As the center of my music universe currently revolves around active rock stalwarts such as Metallica, Volbeat, Shinedown, and The Glorious Sons, you would probably not expect to find me at an Alessia Cara concert. But I actually do enjoy a pretty wide range of music (except for country). I told another Mike seated behind me at the show, I am not very musical myself so I am always blown away by musical talent of any style. I learned this retired Mike was also a talented musician, from his days as a lead in two barbershop quartets and years of singing at weddings. Mike, I am impressed hearing about your talents. And Craig and Alessia, I am really impressed with what I saw and heard tonight.
I really first became aware of Alessia Cara from seeing her on the Tonight Show. Her latest appearance, when she played the Wheel of Musical Impressions with Jimmie Fallon, told me I had to go see her in person now that she has grown from a supporting act on Shawn Mendes’ tour, to now headlining her own The Pains of Growing Tour. She also appears to be an admirable role model for our daughters, so like many, it was the show to bring your daughter to. Plus, you can’t beat the sound and comforts of the plush Mystic Lake Showroom.
Craig Stickland opened the show and was really a pleasant surprise as a fill-in for Ryland James, Alessia Cara’s current tour opener. The tall, long-haired Canadian musician previously toured with Cara as her supporting guitarist and is now known by many for his “Van Sessions” that he records in his solar-powered, converted Sprinter van. In a black leather jacket, he strolled across the stage under the large CRAIG STICKLAND letters, trailing the drummer who would be his only accompaniment. Selecting one of the many guitars awaiting him, he launched into a blues song, quickly earning the attention of the Alessia Cara fans who had never heard of him. He used his falsetto voice in the next pop song that seemed to be more to the liking of the youngsters in the crowd, eliciting several “wows” and “yeahs” from the gallery. Stickland grabbed an acoustic guitar and made many of the mothers and daughters blush when he said, “It’s tough to write a song about making love without being cheesy. This is about finding someone and making a “Golden Child”.”
“I want to thank Alessia Cara. She is one of the most amazing persons in the world. Tonight I’m playing songs from my new upcoming album. Some songs have been released and some not. This one I did release a few weeks ago. It’s about falling in love with someone who had her heart broken. It’s called “Stop At Nothing”. Stickland’s powerful and emotional vocals now got some hoots and hollers from the increasingly impressed audience. Stickland also told us, “I feel like in relationships I make the wrong call early on. I feel like I see a warning signal far in advance but I’m blinded by it. “Warning” was a slower song with a Welshly Arms sound to it.
“The next tune is the title track for my upcoming album. It’s about the that time when the sun is setting and the moon and stars are rising. I call it a “Starlit Afternoon”. The catchy guitar-picking tune and had fans clapping to the quicker beat singing along to the “Woo hoo hoo” part. I have one song left, the last single from my new EP, “Break Every Rule”.” This final song also got fans clapping along with and then clapping for the impressive opener. “I’ll be by the merch table after the show and would truly like to meet each of you.” He meant it. There he was, taking selfies with a long line of fans as they left the Mystic Lake Showroom.
As the room darkened for the main act, the crowd buzzed in anticipation. A very theatre-like city apartment set was revealed beneath misty green streaks of light. There sat Alessia Cara on a vintage couch in the left-side living area of the two-room suite that gave the show a real theatre show vibe. She sang the slow reprise of “Growing Pains” from The Pains of Growing album. With her hair tied tight, she wore a white t-shirt, green pants and white sneakers and would wear those out prancing and dancing around the stage tonight. As she rose to progress into the full version of “Growing Pains”, fans quickly realized they were at a concert and stood with her as her supporting band appeared within that spiffy loft setting.
The young Canadian star asked, “Prior Lake, what’s up?” “This is my awesome band and crew,” she continued. I want to take things back to the very beginning.” It was the first official single she released at age 18, “Here”, about hating being at parties. It prompted an enthusiastic response by the crowd littered with young-teen girls and their mothers who heartily sang along to the as Cara bounced around the stage to the slow song’s heavy bass.
Sifting back to her recent work, she now asked, “Who here has heard of my new EP, This Summer?” A strong roar signaled most had. “I’m hoping you can help me out.” She says she caught the writing bug while on tour supporting Shawn Mendes last summer and the EP tells stories of the feelings and experiences she had on the road. “Ready” was the first single released from this fresh EP and has a Jason Mraz vibe to the verses surrounding the “Until you’re ready for, ready for, ready for, ready for me” chorus.
Cara moved over to the right-side bedroom to sing her song about knowing things will get better, but “Not Today”. She laid on the bed, as teenage girls will tend to do when they are feeling sad, and progressed to the foot of the bed. Then she slowly walked through her necessary pity party she needed before moving on. Simulated rain drops were cleverly displayed in the windows of the set, complete with dramatic splashes, to emphasize the emotions in play.
