Boy-next-door charm and smoothly calibrated pop have proved a potent blend in the hands of Canadian chart poppet Shawn Mendes. Without fanfare the 20 year-old has zipped to the top of music’s power rankings, an ascent built on both his photogenic hair and politely groovy songs.
But he added a surprising new ingredient with last year’s self-titled third album – a more mature affair that saw the Toronto-native move beyond puppy-eyed adorability and ponder the flesh-and-blood complications of romance.
The record hinted that he might achieve what many of his peers have failed at in escaping teen stardom and carving a career as grown-up musician. Somewhere Justin Bieber is sitting up taking notes.
Mendes winningly blended those two personas– adolescent dream-boat and conflicted 20-something – as he brought his new tour to Dublin for the first of two sold-out performances.
He wore heart on sleeve throughout, rocking out with visible aplomb on There’s Nothin’ Holding Me Back and performing the stripped down I Don’t Know What It’s Like To Be You from a second stage in the middle of the standing fans.
He got his big break posting brief snippets to the now defunct social media site Vine. So it was a pleasant surprise that his songs often lacked the meme-friendly disposability of fellow Canadian megastars Bieber and Drake.
Mendes plays guitar and piano and was as comfortable crooning desolately over the ivories on Never Be Alone as unleashing his inner pop god on Lost In Japan. You suspect that he can’t wait for the present phase of his career to wind down of so that he can get on with being taken more seriously as a songwriter.
Gimmicks were at a minimum (unless you could his curly-wurly locks or the cut-off top that exposed his arms) and his four piece band added grit to the glamour.
The biggest concessions to stagecraft were blinking wristbands passed out to the audience and an animatronic rose that quivered and changed colours on the second stage (and was ultimately showered in confetti). A huge blinking conspiracy of petals and dramatic lighting was the perfect window-dressing for a teen heartthrob in full bloom.