Shawn Mendes keeps getting better in concert with uplifting Fiserv Forum show in Milwaukee

Piet Levy
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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This week, Summerfest is bringing around 800 acts and some of the biggest music stars in the world to Milwaukee's lakefront.

But there's always room for one more. 

And so, with a rare arena show the night before the start of the world's largest music festival, Shawn Mendes performed at Fiserv Forum. And despite the flood of live music options coming to town, Mendes managed to pack the place.

The 20-year-old pop star played Milwaukee a year ago — headlining Summerfest, no less — in his first full show following the release of his self-titled album. He hasn't released a new album since then, but fans who showed up at Fiserv Forum Tuesday were rewarded with a longer, and stronger, show this time.

Mendes played 15 songs at Summerfest, but across an hour and 45 minutes Tuesday, touched on 28 tunes. There was the buoyant new single "If I Can't Have You," with thousands of young female fans jumping in unison to the perky beat. And there was a medley of some of his favorite songs across his three albums — "Because I Had You," "A Little Too Much," "Patience" and "When You're Ready" — largely performed solely on a piano, illustrating his strong command of the crowd.

That medley took place on a secondary stage — another difference from his show at Summerfest — in the back of the arena floor, underneath a towering, LED rose that changed colors. He played a sweet, too-short snippet of Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)" on piano, then took up an acoustic guitar and an electric guitar, for "Like to Be You" and "Ruin," respectively. 

As part of an actual tour, as opposed to last year's one-off, Mendes Tuesday benefited from bigger production, with fog flooding the stage and flashing lights creating a lightning-storm effect for "Bad Reputation," with a thunderous, arena-rock rendition to match. 

But some of Tuesday night's most stirring moments were the simpler ones, like when Mendes, alone on acoustic guitar, stomped his foot faster and faster, employing his fans to clap to the beat at all costs, ahead of his inspiring ballad "Youth"; or the flashes of pretty falsetto, and the sweet, John Mayer-indebted guitar licks, that came across on "Why." 

Shawn Mendes performs at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee on June 25, 2019.

It all led up to the heart-pumping finale "In My Blood," with the video screen behind Mendes and the four-piece band pulling up to reveal a staggering semicircle of blinding lights, and confetti blasting from the end of the stage, as Mendes jumped into the photo pit to hug fans in the front.

But the best part of "In My Blood" Tuesday was the same thing that made the performance so strong at Summerfest last year — the sound of thousands of young voices coming to terms with anxiety, and vowing to overcome it.

"Keep telling me that it gets better," they sang along with Mendes Tuesday. "Does it ever?" 

In terms of Mendes' live show, there's no dispute that it has. 

With three top 10 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 before she turned 20, and a soulful voice that belies her age, Alessia Cara burst onto the pop scene a few years back with thoughtful singles like the love who you are anthem “Scars to Your Beautiful” and retro wallflowers lament “Here.”

Cara, now 22, is going through a bit of a sophomore slump, with no singles from last year’s “The Pain of Growing” gaining much traction on the charts. 

But a spirited 40-minute set suggested that’ll be a temporary setback, with Cara, through an easygoing, everywoman demeanor, eliciting headliner-level enthusiasm Tuesday, even for new singles like “Growing Pains.”

Alessia Cara opens for Shawn Mendes at Fiserv Forum on June 25, 2019.

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The takeaways 

  • Both Mendes' and Cara's music encapsulate the wonder and anxiety from that transitional period between youth and adulthood, and so did their appearances Tuesday. Cara wore a playful T-Rex shirt, and also a suit. And with his boyish grin, cropped hair and stage gestures like proudly placing his fist at his hip, Mendes at times looked a bit like Peter Pan Tuesday — except he was really jacked. 
  • As they entered Fiserv Forum Tuesday, fans were given LED bracelets that twinkled, lit up and changed colors in sync with the music , transforming the audience into its own light show. 
  • Along with that snippet of "Dance," Mendes did a fabulous cover of of Coldplay's "Fix You." And as pretty as Chris Martin's voice sounds on the song, Mendes' vocal matched his emotional depth, with more considerable range.
  • Mendes also did about 30 seconds of "Señorita" from behind the piano Tuesday, a Camilla Cabello collaboration that just dropped four days ago — but thousands of people already knew, and sang back, every word.

The set list 

Contact Piet at (414) 223-5162 or Follow him on Twitter at @pietlevy or Facebook at

Piet also talks concerts, local music and more on "TAP'd In" with Jordan Lee. Hear it at 8 a.m. Thursdays on WYMS-FM (88.9), or wherever you get your podcasts.

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