The young singer was ready to move on as she sang and impressive cover of the Nina Simone standard, “Feeling Good”. Of course she put her own flair on the song using her own unique, soulful voice with supporting blues guitar, and then asked the crowd, “Are you feeling good?” A glittery gold guitar was now brought out for Cara as she transitioned back to one of her own songs, “Comfortable”. The song is about worrying about what a relationship will be like after getting past the initial exciting newness. She concludes the comfortable stage is better than she thought it would be. Her lead guitarist joined Cara at the front of the stage for an impressive solo during the song before the bass guitarist joined them to form an instrumental trio in front of their drummer.
The guitar-phase of the show would continue with a different electric guitar brought out for Cara to play on “Girl Next Door”. During the song the house lights were turned on to display fans singing, dancing, and just enjoying themselves. After targeting a guitar pick for a young fan near the stage, Cara asked, “Did you get it? No?” “Sorry, I’m the worst pick thrower ever. But I dropped one earlier. Here it is.” Progressing now to an acoustic guitar, Cara asked the crowd, “Who knows the deep cuts off The Pains of Growing?” With her three supporting musicians relaxing on the couch, Cara told the crowd, “It’s just you and I.” Singing that likeable deep track, “Wherever I Live”, Cara then asked, “Who knows this part: “Ah, ah, ah, ah”?” With the crowd catching on, they were coaxed to sing the “ah ah’s” one more time, even louder. Cara surmised, “Not bad.” “That was your first test, but I know you can be louder. You said you know the album. This is another deep cut. I recorded it in my basement. It has a rawness that I don’t think I could recreate if I re-recorded it in a studio. It is about being in a vulnerable stage fearing you would leave.” As Cara came to the chorus, she asked her fans, “What’s next?” They answered, “Hey you,” as the chorus begins. The three musicians shifted over to the foot of the bed to take in the rest of Cara’s acoustic solo portion of the set before returning to duty.
“This is one of my favorite songs from the new EP (This Summer), “October.” It’s a song about the sad feeling of summer ending, and specifically the tour ending with Shawn Mendes. The song’s video was displayed upon the walls of the apartment set, showing behind the scenes footage from the tour as she sang, “I’m going to miss it when it’s over.” Next was the catchiest song from This Summer, “Rooting For You”, which also featured the cheerleader-dressed Cara in the background video.
Cara sang her serious questioning “7 Days” to a starry backdrop before playing the light-hearted “Nintendo Game” to a backdrop of block-graphic Nintendo scenes. It compares relationships to a “Nintendo game that nobody wins.”
“Today is a special show because it’s someone special’s birthday,” Cara told us. “It’s my road/tour manager who’s been with me from the start. So before we sing anything else we need to sing “Happy Birthday” to this special man.” He was brought on stage and presented a small lit cake and balloons as he was hugged by Cara and others, including Craig Stickland, as he left the stage.
“I have another question for you Prior Lake. Who is a fan of Disney?” “I was lucky enough to be asked to sing this song for the end of the movie Moana. I feel like wherever I go, everybody knows this song.” Fans were asked to sing along to the movie ballad “How Far I’ll Go” and then critiqued by Cara. “That was super-cool. You were quite loud. Usually I stop to rate you, but I have nothing to teach you. We are going to keep it slow. Who here has been heartbroken? Who here is heartbroken right now?” Sadly, the majority raised their hands to the first question and a significant number raised their hands to the second. “This is a reminder that there are plenty of people in the same boat even when it seems like you are the only sad one. Just remember it’s temporary. Breathe out and let the negative energy go. This is called “Out of Love”.” All of the emotions poured out of the young singer as her guitarist sat at the upright piano to accompany her. Wow! That was amazing.
The peppy “What’s on Your Mind?” headed back upward in the show’s rollercoaster of emotions and the fun “Okay Okay” reached the peak. It also marked five songs played tonight from that short-order collection of six summer songs.
Concluding the show with two of her most successful hits, Cara told us, “This is one of the first songs I put out and it changed my life. I’ve heard from so many people what this song means to them and it helps inspire me after hearing what you have overcome. That sounds cheesy, but I’m an emotional person. I made this when I was 17 in someone’s basement. I never thought anyone else would hear it. It’s about loving all parts of yourself. In this modern world it’s difficult to do that. I’m 23 now. Still super-young, but older than I’ve ever been. As I get older, I realize how short life is and how fast it goes by…. I want to leave you with one thing. Be nicer to yourself.” Of course this was “Scars to Your Beautiful”, as Cara appeared to be at her confident best as she sang her powerful song.
There was one final hit to play tonight, “Stay”, and the crowd continued to sing and jump along with Cara as she delighted fans by jumping on her bed before making a point to reach out and touch as many young fans hands as she walked the full edge of the stage. The show ended as it began, with Cara once again seated on the couch, singing the reprise of “Growing Pains”. Tonight, Alessia Cara took us along on her ride of life. We experienced both the lows and the highs she encountered growing into the impressive young lady she is today. Great job Alessia! I was most impressed.
Growing Pains/Here/Ready/Not Today/Feeling Good/Comfortable/Girl Next Door/Wherever I Live/A Little More/(unknown)/October/Rooting for You/7 Days/Nintendo Game/How Far I’ll Go/Out of Love/What’s on Your Mind?/Okay Okay/Scars to Your Beautiful/Stay.