Alessia Cara: a Monday night showstopper

Blake Case

   On October 17th, a Monday night, the Masonic is packed full of young audience members and their respective parents, as well as older patrons huddled together on the outskirts of the auditorium stage. Walking around the large standing area, the audience talks over upbeat pop music playing on surround sound speakers.

   As purple fog surrounds the stage, Nathan Sykes, the first opener, appears onstage with a shaggy-haired, flannel-clad accompanist with an acoustic guitar. Sykes has a powerful, soulful voice which floats over the now lovestruck audience, occasionally breaking the spell as he stops between songs to publicize his album. He migrates to the piano, including a nervous explanation of his next performance before playing a song best described as a mix between a poppy love song and classic R&B. Couples shove their hands in their significant other’s pockets as Sykes sings his heart out underneath the blue lights. His next song is a collaboration with G-Eazy, and while the rapper isn’t present, the song changes his lovestruck, soulful vibe to a sexier one. After a confused shrug, the nervous artist walks off stage to the spirited cheers of the crowd.

   As the house lights came up, the audience is illuminated beneath the dim glow, and Monday’s impressive turnout reveals itself. The blue smoke turns pink as the second opener takes the stage. Ruth B walks onstage with her band, an ensemble of musicians following the artist to the instruments behind her, clearly loving every minute of playing with the young singer-songwriter. In a t-shirt and jeans, Ruth is more laid back than Sykes, with a floaty, almost-off key voice. Her songs are full of positivity and the possibilities of young love. Her hit song, Lost Boy, reimagines Peter Pan’s world of Neverland into a whimsical dreamscape with her soft, soulful voice.

   The house lights come on again, and an hour into the show people are still walking through the doors to catch the headlining act. As the audience waits in anticipation, the drum kit is unveiled to cheers, which includes a Taiko drum featuring a graphic of a curly haired girl with a beanie pulled over her eyes.

Alessia Cara struts onto the stage in black pants and a pink button up over a white shirt while her band plays in the background. She strides back and forth across the stage, claiming it with her powerful movements. The first song is a powerful, poppy opener, and Cara’s performance is reminiscent of other big name pop stars, like Beyonce or Selena Gomez. She introduces herself along with an almost unbelievably modest speech about never believing she could make it out of Ontario and follow her dream outside of the four walls of her bedroom. Her music is more beat-heavy than that of her singer-songwriter openers. She guides the simpler melodies with her voice as brightly colored graphics play on the screen behind her. Cara plays a Taiko drum as strobe lights flash on and off, her back facing the stage, the end of her anti-cool kid power ballad, Wild Things. Her next few songs feature an acoustic guitar, as she stands front and center stage singing and playing, and the crowd waves iPhone flashlights in solidarity.

   To the delight of the crowd, Cara covers an old Frank Ocean song to an electric guitar in hand. Her strong voice, Winehouse-esque, is displayed through the cover. The next song features young Alessia on the screen behind her band, a compilation of childhood videos on loop. Cara sings about being eternally seventeen in a wordy, angsty, forever young song which ends in a bass drop and strobe lights as the Taiko drum returns makes a second appearance.

   The next song is her most popular, an indie R&B tune that describes a party she wants to get out of, a surprisingly universal feeling. She stops the audience, all singing along with her, to add a new verse before returning to the chorus. Her final song displays her tour on the screen, Cara at award shows, Cara behind the scenes and on stage, Cara taking Snapchat face swaps with collaborator and singer-songwriter Troy Sivan. She sings about her journey, the work she has chosen to devote her life to, and her new platform in the music industry. While her band plays Cara ventures into the swarm of teenage fans on the auditorium floor, the stage lights lose her as the crowd embraces Cara, thanking the young artist for transforming their Monday night.