Shawn Mendes w/ Charlie Puth
KeyArena, Seattle, WA

It’s easy to hate Shawn Mendes. A 19-year-old pop star with a fan base consisting largely of preteen girls, if you’re not shrieking in excitement at the mention of his name, you’re probably rolling your eyes. The logic behind the eye-rolling response is the idea that his success is more dependent on his six-pack abs than any actual musical talent.

At least that’s what I believed before seeing him live during his “Illuminate World Tour” at KeyArena. While his show didn’t fully transform me into the aforementioned shrieking-in-excitement fan, I definitely left with a lot more respect for the guy.

Opening the night was another pop star that you’d have to be living under a rock to miss—Charlie Puth. His quick set was packed full of songs that have been playing on repeat across pop radio airwaves over the last six months or so. Tracks like “One Call Away,” “We Don’t Talk Anymore,” and “Attention,” had the crowd singing along, holding up phone lights, and screaming with love for Puth’s soft voice and tinkling piano vibe.

Those three tracks have been played so much on the radio that I’m a bit sick of them now, but the majority of the crowd certainly wasn’t. The standout track of his set for me was “Suffer,” with a slightly more classical/retro feel. The track was easy going, fun, and a nice break from the top 40’s shuffle.

After a very long and dramatic light show introduction, Mendes climbed up to the middle of the stage to see the arena packed with screaming fans (and their parents) holding up signs with “LOVE YOU SHAWN” and other overt devotions.

While Mendes obviously has a good handful of songs that have made it big, one of my favorites comes from his first album. A slower track, “The Weight,” keeps things a little simpler with just an acoustic guitar, a small bit of backing instrumental, and a classic lyrical theme of heartbreak. It’s cute and a little odd to see such a lovely song in a packed arena, but nonetheless, Mendes performed it very well.

A few more popular, upbeat tracks and an Ed Sheeran cover later, Mendes disappeared for a few seconds before suddenly popping up on a second stage at the back of the arena. He took a seat at a black piano to serenade the crowd with more slow love songs. Another from his first album, “Life of the Party” was another highlight for me. The platform was quickly swarmed by screaming and sobbing fans alike, phones held high, and lights waving around to create the perfect atmosphere for the track.

He finished the night finished with more hits, topping it off with “Treat You Better,” before the final storm of fans rushed to scoop up the last few t-shirts from the sprawling merch booths.

After going into the show with pretty low expectations, Mendes quickly proved that his success is in fact due to more than his nice abs and glossy hair. While some of his songs are a little run of the mill, most are beautifully crafted and hit the sweet spot between sentiment and excitement just right. Turns out, Mendes isn’t that hard to love either.

Review by Lulu Dawson
Photos by Stephanie Dore

Shawn Mendes

Charlie Puth