Music

Carly Rae Jepsen’s Sydney Show Was Pure, Relentless Joy

This was a party, and we'd be waiting a long time for the invite.

Carly-Rae-Jepsen-@-Enmore-Theatre

There was a common phrase reverberating in and around the Enmore Theatre on Tuesday night: “It’s finally happening.”

Yes, eight long years after first careening into the charts with ‘Call Me Maybe’, Carly Rae Jepsen had finally arrived in Australia — and her journey here has been a fairly unique one. If you had questioned anyone in 2012 whether Jepsen would become one of the most critically beloved pop stars of her generation, you would have been met with hollow laughs.

Throughout ‘Call Me Maybe’s success, and the rollout of the hastily put together follow-up album Kiss, it was almost universally accepted that Jepsen would sink without a trace — another one-hit wonder. She briefly did — she spent a few months on Broadway playing the title role in Cinderella — before releasing ‘I Really Like You’ in early 2015, nearly three years after ‘Call Me Maybe’.

The subsequent album, E•MO•TIONwas one of the finest pop albums of a generation — a beaming collection of ’80s hooks and lyrics that expertly captured the exhilarating beginnings and exasperating endings of love. Commercially, it flopped: the result of a disastrous rollout which saw it released in Japan two months before North America, knee-capping any chance of decent album sales.

Critically, however, it was beloved — suddenly Jepsen was the indie endorsed pop star spruiked by Pitchfork and NME, a notion that would have been absurd back in 2012.

She finally got her act together: E•MO•TION: Side B followed, as did the standalone single ‘Cut To The Feeling’.

When the full-length Dedicated arrived earlier this year, it was received by a ravenous fanbase — none more ravenous than the one in Australia, which was yet to see a single performance from Jepsen. So when Jepsen arrived onstage at the Enmore to the piercing opening sax notes of ‘Run Away With Me’, the reception caused your eardrums to flutter dangerously.

It was a party, and we’d be waiting a long time for the invite.

What followed was an hour-and-a-half of pure, exquisite joy. It was hard to decipher Jepsen’s vocal throughout ‘Run Away With Me’, such was the volume of the crammed and sweaty crowd. Friends clumped together hugging each other, a man near me burst into tears the moment she first held up the microphone, a middle-aged couple threw up their drinks and made friends with a group of queer guys — later, they would pass around a bottle of amyl, which knocked the socks off the couple.

It was a party, and we’d be waiting a long time for the invite.

Jepsen’s set up was minimal, apart from a disco ball spectacularly throwing light during ‘Julien’, it was oddly stripped back for a pop show. It didn’t matter — Jepsen is a warm and dorky stage presence, crouching and twirling and throwing fist pumps like an overenthusiastic aunt at a 50th.

She didn’t leave any room to breathe — with three albums worth of material to get through, she didn’t have time. She bounded through ‘Run Away With Me’, ‘EMOTION’, ‘No Drug Like Me’, and ‘Julien’ before addressing the crowd, shyly murmuring “Hi guys” to the crowd. It was relentless.

Photo Credit: Jess Gleeson

Jepsen’s music often doesn’t confront emotions head on. Her best and most heart-tearing moments are in the songs where things are just out of reach — whether it’s love, trust, sex, or anything. Her songs yearn, they reach; the sonic equivalent of an unrequited high school crush. It makes a song title like ‘Cut To The Feeling’ — the last played song of the night, of course — read like a sly wink from the singer.

It also makes these songs perfect for a live setting — sung at full volume by a packed theatre by fans denied a show for eight years, there’s a powerful sense of release in the room.

These are the songs that have soundtracked our break ups, our crushes, our triumphs; the atmosphere that is created when that is released is overwhelming. There’s joy in falling in love, and a strange sense of joy in the break down — and always, there’s the burning hope that you’ll find it again. Even in quieter moments, like the tender ‘Cry’, a silver lining is evident.

There’s joy in falling in love, and a strange sense of joy in the break down — and always, there’s the burning hope that you’ll find it again.

You can count the missteps on one hand: the snare drum loudly punctured the sound mix on tracks like ‘Julien’ and ‘Gimme Love’, before being wrangled back into place, and Jepsen slipped briefly out of key at the start of ‘I Really Like You’, but these are small quibbles.

The highlights were numerous: Dedicated standout ‘Too Much’ is equally wonderful live, as is the playful ‘Boy Problems’. ‘Call Me Maybe’ slots in easily, a somewhat surprising high point of the evening.

By the time ‘Cut To The Feeling’ appears at the end of the encore, the crowd is exhausted, sweat-soaked, with about three more friends than they had when they arrived. This was a gig to be felt — and we felt it too much.


Jules LeFevre is editor of Music Junkee. She is on Twitter

Photo Credit: Jess Gleeson