By PETER LARSEN
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
About halfway into Demi Lovato’s concert at Nokia Theatre on Friday the teen pop star paused to introduce her next song with the truest words she’d speak all night.
“You know, last year I shot a movie that changed my life forever,” she pointed out before instant cheers of fans cut her off, making it clear that she really didn’t need to fill in the rest of that sentence.
“Camp Rock,” the 2008 Disney Channel hit, plucked Lovato from relative obscurity and placed her alongside the Jonas Brothers, the hottest teen act of the moment. Within months, Lovato, still just 16 years old, was a very big thing.
Her first album, “Don’t Forget,” debuted at No. 2 in September. By February of this year she was starring in her own Disney Channel show, “Sonny with a Chance.” And when her sophomore effort, “Here We Go Again,” arrives on Tuesday, it almost certainly will make a huge splash on the charts.
But beyond just Lovato’s sudden popularity, this entire night at Nokia was a reminder of the magical success that can result when young fans, young stars and old media collide.
Opening act David Archuleta, just 17 last year when “American Idol” made him an overnight sensation, referenced that too during his set. “I’ve got a lot of great memories here,” he said at one point of the L.A. Live venue, where he sang in the Season 7 finale and finished second in the competition.
In the audience you saw more evidence of the same: Sabrina Bryan, plucked from Orange County by Disney to star in the 2003 “Cheetah Girls” movie (with more movies, albums and a run on the company’s ABC side for “Dancing with the Stars’ to follow), showed up and was mobbed by fans as she made her way to her seat – an appropriate reception for a 24-year-old grande dame of tween entertainment.
Still, while it’s possible to win the life lottery and score seemingly instant success – Lovato, Archuleta and Bryan all worked for years as child actors and singers first, we should note – pulling it off live can be a trickier feat.
Fortunately for the 7,000 screaming fans (including the sizeable contingent of parents who drove them) the answer on Friday was a solid yes.
In 17 songs in just over an hour, Lovato displayed confidence and charisma, dancing from side to side of the stage as she sang, accompanying herself solo on piano and playing guitar alongside her five-piece band.
A year ago at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine, she’d sounded out of tune at times and often shrill as opening act for the Jonas Brothers. Here, though, she seemed much more mature of voice and presence, leaving you with the impression that she’s grown a lot.
Opening with “La La Land” and “So Far So Great,” the theme from her TV series, fans were up and dancing, singing along with each word. (If you’re unfamiliar with the style of music, think JoBros – they co-wrote much of her first album – or Miley Cyrus: poppy, rock-tinged songs and ballads, mostly stories about love and friendship.)
“In four days I’m coming out with a new album,” she announced before introducing “U Got Nothing on Me,” then recruiting the audience to sing along on the title hook.
When she got to “This Is Me,” one of her “Camp Rock” tunes, she brought a young girl – first or second grade at most – out of the audience to help sing the duet she’d done in the movie with Joe Jonas. A gimmick, sure, but it was sweet too, and further proof of the ability of kids to learn EVERY single lyric to EVERY song they hear on Radio Disney. (Click here for complete set lists!)
Late in the show she talked about how her mother had raised her on Aretha Franklin and Billie Holiday, and then – first apologizing for not being as good as Aretha – she sang “(You Make Me Feel) Like a Natural Woman,” playing piano with her band. Sure, she’s no Aretha – who is? – but good for her for spreading this gospel to a young, new audience.
The encore saved the best two songs for last – I’ve got that on good authority from my 8-year-old deputy reviewer, Anna Lily. First, the sensitive, slow ballad “Don’t Forget,” then the up-tempo rocker “Get Back.” (“This is the most famous one,” I was told when I whispered a request for the name to my sidekick. Duh!)
Archuleta in his turn delivered a 45-minute, 11-song set that earned almost as much fan love as Lovato’s. With his typically lovely voice, he sang singles off his self-titled album, “Crush” and “A Little Too Not Over You,” as well as a few dancier numbers such as “Zero Gravity.”
Compared to his first Southern California solo show in Pomona earlier this year, he seemed more settled as a showman – a little less “aw shucks,” though you’re never going to get all the “gee whiz” out of this guy.
Archuleta was preceded by a five-piece all-girl rock band called KSM, a group mentored by the Go-Go’s, something you notice right away in both their sound and fashion. We’d never heard of them before, but with a new album coming from Disney subsidiary Buena Vista Records later this year, does anyone want to bet on whether they’ll be headlining Nokia in 2011? Didn’t think so.
Source: OC Register