Alessia Cara Lights Up Times Square

A concert experience you shouldn't miss.

Last night I hit NYC's PlayStation Theatre in the heart of Times Square to catch the incandescent Alessia Cara while she was in town for The Pains of Growing Tour.

The place was jammed—I stood among a joyful crowd dancing—we automatically joining in as Cara kicked into Growing Pains' call-and-response:

"Hey, hey, hey, yeah, yeah

No, no band-aids for the growing pains"

Phones were up—so I could see dozens of mini-onscreen Alessias set against the actual, the awesome, Alessia, boldly striding about the stage in tee-shirt and fuschia jeans.

She brought us into her homey performance space, complete with couches and living room lamps. A headboard served as her bedroom while projections flowed on the walls and beyond the window panes. Throughout the evening, Cara switched out guitars, driving confidently through a setlist that absolutely transported the audience—took us away, blew us away, brought us together, brought us back to ourselves.

Canadian-born Cara is a singer/songwriter and online self-starter who posted her first videos at the age of 13. Cara journeyed through YouTube as a teenager, picking up steam until, at 16, one of her videos caught the attention of a record label exec. Now, as the first Canadian to win a Grammy Award for Best New Artist, at 23 she's come a long way from singing in the family bathtub.

Musically, her work draws on contemporary R&B and soul, with a bit of trip-hop syncopation thrown in for good measure. Cara wears her heart on her sleeve, vocally and lyrically. Her voice rises and swells and broods; her songs are filled with positive messages of acceptance and affirmation.

"But there's a hope that's waiting for you in the dark

You should know you're beautiful just the way you are

And you don't have to change a thing

The world could change its heart

No scars to your beautiful

We're stars and we're beautiful."

This concert was a deep excavation of what it is to live through wild times—when leaving your teens and planting your feet in the adult world. Who wants to do that with the current state of the world? Who isn't intimidated, fearful, and insecure sometimes?

"Then leave us alone 'cause we don't need your policies

We have no apologies for being

Find me where the wild things are"

The Pains of Growing Tour is a wild thing in of itself, but you can catch its next concert date.

When it comes to music, it's as if I have a boomer's soul.

Despite falling neatly in the middle of the millennial generation, I was raised on Johnny Cash, Bobby Darin, and the Everly Brothers–which is to say, I understand nothing. Why is Billie EIlish so sad? What does Lizzo dream about? Who said Ed Sheeran was allowed to have a career? What's "DaBaby?" And then there's Harry Styles. Oh, Harry Styles: a beacon of (maybe) bisexual boy band energy and tutu-wearing masculinity. I can dig it. But then he released "Watermelon Sugar." Rolling Stone greeted its arrival by saying "Harry Styles Yearns for Taste of 'Watermelon Sugar.'" They wrote that the "track has the singer nostalgic for 'that summer feeling,' yearning for berries and the taste of watermelon sugar." Aw, so wholesome, so sweet.

Keep Reading Show less