This review was very last minute. I got a message from a friend inviting me to a show that night, as he had a spare ticket and hoped I would come along. I didn’t recognise Shawn by name, but would later discover that I recognised a few of his songs, if nothing else. You never get far by saying No to things, so I happily accepted my friend’s offer and headed out to the O2, immediately noticing the very young and largely female audience. This clued me into what kind of music I might be expecting that night, but I held off from looking him up. Wanted to get a fresh opinion of the show!
We had great seats back and centre, looking out across a packed and clearly excited venue. Shawn was very punctual, almost rendering me temporarily deaf due to the cacophony of screams erupting from his fans. His stage show featured an orb in the centre of the venue with lights projected onto it, which is something I haven’t seen before. That was mixed with some apparent interview cuttings heaping praise onto Shawn (what a way to hype yourself before coming out!) and then the man himself appeared. Guitar in hand, his voice was very different from what I was expecting, displaying a great pop range that he was in full control of.
The songs were very modern-pop, featuring a lot of the rhythms you might expect from the singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran types out there and very well put together choruses. From what I could make out, Shawn writes and sings about very relatable issues for young people (love and relationships seemed to be a very strong theme running throughout all his material) and really knows how to throw certain parts to the crowd to get them singing and engaged. Having never heard of him before, I was immediately impressed, he looked like he had been performing at this level for years. I got young John Mayer vibes early on, but as he played more material, he did stand out from those who came before. It’s no surprise he is doing so well!
Flanked by a capable band, Shawn took very little time between songs in the first half of the set, going straight into more tunes and keeping the audience constantly engaged. They jumped at every call to action he gave, giving the biggest cheer of the night when he thanked them as it was his last show of the tour. After that I finally recognised a song, ‘Stitches’, which I must have heard on the radio. Fleshed out for the arena, it got the biggest constant reaction of any song so far. He brought out more piano driven songs to add variety to the later set, along with some impressive stage visuals. It was very apparent that Shawn has a great mastery of melodies and great hooks, as every song had great melodic pop that most of the people in the audience seemed to know.
My standout song of the night was ‘Bad Reputation’, by far. Great piano introduction, he made great use of the stage with smoke and darker visuals, utilising a ring of lights that dropped down behind him. The songs itself had the most interesting melody of any of his material, along with the most variety and range. Clearly a lot of thought went into this show, so he won himself a fan for that song alone! Beyond that, he used the Orb to sneak to the middle of the venue, playing a few songs on piano and guitar before using the same trick and plenty of swirling lights to get back on stage. Very clever use of what they had, remind me of Prince’s stage at the O2.
A lot of pop acts get knocked by older fans due to the similarity between so many of their songs, and I have to admit that I did feel this on the later half of the set. Shawn it a gifted performer and songwriter in his own right, so the highlights of the night really made up for the lull. It was evident that I wasn’t the target audience here, and I was still having a great time, so that should a testament to how well put together the show was. Plenty more sing-along moments followed, with the tried and true ‘phone lights’ out in full force, the millennial version of lighters. He made use of the orb one last time before the finale, this time using some of his own speech over music.
He was on piano for the second song that I recognised ‘Treat You Better’ (not as bad as I thought I would be!) which screaming fans eagerly sang along to, before bringing the light ring back and switching to a full band version, causing a furore and closing the night in spectacular fashion. I left very surprised at how much I liked it, it was such a well put together show and Shawn’s charisma and performance really left a great impression on me. I am not going to give it a rating as you can’t experience exactly that event for yourself, but would definitely recommend you checking out his music, and if you really like it, go to see him live.
Set List Below;
- There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back
- Lights On
- I Don’t Even Know Your Name
- The Weight
- A Little Too Much
- Bad Reputation
- Castle on the Hill (Ed Sheeran Cover)
- Life of the Party
- Three Empty Words
- No Promises
- Don’t Be a Fool
- Never Be Alone
- Treat You Better