In the 7 years since pop powerhouse Demi Lovato stepped into the lime light on Disney Channel’s Camp Rock, she has wowed fans with her phenomenal vocals, released a book, and cultivated an environment of openness and honesty around topics like mental illness, self injury, substance abuse and sexuality. Demi Lovato is a force to be reckoned with, and on her first tour of Australia as a part of the DEMI World Tour, she brought her A-game and more to Melbourne at the Margaret Court Arena.
From the get go it was hard for Demi to put a foot wrong. Fans had been waiting for this moment years, and their excitement was paramount. In fact, I’ve never seen more ripped denim, combat boots or leather all in the one place before. Little girls, teens, twenty somethings and a few brave parents all made the journey out to see the X Factor judge perform songs from her past four albums.
Stepping on to the stage, Demi strutted with an air that commanded the arena. I’ve never seen an artist command a venue like this before, and her awesome stage presence continued throughout the night as she expertly entertained the crowd with a mixture of flawless vocals, sexy dance moves and an ease which wiped away the divide between the fans and herself.
From the opening chords of “Really Don’t Care,” to her rendition of “The Middle” from her debut, the girl power anthem “Fire Starter,” “Remember December” and “Heart Attack,” she barely paused for breath, and it was only after performing this string of hits that she stopped and spoke to the crowd. Demi’s performance straddled the line between rock concert and pop diva, and as she strode across the stage in her heeled boots (seriously, how is that even possible?), it was clear that this woman was made to fill arenas.
The lighting and special effects were crafted to suit each song, some including snippets of past music videos or visualizations used to enhance the message of the lyrics. In the bolder pieces like “Give Your Heart a Break” and “Neon Lights” her band was perfectly succinct, so professional in their performance and delivery and adding to the aesthetic of the night. In the quieter moments when Demi performed sitting down, sometimes with her guitar, they pulled back and let her vocals do the work.
As a long time fan of Demi, I was struck by her comradery with the crowd. Despite the fact many of these people had waited over 12 hours in line, as soon as Demi hit the stage they were engaged. The singer revved up the crowd during the faster songs, yet quieted the room when she spoke of her love for Australia (even voicing Bruce the shark from Finding Nemo and Ja’mie from Summer Heights High) and sneaking in a reference about boyfriend Wilmer Valderrama. Very little was off limits, and before her performance of “Warrior” she discussed how she used to share her own story at gigs, but now has altered what she says to celebrate the fact she is more than her story.
From her spine tingling performance of “Let it Go” to the beloved hit, “Skyscraper” which she released post rehab, Demi’s Melbourne gig was more than a rock concert, it was a beautiful and introspective look at her own evolution from Disney pop princess to a world wide icon that has coined the phrase, “stay strong” and dared to discuss the taboo topics we naturally shy away from. As someone who has also struggled with mental illness, Demi’s performance cast a narrative that clearly embodied the light and shade of life, and whether I was teary, mesmerized by her voice or dancing to the beat, it was a celebration of all that has been and the great things yet to come; not just for Demi, but for every member of the audience.
Seeing Demi live for the first time, it is apparent that she is up there with Britney and Christina. Her vocals are full of depth, volume, sensuality and sensitivity, and her performance as well as her unique relationship with fans makes her a standout amongst her peers. On stage Demi said, “This is home,” and with every note it was evident that this woman has never been so comfortable filling areas with the support of her band.
With a nod to her past and a celebration of her future, Demi Lovato’s Melbourne gig was a full circle experience. Seeming to highlight the passion she had when she started out, yet now polished with the bravado and confidence of a seasoned professional, it was beautiful tribute not only to her own journey as an artist, but to her fans as well.
The set list included “Really Don’t Care,” “The Middle,” “Fire Starter,” “Remember December,” “Heart Attack,” “My Love’s Like A Star,” Get Back,” “Don’t Forget/ Catch Me,” “Let It Go,” “Warrior,” “Two Pieces,” “Got Dynamite,” “Nightingale,” “Skyscraper,” “Give Your Heart a Break” and encore “Neon Lights.”