ACL Live Review: Shawn Mendes

Nothing holding this Canadian crooner back

Shawn Mendes is any major label's dream. He’s charming enough to distract a large Sunday audience from the thick Austin air, charismatic enough get all the tweens screaming “Treat You Better,” and hip enough to prompt UT Longhorn quarterback Sam Ehlinger and company onstage during his set. Did we mention he also sports an amazing voice?

Photo by Gary Miller

While Mendes still rides his path to pop-star ubiquity, he snagged an evening spot at ACL Fest’s Honda stage just prior to indie rock veterans the Arctic Monkeys. That’s no easy feat for a barely 20-year-old Canadian.

Opener “There’s Nothin’ Holding Me Back” translated into a triumphant, incantatory anthem, glinting with a high-on-love stupor, but asserting his arena-seasoned dominance. From his third self-titled album, slick, pristine keys gave way to crisp funk lines in “Lost in Japan,” while the impish, smirking “Nervous” transformed behind a conversational timbre and winking falsetto.

Tenderness and innocence transpired in the piano-driven “Mercy” and jangled “Stitches.” The songs off his debut Handwritten and follow-up Illuminate both gleaned lovelorn naiveté. “Where Were You in the Morning” seduced with bedroom R&B, while the penultimate “In My Blood” transcended Kings of Leon stadium rock.

Women, heartbreak, and love remained his cynosure, but ceded no Ed Sheeran cringe and hopefully never John Mayer sleaze. Shawn Mendes won’t be the same pop artist at 25, with the routes available to him stretching out limitlessly. The only question is which will he choose?

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Shawn Mendes, ACL Fest 2018, ACL Music Fest 2018, Ed Sheeran, John Mayer

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