It’s fair to say Camila Cabello faced five times the challenge of her previous Twin Cities appearances coming into her sold-out concert Friday night at the State Theatre in Minneapolis.
The Cuba-born pop star — who’s having a red-hot run with her current hits “Havana” and “Never Be the Same” — graduated to her first solo headlining show after serving as one-fifth of the vocal group Fifth Harmony. In the interim, she has only played sets at the KDWB Jingle Ball and Bruno Mars’ last local gig that were a fraction of the length of Friday’s set.
Still only 21, Cabello made strong impressions in those prior stints, but any member of Destiny’s Child or ’N Sync not named Beyoncé and Justin will tell you it can be hard to make the leap to a solo headliner.
The concert started with a video countdown montage that could have passed for a L’Oréal TV ad, which led to Cabello walking out under lightning bursts for the opening “Never Be the Same.”
Cabello seemed to appreciate performing in a theater after her arena runs last year.
“Of all my shows, this one feels, like, the most intimate and connected,” she said a half-hour into the 80-minute set. “I feel like we’re all in here.”
Without any backup singers in her band, Cabello relied on pre-recorded vocals for a good chunk of the show — if not out-right lip-syncing, she used a lot of “augmentation.” She didn’t really hide it, either, holding up the mic toward the crowd during “Inside Out” as her voice kept right on singing.
But “Inside Out” did require heavy movement from the singer and her dancers, with PG-sexy, samba-flavored whirling befitting her Miami upbringing. Dancing would play an even bigger role toward the end of the set, with wiry hip-hop maneuvers in her Major Lazer collaboration “Know No Better” giving way to a dark routine with veiled dancers all in black in “Crown.”
One song that she sang au natural, the ballad “Consequences” was delivered stripped-down with Cabello on piano and the crowd adding heavily to the vocals. Of course, that was no match for how loud things got during “Havana,” saved till the very end and spiced up with fedora-hatted dancing and extra conga drums (pre-recorded).
The second-biggest cheers of the night actually came when things turned serious. During “Something’s Gotta Give,” Cabello sang off to the side while video footage from various recent protests scrolled across the big-screen backdrop, including marches for gun control, Black Lives Matter and women’s and immigrants’ rights — each earning separate applause.
Cabello also took a meaningful turn in “Scar Tissue,” which had her dancers gazing into large mirrors with wounded gestures while she sang about mental health and self-love. “Treat yourself like you would your best friend,” she urged the young fans during the mellow anthem.
The fans certainly treated Cabello to an outpouring of love. She tried to get the crowd quiet enough for her to sing “In the Dark” literally in the dark without a microphone, but the bit didn’t work so well; fans couldn’t stop yelling, “I love you Camila!”
Michigan-reared singer Bazzi proved to be an odd phenomenon in the opening slot. He shot to fame by creating his own Snapchat selfie meme for the song “Mine,” which came at the end of his set.
Sure enough, audience members held up their cellphones in unusually high numbers during that song and many others, seemingly into him as a social-media star more than a pop singer — although the real-life Andrew Bazzi, 20, did show enough of a compellingly velvety voice and catchy, Jason Derulo-style hooks to be a true contender on the music front, too.
See more photos from Friday night’s concert at startribune.com/music.
Chris Riemenschneider 612-673-4658 @ChrisRstrib