Concert Review: Shawn Mendes (and an Earthquake) Shakes L.A.’s Staples Center

A 7.1 magnitude earthquake proved no match for pop heartthrob Shawn Mendes and thousands of his adoring fans on Friday, as the singer mounted the first of three performances at Downtown Los Angeles’ Staples Center.

Currently in the midst of an eponymous world tour that will clock 105 dates total, Mendes was moments from hitting the stage, following an opening set by Alessia Cara, when cries rang out across the arena. Rows of ceiling-mounted sound equipment swayed dangerously from cables and two of Mendes’ oversized set pieces rattled in place thanks to the quake, the second in as many days to hit Southern California.

Staples Center security cleared out several rows of floor seats as fans scrambled and took to social media to document the brief chaos — which at first seemed like concern for safety, but eventually proved to be scores of people desperate to get back in position for the singer.

After almost 30 minutes of equipment checks, the house lights dimmed and those swaying installations — one a giant LED sculpture of a rose, the other a massive disc-shaped projection screen — fired up to the good kind of calamity you should expect at a pop show: adolescent shrieking.

Mendes wasted no time jumping into his hits, opening with the funk-twinged romantic jam “Lost in Japan,” followed in quick succession by more of his signatures like the tortured Romeo track “Stitches” and the sexually adventurous “There’s Nothing Holding Me Back.”

But it wasn’t all about his ubiquitous radio successes. Mendes’ setlist combined many ballads and lesser-known titles from his debut 2015 album “Handwritten,” which he performed in a swift medley, seated at a black Steinway piano on a smaller stage at the south end of the arena.

Bearing in mind that, despite his still-expanding celebrity footprint, the part-time Calvin Klein model is native to the internet, having won his record deal nearly six years ago by singing covers on the now-shuttered video platform Vine, Mendes asked the crowd how many people knew him from day one. He then polled how many were only seeing him live for the first time that night. The response was giddy and equal on both fronts.

Shawn Mendes performs live on stage at the Staples Center, in Los AngelesShawn Mendes in Concert - , Los Angeles, USA - 05 Jul 2019
CREDIT: Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP/Shutte

Like many of his contemporaries, Mendes finds himself in a balancing act: to satisfy a devout core audience while at the same time converting new admirers who may have discovered him more recently. To that end, his approach is simple: lean into the music. For instance, Mendes did not change clothes once during the nearly two-hour performance but swapped out guitars with nearly every song. He also took the seats of two different pianos when it was time to croon.

Mendes did throw a curveball or two, by calling back to his roots and sneaking in two covers. The first was at the top of his piano medley, a slower and more soulful take on the Whitney Houston classic “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” The second was the set’s penultimate moment, his take on the Coldplay heartbreaker hit “Fix You.”

“This doesn’t happen every night, but right now my heart is beating so fast for you guys,” Mendes told the crowd, dialing up the mutual admiration on an evening that felt more urgent after a brush with natural disaster. His music, as always, served as a welcome shakeup.

Popular on Variety

Concert Review: Shawn Mendes (and an Earthquake) Shakes L.A.'s Staples Center

More Music

  • Warner Music Group Partners With Audiomack

    Warner Music Group Partners With Audiomack

    Warner Music Group announced it has entered a partnership with the music streaming and discovery service Audiomack, marking the platform’s first licensing deal with a major label. According to the announcement, the two companies will work together on content concepts and explore ways to break emerging artists, connecting music fans with rising talent before they [...]

  • Scooter Braun Congratulates Taylor Swift on

    Scooter Braun Congratulates Taylor Swift on ‘Brilliant’ Album and Campaign

    Two days after Taylor Swift fired off the latest salvo in her battle with Scooter Braun, the manager congratulated the singer on the campaign around her “brilliant” new album, “Lover,” which arrived last night. The message came after Swift said she will be re-recording songs from her first six albums, which are now owned by [...]

  • Review: Taylor Swift Finds Giddiness, Amid

    Album Review: Taylor Swift's 'Lover'

    Sitting in a hot tub on “Saturday Night Live,” Will Ferrell and Rachel Dratch stole the sobriquet “love-ah” from the lexicon of acceptable terms of endearment — and, by golly, Taylor Swift is reaching into that oily water and stealing it back. The word doesn’t sound unctuous on her lips as she repeats it in [...]

  • Travis ScottWireless Festival, Finsbury Park, London,

    Travis Scott Surprises Fans With Netflix Documentary Reveal, Pop-Up in Houston

    Travis Scott just revealed his new Netflix documentary in the most organic way possible: a social media post to his 18.5 million followers on Instagram. The photo consisted of him holding a series of VHS tapes, which turns out to be the trailer for his forthcoming documentary on Netflix titled “Look Mom I Can Fly.” [...]

  • Beverly Hills Realtor Accused of Stealing

    Beverly Hills Realtor Accused of Stealing From Usher, Adam Lambert

    A Beverly Hills real estate agent has been arrested on charges of stealing from the homes of celebrities, including Usher, Adam Lambert and “Real Housewives” star Dorit Kemsley. Jason Emil Yaselli, 32, is accused of encouraging an accomplice, Benjamin Ackerman, to enter homes during open houses in order to steal from them. Ackerman allegedly sold [...]

  • Taylor Swift Debuts 'Lover' Video, Sings

    Taylor Swift Debuts 'Lover' Video, Sings 'Archer' During YouTube Livestream (Watch)

    Taylor Swift went live on YouTube today to talk about the inspiration behind her new album “Lover,” dropping tonight. Those who tuned into the live event on Swift’s YouTube channel were virtual attendees of the “Lover’s Lounge,” which included an acoustic performance of her already released single “The Archer,” a Q&A sesh and a behind-the-scenes [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content