“This is absolutely insane.” That was Shawn Mendes’ reaction Saturday night to performing to an audience full of screaming fans at one of the world’s most legendary venues: New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Even more impressive is the fact that the 18-year-old Canadian star wasn’t performing as part of a tour: he was just doing a one-off preview show for his sophomore album Illuminate, due out later this month. “I wish you could see what this looks like from my perspective,” the amazed singer noted, looking out at the crowd.
Not many artists, let alone teens, can hold an entire arena’s attention with just an acoustic guitar. But from the minute he stepped onstage and opened the show with “Something Big,” Shawn had the audience screaming along to every word…and encouraged singalongs throughout the evening.
A full band eventually joined Shawn, who played in front of a giant video screen displaying a number of arresting images: a flock of birds, a sky full of stars, pouring rain, and ghostly images of himself appearing and dissolving. A smaller stage in the middle of the arena, where Shawn relocated for a few songs, was set under a giant white globe which served as the screen for video projections throughout the night.
Shawn performed a chunk of songs from his #1 debut album Handwritten, including “Life of the Party,” “A Little Too Much” and “Never Be Alone,” but the new music was what he was there for. His more mature stage presence, sound and guitar playing were reminiscent of a young John Mayer — unsurprising, since Mayer was one of his mentors during the creation of Illuminate.
The set list included Shawn’s latest top 10 hit, “Treat You Better,” and many other tracks from Illuminate, including “Mercy,” “Ruin, “Three Empty Words,” “Don’t Be a Fool, “No Promises,” “Lights On” and “Bad Reputation.” But of course, the closing number was his smash hit “Stitches,” which he started slowly, at the piano, moving over to guitar as the band kicked in and the ecstatic audience shouted along.
Illuminate arrives on September 23; Shawn kicks off a headlining arena world tour in the U.K. in April. The North American leg begins July 6.
Here’s the set list for Shawn’s Madison Square Garden show:
“A Little Too Much”
“Treat You Better”
“Kid In Love” (with snippet of The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back”)
“Life of the Party”
“Three Empty Words”
“Don’t Be a Fool”
“Never Be Alone” (with snippet of Plain White T’s “Hey There Delilah”)
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