any other song, tried very hard to be Easy Like Sunday Morning. And Get Back, her first single, was re-tooled as a bouncy, choppy acoustic number. And it worked well. She is, clearly, a talented performer.

What worked considerably less well were Lovato’s attempts to talk to the audience. Four songs in, she gave the obligatory “I’m so blessed to be in New Zealand” speech; the audience gave the obligatory ecstatic screams every time she said the words New Zealand. But then things went a little horrible. She thanked Jamie McDell, because “They’re my support act;” one was left with the impression that she’d not even met her opener. And then there was a rambling dedication of Warriors to Bruce Jenner, which just felt shoehorned-in and unnecessary, and a rather cloyingly self-indulgent monologue about the “first-class problems” in her life that came into perspective when she visited Africa for her 21st birthday and hangout with Maasai warriors with whom, apparently, she identified so strongly that she felt moved to write a song about, which was accompanied by an embarrassingly ill-judged culture-porn video.

Lovato then thanked, by name, her PA, her hair and make-up artist, her costume manager and other crew members who rarely get a look in. She also mentioned, in passing, her band, but neglected to introduce any of them by name. A surprising omission, that — her half-dozen backers were an accomplished outfit. Mike Reid was the standout, playing muscular but fluid drums; her guitarist and bassist — I’ve struggled to find their names; clearly she didn’t consider them important enough to identify — filled out the sound powerfully.

In the end, then, a Demi Lovato concert is not an event I’d be queuing up to attend. On the strength of last night’s performance, I’m glad I went, but I’m really not sure I’d want to go again, but I’ll thank my daughter for dragging me along. But I also realise that I was in a very small minority last night — the balance of the audience were, clearly, relishing the show, and I could, most of the time, see why.

– Steve McCabe

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Amina McCabe:

Demi Lovato Set list:

  1. Really Don’t Care
  2. The Middle
  3. Fire Starter
  4. Remember December
  5. Heart Attack
  6. My Love is Like a Star
  7. Don’t Forget
  8. Catch Me
  9. Let It Go
  10. Warrior
  11. Two Pieces
  12. Got Dynamite
  13. Nightingale
  14. Skyscraper
  15. Give Your Heart a Break


  1. Neon Lights