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?

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Shawn Mendes
Sunday ACL Fest 2018 Record Reviews
Shawn Mendes
Shawn Mendes (Record Review)

Isabella Castro-Cota, Oct. 12, 2018

More by Alejandra Ramirez
What We’re Listening to Right Now
What We’re Listening to Right Now
Detox, Mobley, Dropped Out, Holy Wave, Party Van, and Shane Cooley

July 29, 2022

New, Local Music We’re Listening To
New, Local Music We’re Listening To
Patty Griffin, Mugger, Kalu & the Electric Joint, Horti, and more local sounds worth seeking out

July 22, 2022


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

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle