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"Melanie has a special connection with her audience...When you and your audience are on the same wavelength, it's a special thing."

Concert Review: No More Tears

In support of her latest record Cry Baby, Melanie Martinez performed in front of a sold out crowd in the Egyptian Room at Old National Centre, bringing along British rockers Alvarez Kings as the opener.

First a confession: I couldn’t name a single Melanie Martinez song off the top of my head, and I don’t think I could even pick her out of a lineup, and it’s for this reason that I felt I would be a great person to review this show. However, I’ve had plenty of pleasant experiences finding something new (Marina, Milo Greee, among others). Maybe this will be a similar experience? Anyway, enough rambling. Let’s get down to it. Allons-y.

There are two shows going on in the historic Murat Centre tonight: Brian McKnight in the Theatre; Melanie in the Egyptian Room, with the former entering under the marquee and the latter lining up on New Jersey Street. I arrive at 3:30 to chat with Alvarez Kings, and already a line is forming along New Jersey. For perspective, we’re roughly 4 hours from showtime.

I wrapped up my interview with my new favorite British rockers, and depart for the local Starbucks. Hey, I’ve got time to spare. Maybe things will have died down by the time doors open.

Yeah, about that…

Roughly 3 hours later, the line pretty much wraps around the building. Is this a rally or a line to get into the venue? I know this is a sold out show, but I’ve never seen anything like this before. Will we even make it into the building in time? Some of the crowd – mostly middle school to high school aged kids and a few parents sprinkled in – wait patiently, until security got the idea to open both entrances to make sure everyone gets inside in time. Whew!

Finally inside and the room is still filling up. This crowd is young, enthusiastic, and ready to explode. I think I’m out of my element. This is definitely a far cry from the metal and punk crowds I grew up on, but I’ll save my “get off my lawn!” talk for now. The show is about to start.

KING OF KINGS:

Alvarez Kings come out to a pretty decent reaction. As they mentioned, they’re a long ways from home, but this Midwestern crowd did their best to make them feel welcome.

In our interview, they mentioned how at times they felt like the Beatles when they came to America, and even with ear plugs in, you can still make out the considerable amount of screaming going on during and after each song as they played their blend of progressive indie rock. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of looking around during their set. Most everyone seems pretty attentive, which is an encouraging sign. They clap along, they dance, and they even abide by the request to raise their phones in the air during an acoustic song (a-la Bray Wyatt’s “fireflies” if you’ve ever watched a WWE show). They may not be as familiar to American audiences yet, but this is a good step in the right direction. From Sheffield to the Warped Tour to mostly sold out crowds on the biggest tour of their young careers, this might just be the beginning for these Kings. Keep an eye out for them.

TEARS OF JOY

The band exits the stage, and now it’s time to set up for our main event. The stage now resembles a children’s nursery, complete with a wardrobe and a crib with a mobile, as well as giant blocks spelling out “Cry Baby.” Meanwhile, this sell out crowd is getting more excited by the minute. A short-but-loud chant of “Melanie” breaks out, and even at the slightest hint of the show resuming, cheers erupt (and phones are pointed up, but we’ll get to that).

I’ve been to a few sold out shows in this room before, but never one like this. This crowd is young, but they’re hungry for a show. Then after what felt like a lengthy wait, the lights go out, more cheers erupt, and all you can see is the illumination that only a smartphone can provide.

The crib area is glowing, and for a second, I start to think that maybe Finn Bálor will emerge from it, demon paint and all. Don’t worry, it’s not an Irish professional wrestler who was here just a few weeks ago, but instead, a 20-year-old New Yorker who first made her name on The Voice. The crib wall drops and out comes Martinez, who goes right into her first song.

The amount of enthusiasm in this place is in direct proportion to how many kids are holding up their phones so they can add it to their Snapchat stories. They dance, they sing like their lives depend on it, they scream in adoration when Melanie walks over to their side of the stage. Am I witnessing one of music’s fastest growing stars or another incarnation of Beatlemania? We might be leaning towards the latter if we go solely by screaming alone.

There isn’t much talking in between, outside of introducing songs. It’s like this for about the next hour or so. Sure, this is a relatively short show (only two acts), but the energy stays pretty consistent throughout. If there’s one thing I can see right now, it’s that Melanie has a special connection with her audience, and that’s something most artists can go their entire career without having. When you and your audience are on the same wavelength, it’s a special thing. When she speaks, they listen. When she asks for participation, she gets it. When she sings, they’re right there matching her note for note. I imagine a few people here might not have a voice in the morning, and that’s okay. Seeing a room full of people shouting the lyrics back like it’s gospel is one of the best images at a show.

The downside? It’s a little difficult for me to get into her music. This crowd is young, and out of the close to 2000+ in this room, there are a few parents who look confused or lost, and I’ve never related to someone so much (and I’m a parent). Then again, this is another example of some music not being for everybody. I’m roughly twice the age of Melanie’s core audience. I don’t consider myself old, but I don’t get it (and I never watch The Voice, either). This music may not be for me, however, I don’t think I can argue with a room full of people pouring their hearts out when they have the chance to see their favorite artist. After all, how many times did I do the same thing when I saw Taking Back Sunday or Dashboard Confessional?

The night is reaching its end, and when she announces her final song, there’s a collective groan in the crowd (and a few savvy people next to me who obtained a photo of her setlist from night’s past and know what the encore is going to be). There’s one last song, everyone being left in the dark, another “Melanie!” chant breaking out, and she comes back for one last song. After he encore, it’s time to open all the doors and let everyone out into the world, as slow as a process as that is when it’s a sold out room and maybe 3 doors to get out of. Some people head towards the merch table (where Alvarez Kings are situated meeting anyone who wants to say hi), and others head for the exit.

Final verdict?

Without giving off too much of a “get off my lawn!” vibe, I can safely say that this may be the last time I go to a Melanie Martinez show. Nothing against her. She’s a tremendous performer, but her music isn’t for me. However, it’s one person versus what felt like an army of supporters who will pour their hearts out for their favorite artist, and for someone who goes to shows all the time, this is what you love to see.

The only tears in this room tonight? Only tears of joy.

The Good:

Melanie Martinez is a great performer. She has pretty good energy, she can hit almost every note, and she connects with her audience (oh, does she connect with them). Plus, Alvarez Kings have all the makings of the next international band that can really make waves here in the States. There are great things in store for both artists moving forward.

The Bad:

I know were in the 21st century, and I’m sure the Snapchat Stories were cool, but there were way too many people on their phones while the show was going on (am I showing my age again?). I can’t fathom spending all that money on tickets to stand in one spot just to Snapchat the entire time. Go to shows and create memories, not 12 second videos that are here and gone in an instant.