She didn’t have a flying hot dog, an army of Trojan soldiers or big furry creatures.
Demi Lovato doesn’t have Miley, Katy or Gaga money behind her new World Tour.
That left the “Camp Rock”/“Barney” star to rely more on her own talents Tuesday night at the Petersen Events Center.
Lovato is a little leaner on hits than those other ladies and her personal struggles have damaged her career at key points, so it wasn’t too surprising that the turnout was low. But with the upper levels of the 9,000-capacity concert venue closed off, the fans below did enough screaming to fill the building.
Nick-related duo MKTO got it started with their funk-pop hits “Thank You” and “Classic” and then Christina Perri brought headliner talent and personality to the evening. Starting with a solo piano “Jar of Hearts,” she moved on to rock out with her band on “Shot Me in the Heart” and caress exquisite ballads like “A Thousand Years” (with a graceful balletic dance) and “Human.”
Lovato emerged out of the floor, with smoke machines blasting, in a black Thunderdome-style get-up with “Really Don’t Care” and right off the bat her set felt hard, cold and processed compared to the one we’d just seen. In fact, it was so processed sounding, it was hard to tell if she was really even singing.
She stayed in that mode through the first five songs, including “The Middle” (one of the few older songs in the set), “Fire Starter” and mega-hit “Heart Attack,” backed a four-piece band, four dancers and two backup singers. She had a metallic guitarist in stringy-haired Mike Manning, sporting a Void punk/thrash T-shirt.
“How yinz doin’ tonight?!” she said, breaking the ice, to cheers from the crowd. “If I just made a fool of myself, that’s because someone told me that’s what you say around here.”
The middle section revealed the softer, more musical side of Demi as she eased into the ballad “My Love is Like a Star” and joined Manning acoustically on “Don’t Forget”/”Catch Me” and “La La Land.” With those, and her uptempo version of “Let It Go,” she showed off her brassy vocals and impressive range.
Settling at the piano for a classical interlude from her recital days, she brought her message to the young fans, saying, “I’m not letting my struggles define who I am as a person.
“I want to move on from my past,” she said, referring to her substance abuse problems, adding, “If anyone is struggling with anything like I was struggling with, I just what you to know you can get through it.”
She also said that “celebrating my 21st birthday sober was [expletive] amazing.”
That all introduced the inspirational ballad “Warrior,” delivered with film clips of her charity mission to Africa.
For the latter part of the show, she was in a second tight black outfit and back in a harder pop-rock mode with “Two Pieces,” a high-energy cover of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and big hits “Skyscraper” and “Give Your Heart a Break.” She put a fun explanation point on the show, treating fans to a blast of color in the lights and costumes for “Neon Lights.”
Perri had stated earlier, “I hope you all have the most magical night of your lives.”
That’s a lot to ask for in any show, particularly this rather small-scale one. But, as a former (troubled) child star battling for her place in the pop world, Demi Lovato certainly didn’t disappoint her fans.