Filled with the headiness of pop stardom, Carly Rae Jepsen stepped into the pit in front of the stage Wednesday night at the sold-out Varsity Theater in Minneapolis and planted a kiss on the lips of some fan boy. It was the perfect set up for a perfect pop song, “Tonight I’m Getting Over You.”
Jepsen, a fresh-scrubbed pop ingénue in a Rihanna and Lady Gaga world, celebrates in song the rush of flirtation, the joy of a first kiss and the frustration of breaking up. And how to move on, as is the case with buoyant, boy-bashing, Taylor Swift-evoking “Tonight I’m Getting Over You.”
Even though she’s 30, Jepsen looks, writes and sings like she’s 22. And a mostly collegiate crowd hung on her every word Wednesday.
The audience seemed more hipster than her 2012 breakthrough bubble gum smash, “Call Me Maybe,” might suggest. If she drew tweens to her Twin Cities debut in 2013 at the Minnesota Zoo, she attracted gay fans, frat boys and college coeds to the Varsity. It’s the crowd, noted one observer, that watches Lena Dunham’s “Girls” on HBO.
Jepsen might be fresh from the live-TV musical version of “Grease” but she’s set to play the hip Pitchfork Music Festival in July. This is the hard-to-pigeonhole singer who got a huge boost when Justin Bieber tweeted he liked “Call Me Maybe.” Then two years later she delayed the release of her follow-up to the “Maybe”-containing album so she could appear on Broadway in “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella” with Fran Drescher.
To be sure, Jepsen is a careerist, like Gaga and Swift (who are actually younger than she is). The Varsity crowd just wanted to dance with abandon, and Jepsen provided the requisite irresistible pop songs set to Eurobeats. She played nearly every song from last year’s critically adored, slow-selling “Emotion,” which Cosmo called album of the year and Vulture dubbed better than Swift’s Grammy-winning blockbuster “1989.”
Like Swift’s album, Jepsen’s disc seems obsessed with 1980s pop with a beat you can dance to. The record was more impressive than the songs rendered live, where the dynamics and textures of Jepsen’s four-man band sounded similar on almost every selection.
The Canadian pop singer dusted off a few numbers from 2012’s “Kiss” album, including her hit “Good Time” that she recorded with Minnesota’s own Owl City. Even though he didn’t join her Wednesday, the good-time tune had the place partying like they were listening to a PG LMFAO triumph.
Even though Jepsen’s stage presence has improved dramatically from the Minnesota Zoo show, she still has a high, girlish voice. Only on the acoustic tune “Curiosity” did she demonstrate much vocal range and nuance.
The crowd didn’t come for a masterful vocal recital. They just wanted to have fun. And for 85 minutes and 20 songs, they did. Jepsen didn’t even bother with an encore because her final song, sort of a first-date sequel to the preceeding “Call Me Maybe,” said it all: “I Really Like You.”