Demi Lovato performed at the JBL Festival inside The Joint at the Hard Rock in Las Vegas this past weekend.
DNCE kicked off the night with a string of recognizable hits, including "Pay My Rent," a cover of Britney Spears' "Oops...! I Did It Again" and of course their sugary pop rock cut "Cake By The Ocean," but it was Demi's impending performance that kept the crowd buzzing throughout the night.
Once the stage spotlights flickered on, a triumphant horn blared through the auditorium. There she was. Glistening in a glittery green ensemble and knee-high boots. 'What's wrong with being confident?,' she asked the crowd. Clearly absolutely nothing. Lovato's physique was in fighting form, an appreciated result from living a life of sobriety and frequent fitness training.
Following "Confident," Lovato reignited the venue with fan-favorite "Heart Attack," but things swiftly took a dip when she plunged into a string of slow songs. Actually, most of her setlist consisted of tracks you'd Spotify and chill to. Initially, it felt entirely inappropriate for a music festival, but as the show carried on I was proven very wrong.
The highlight of the night for me happened early on. Three songs in, Lovato sang "For You," off 2015's Confident, and it was intoxicating. I'll admit... I had frequently skipped this song when the record first dropped, and I gave it no attention since. Seeing it live, it took on an entirely new form. It also produced an AH HA! moment: Demi Lovato has one of the best voices I've heard live in a really, really long time. That epiphany came at the right time. After my existential experience listening to "For You," I was entranced. It allowed me to appreciate the sincerity of the next series of songs.
The Grammy-nominated artist primed the audience for the overtly sexual "Body Say," which actually felt a little out of place. At one point, she rocked a full spread eagle pose behind a bodyguard, and I couldn't help but feel a tad uncomfortable for the parents who brought their prepubescent children to see their idol #SorryNotSorry.
Another highlight was "Lionheart." It gave Demi yet another opportunity to show off her immensely powerful vocal chops. It was hard not to be wildly impressed. Same goes for "Stone Cold," Confident's icy emotional ballad about watching an ex happily move on with someone else. It wasn't just a performance – there were legitimate feelings involved. Last year, Lovato and ex-boyfriend Wilmer Valderrama split up after six years together. I found myself dreaming up a narrative of their unraveling relationship during the performance, an illustrious sign that Lovato can tell a story through song. The pop star finally hits an emotional rock bottom with "Skyscraper" off 2011's Unbroken. The ballad symbolizes a resurgence for the singer – a reminder to believe in yourself amidst life's trials and tribulations.
Then Lovato lifted concert-goers' spirits with a couple of her more upbeat releases, including "Give Your Heart A Break," "Neon Lights" and arguably her biggest hit to-date, "Cool For The Summer." Afterward, Lovato teased a goodbye before hastily hopping into her new single, "Sorry Not Sorry." The crowd, especially the ones who fought their way to the front of the GA area, erupted into cheers. It was the first time Lovatics, whom she addressed and thanked several times for their support throughout the years, had the chance to see their idol sing it live.
I've given Demi some heat in the past for a couple of her Twitter rants. And that time she denied a "fan" an autograph, but watching her sing live in a relatively intimate arena (The Joint holds about 4,000 people at full capacity) was eye opening. It was not only an opportunity to indulge in some guilty pop pleasures, but it changed my perception of a singer who's motivated to change the world with her music.
The same thought swirled around my head all night: 'Demi Lovato can fucking SING.' And to the doubters? Payback is a bad bitch and baby... she's the baddest.
"Give Your Heart A Break":
“Sorry Not Sorry”: