Carly Rae Jepsen @ The Tivoli, 09.03.2023
Long before the weekly music press – NME, Melody Maker, Sounds, before I had money to buy albums and before I was old enough for live shows, there was Saturday morning TV, Top of The Pops on a Thursday night and Smash Hits. A constant stream of pop music. I’ve used that old adage about pop music peaking when you’re 12 and 13 before, and it’s true, for whatever years this happened to be for anyone. At least I think it used to be true, it’s hard to know if it still is, what with the music industry and media disruption in the last 20 years. Defending pop music from the first half of the 1980s is a hill I’m willing to die on. After all, for me, pop music peaked in 1984 and 1985.
There is nothing better than good pop music, no song better than a beautifully crafted pop song.
And Carly Rae Jepsen knows a thing or two about beautifully crafting pop songs. Song-after-song, album after album. Her albums feel like those pop albums you used to get in the 80s. Not just because of how they sound but because almost any song could be released and become a hit, almost every track has the potential to become an omnipresent, era-defining smash. A collection of three-minute pop gems, albums for which the term “All killer, no filler” was invented.
Do you need evidence?
The night explodes with “Surrender My Heart” and “Joshua Tree”, the first two tracks on Jepsen’s sixth and latest album, The Loneliest Time. The venue is absolutely rammed, I struggle to remember it ever feeling this full, and bouncing in unison from the very first note. You just don’t get this kind of reaction when an indie or rock band kicks off with tracks from their sixth album. You can usually tell when most bands play something from their sixth album, but not tonight. Judging by the crowd response, you’d think these openers were Jepsen’s biggest hits. When it’s followed up with “Run Away with Me” from 2015’s E•MO•TION album, it becomes an even more perfect start to a show.
Nine songs from The Loneliest Time get played tonight almost half of the set but there’s no loss of enthusiasm or energy from the audience, everyone knows these latest songs just as well as the older songs. They’re as good as anything else in Jepsen’s catalogue.
Jepsen has so many fantastic songs that she can casually drop “Call Me Maybe”, the 2011 single that launched her, somewhere in the middle of the set without it feeling as if the night had peaked by its eighth song. The video clip for “Call Me Maybe” might be up to more than 1.5 billion views but it’s just another song in the Carly Rae Jepsen repertoire. It’s a special song but no more or less special than any others.
2015’s E•MO•TION is also highly represented in tonight’s set, with “Boy Problems”, “I Didn’t Just Come Here to Dance” and “I Really Like You” vying for attention with the new songs. The E•MO•TION contingent gets added to when the audience are offered a choice between “Your Type” and the E•MO•TION B-Side EP’s “Cry”. This offer has been made at each show on the Australian tour and no audience has yet chosen “Cry”. No one wants to stop the good time party times for anything evenly slightly downbeat.
Jepsen keeps the between song chat to a minimum. She introduces the band very early on in the night and lets us know that “It’s ok, he was a dick” after “Julien”, but most songs are introduced by teasing the name of the next song into obviously scripted monologues rather than actually sharing much in the way of personal insight.
After the main set ends with “When I Needed You”, Jepsen conducting the extended crowd sing-a-long in the outro, the three song encore starts with the more introspective “Go Find Yourself or Whatever”, one of the few times in the evening when the tempo is slowed right down. The raucous and playful single “Beach House” follows and once again the audience shows just how much they’ve taken to Jepsen’s sixth album, singing along with every word, extra vigour given to the song’s humorous sections which are shared around the band (“I got big plans to take care of you, I just need to borrow ten thousand dollars”, “I’ve got a lake house in Canada, And I’m probably gonna harvest your organs”).
The final proof of the quality of Jepsen’s song catalogue is “Cut to the Feeling”, a 2016 song written for a Canadian-French animated film, that didn’t make it onto the film’s soundtrack, didn’t make it on the E•MO•TION: Side B until it was tacked on as an extra song of the Japan-exclusive reissue of the EP, and was eventually released as a stand-alone single in 2017. It could almost be considered a cast off and yet here it is, ending the night on a real high, Jepsen accepting her sword from the front row mid-way through.
Shows like this are the best. The ones where everything is too big for the venue. There’s a drum kit that takes up about a third of the stage. Onstage space is at a premium, it looks like the band have been compressed into a space that’s smaller than they’re used to. There’s a lighting rig at the back of the stage that’s ridiculously bright and blinding. Hours later I find myself struggling to get to sleep because even with my eyes shut I can still see those stage lights burnt onto me retinas. It makes a change from the ringing in the ears you normally get after a night out seeing live music. When you see a show, get to watch a singer and their band at really close quarters, and experience the songs in venue that’s too small for all the elements of the performance, it always takes on a slightly surreal feeling. Like being in the middle of a mega expensive video clip being filmed in a tiny venue with the audience made up of the most rabid fan club members. That’s what watching Carly Rae Jepsen playing at the Tivoli tonight feels like.
Tonight is all about celebrating the brilliance of pop music at its very best. There’s nothing better.