A large bearded bodyguard in an Alessia Cara shirt scans the line of primarily teenage girls I’m standing in while holding dozens of neon pink wristbands, immediately discounting my general area from being considered 21 years old (which offends me a little).
After finally being herded into The Fillmore, we don’t wait long until Nathan Sykes, formally a member of the X-Factor boy band The Wanted, takes the stage. Clad in what seems to be sweatpants and carrying a cup of tea, Sykes’s casual approach to the night is mimicked in his uneventful entrance. After clarifying for the audience that he is indeed here to perform — he’s not just another stage hand — Sykes opens with “Kiss Me Quick” and segues into an emotional rendition of “Famous.” He jokes self-deprecatingly about his awkwardness onstage, promotes his upcoming album by saying, “I think it’s pretty good” and gets the loudest crowd reaction by introducing his guitarist. All in all, Sykes is short, sweet and relatively forgettable.
Following Sykes, Ruth B brings a quiet respect and nervous energy to her short set list. Her black jeans and t-shirt combo is effortlessly cool and she cruises through her songs with a voice that is somehow better live than recorded. The crowd only knows “Lost Boy,” but that doesn’t stop them from getting excited about a number of her other songs. Her band looks to be having about as much fun as the crowd, singing and bopping along to her songs like it’s the first time they have heard them. She’ll return later to perform a duet of “Stars” with Alessia Cara, but for now she sings her way offstage and waves to her new fans.
20 minutes later, Cara herself makes her entrance. An introductory video hypes up the crowd while strobe lights attempt to blind me, but it’s not until the headliner takes the stage that I truly understand why her fans are so enthralled. Dressed in all black, white sneakers and an oversized denim jacket, Alessia has her curly hair tied in a bun and seems to be wearing no makeup. If I thought Ruth B was cool, Cara is calm, collected and sensational.
She breezes through “Wild Things” and gives short, inspirational monologues before “Four Pink Walls” and “Scars to Your Beautiful,” encouraging her audience that they can do anything they set their minds to and that they’re all beautiful in their own way. They’re cliché messages, but hearing them from Cara’s perspective makes me start to believe them. She’s young, just turned 20, but she carries herself with a poise that most adults struggle to find.
Cara performs “River of Tears” alone with her keyboard, clearing the stage of her band and making room for the voices of her fans. After a quick introductory call and response, she launches into the chorus of “Seventeen” while a slideshow of old home videos plays on the screen behind her. It’s nostalgia at its finest, mirrored in Cara’s own expression when her eye catches a video of herself as a young girl.
She closes with “Here” (obviously) and performs an encore of “My Song” shortly after. It’s a fitting end to the night, with the crowd’s voices soaring over Cara’s, blending together to echo long after the concert ends.