Review: Sabrina Carpenter at The Vogue Theatre

Review: Sabrina Carpenter at The Vogue Theatre

It’s Thursday night in Vancouver, and The Vogue Theatre is packed wall to wall with excited teens and early 20-somethings dying to catch a glimpse of Disney film and television star and recording artist Sabrina Carpenter. The lead from TV’s Girl Meets World and the remake of Adventures in Babysitting has recently shed her hyper angelic image in the most subtle and respectable way, with a beat-heavy turn on her sophomore album EVOLution. It’s a record filled with introspective moments that make for a more interesting package than her acoustic-laden debut, including a mostly catchy assortment rather than the ballads that defined her earliest work. Carpenter may be only 18, but she’s already climbing up the charts thanks to hits like “Thumbs” and “On Purpose”.
On this night, opener Alex Aiono made a noticeable impact of his own accord, performing a mixture of mashups, covers, and original material. The 21-year-old Phoenix, Arizona-born crooner switched things up between ballads and more catchy tracks like the sexy, suggestive “Work The Middle”.Leading into brand new single “Hot2Touch”, Aiono made a bit of a rookie misstep by declaring tonight would be the “first time I’m gonna play this song in America.” Oops. On the plus side, he used this occasion to drop the ballad act in favour of a beat-driven track (which makes sense since the record features German EDM star Felix Jaehn).The variety in Aiono’s set was the real key here– One moment wielding an acoustic guitar on a cover of James Arthur’s “Say You Won’t Let Go”, and then switching it up for his high intensity mashup of Drake’s “One Dance” and Nicky Jam’s “Hasta El Amanecer”. Aiono has a firm grip on the boy next door schtick, and he knows just how to work that angle. Mid-set he pulled out “Aspyn’s Song”, a track he wrote for his friends’ wedding engagement, and there wasn’t a single fangirl in the audience not swooning as he sang the lyrics “There’s nothing I want more than you eternally / So how long would it take to make this heart complete.” Aww.

Photography by Nicole Jorgensen

Photography by Nicole Jorgensen

But even with Aiono’s promise in delivering a solid opening set, nothing could overshadow tonight from being Sabrina Carpenter’s star-making moment. It was, after all, opening night of the De-Tour, and she kicked it off in big, celebratory form. Streamers, confetti, strobe lights, and more would accentuate the nearly 20-track setlist that heavily leaned into EVOLution but also left ample room for some surprises throughout.

Opening with electropop banger “Feels Like Loneliness” was a great way to kick start the evening, with Carpenter darting around the stage in a confident, breezy strut. Backed by a band that made her live set a bit more rock-heavy than the album was a good choice as it acted like the perfect compliment to offset her pretty, soaring vocals. Paying attention to the full package, Carpenter’s De-Tour featured video art for every single song, a detail that made the whole show feel that much more cohesive and structured.

The set featured lots of fun, unexpected moves, like when she switched things up and perched herself on a staircase stoop for an intimate, acoustic version of her debut single “Can’t Blame a Girl For Trying”. During this performance, she brought out an eight-year-old fan, Brooklyn, to join her onstage for what was a special, touching moment that counteracted the calculated production that remained constant for most of the set.

Photography by Nicole Jorgensen

Photography by Nicole Jorgensen

Other highlights included a cover of Ariana Grande’s hit “Into You” that saw Carpenter giving Grande a run for her money vocally, following a video interlude during which a pre-taped Carpenter covered Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World” as the real life Carpenter switched out her black lace dress for a pink overalls getup. The transition cleverly tapped into Carpenter’s roots as an earnest YouTube personality performing in her bedroom.

In the most star-making move of the night, Carpenter threw in a new single, “Why?”, near the end of the set, announcing it would be the first time fans were hearing the song, since it was released simultaneously on streaming platforms just as the Vancouver show was beginning.”I’ve always wanted to do something like this,” Carpenter announced. “And I’m really excited that this is the first new music you’ve heard from me since EVOLution.” It wasn’t the fact that Carpenter was efficiently managing a clever single rollout or even the content of the actual song, but the most impressive element here was the notion that she seemed so genuinely thrilled to be able to deliver music to her fans in this format. The move made Carpenter that much more likeable on top of being a gifted performer.
Sabrina Carpenter is embarking on an important, career-changing crossroads. EVOLution‘s content shows a firm desire to break away from the clean-cut Disney-fied image she debuted with a few years back. On new single “Hands” (a collaboration with Mike Perry and The Vamps) she even uses a curse word (gasp?) and gets a little bit suggestive lyrically (Before performing the track live, she informed the crowd cheekily, “It’s a little steamy”).It’ll be interesting to see what she does next at this somewhat crossroads of a career locale she’s found herself. One thing’s for sure, the catchy tunes are likely to keep coming. Thankfully, her live set proves that this is an artist who doesn’t rely on studio magic to make her sound good. Judging alone from that high note she delivered during “On Purpose”, Carpenter is the real deal.

Photography by Nicole Jorgensen

Photography by Nicole Jorgensen