They say Mardi Gras is the biggest celebration of gaydom in Sydney every year, but that’s only because Carly Rae Jepsen had not yet played a show here. Her highly anticipated sideshow at the Enmore Theatre, as part of the ill-fated SandTunes festival, felt like something the whole of Sydney’s inner west was talking about. To the untrained mind, CRJ is just the artist behind that one song in 2011, but in reality she is partly responsible for influencing the sound and the direction many pop albums would take throughout the decade.
Naturally, once it was time for Jepsen to take the stage, eyes were wide, hearts were full and the air was rife with the scent of poppers. Carly took the stage and gave us a powerful and poptimistic performance, but that was also part of the problem.
Once the opening notes of 2015 (and the whole decade) stand out ‘Run Away With Me’ began, the love for CRJ would not stop pouring out from the crowd until she left. With a flawless and unshakeable voice, and wearing a delightful blue and white tulle number, Jepsen made the Enmore hers. At first, it felt like she was traversing through all her biggest bangers early on. ‘E-MO-TION’ and ‘No Drug Like Me’ made for a full hat trick of set opening bangers, followed by Dedicated highlight ‘Julien’.
But her power never soared higher than when she said “one of the biggest moments of my career was when this song hit Australia” and the instantly recognisable notes of ‘Call Me Maybe’ began, just five songs into her set. The theatre erupted with screams and the amount of “oh my gods” exceeds any known number. The fact that she was able to play not only her biggest song, but one of the biggest songs of the past ten years, so early on her set and the crowd got no smaller speaks volumes of Jepsen’s impact on her audience and the community. They were ready and willing to hang off her every word.
Yet, for an artist who was receiving so much adoration from her crowd, it also felt like she was on autopilot. To her credit, touring must take it out of you, and flying all the way out to Australia to play an energetic and electrifying show while jet lagged is more than I could do. But you could tell this show wasn’t as special for her as it was for the crowd, and that’s a little disheartening. This is an artist that the local LGBTQ+ community begged to happen for years, and a little acknowledgement of the impact she has would’ve gone such a long way. In contrast, Charli XCX’s Pop 2 show in Sydney last year included a monologue from Charli about how the queer community helped her career and helped her feel like she had a “home”.
The tidbits were scripted and the banter minimal yet the applause that echoed the room after each song was almost excessive. Now, the crowd isn’t automatically entitled to anything besides CRJ performing the songs they love so much – which she did flawlessly. On top of that, being in Australia means that the world’s biggest superstars seldom tour here while they tour elsewhere much more often which automatically means the crowd is going to be much more excited than the person on stage. Maybe CRJ is just a little shy and that’s why this gig didn’t feel personal? Maybe she is just a little oblivious to just how much the crowd loved her? All of which is totally fine, but it’s hard to ignore that there was just a tiny bit of unrequited love in the air.
No one is going to tell you that it was a bad concert by any means, because it wasn’t. The energy was high, the songs were delivered perfectly and Carly kept a giant smile on her face the whole time. The setlist traversed through hits like ‘I Really Like You’, ‘Party For One’ and the anthemic closer ‘Cut To The Feeling’ and not once did she let her electricity disappear. Carly has nailed being an artist, a songwriter and a performer – but maybe she’s just gotta work on connecting with specific audiences a little bit more?
Or may be the second hand smell of amyl had gone to my head. Who knows?
Carly Rae Jepsen will finish up her Australian visit with a show in Melbourne next Monday, 2nd December. Details here.