Not to be overly dramatic, but I’m still shook.
When I think of the word “detour,” I realize that I have always previously associated it with an inconvenience. Like I was driving down a main road, encountered construction ahead, and had to take some winding back roads to get around the problem as my GPS recalculated. But now, fresh in my mind is Sabrina Carpenter’s “De-Tour” featuring New Hope Club and Alex Aiono, and the meaning of the entire word has changed. A detour is a diversion from the expected, but in the best possible way.
Which is why it is so fitting that the singer’s latest tour stop was in Montclair, New Jersey last night: not the expected New York City destination, though that would be grand. Nor at a more well-known town in the state, with recognizable names like Newark or Atlantic City. A tiny and unexpected pin on the map for sure, but perfect, because I found myself at a beautiful venue called The Wellmont very close to the hometown I grew up in, 10000% ready to be wowed.
In line waiting for the event, I met a group of friends who are starting middle school this week (break a leg, guys!) As their last hurrah to summer 2017, one of the girls convinced her mom to take their squad out to see their very first concert ever. And of course, it had to be Sabrina’s. They picked wisely, and I’m sure they all will remember this experience forever — likely for many of the same reasons I will.
First up, New Hope Club took the stage to play their set, promptly at start time and ready to rock. Not to sound like your grandma here, but I will forever appreciate the professionalism and consideration of performers that take the stage on time. I’ve officially been to one too many shows where late starts, diva attitudes, and other conflicts delay later acts and prevent the show from running smoothly. It was the first time I have ever seen NHC live, though I’ve been following them for quite some time now, and their first impressions lived up to the hype.
The guys played a well-rounded set, which can be seen as a teaser introduction to them as a band. As an homage to their UK roots and their YouTube covers background, their set list included a version of Harry Styles’ song “Sign of the Times,” which beautifully showed off their musical abilities. (Plus, the best way to get me on your side is to work in some 1D. Just saying.) I can’t wait to see more from George, Reece, and Blake.
Second to the stage, Alex Aiono was met with nothing but excitement from the audience. I am lucky enough to say I have seen him perform live before, about a year ago in New York City. He has always been amazing, but he has really stepped up his set for the De-Tour: especially since he has officially released songs/mega-jams like “Work the Middle” and “Hot2Touch” since I saw him last.
Alex’s vocals are more powerful than they have ever been, and he has woven even more killer dance moves into his set, which truly deserve all the yelps and screams he evokes from the audience.
Then, the lights dimmed, fans chanted SA-BRI-NA, and The Legendary Sabrina Carpenter was due on stage.
Now, before I tell you what I thought of Sabrina’s latest performance, please allow me tell you some backstory. I have a lot of history with Sabrina shows, and have been fortunate enough to have seen her live so many times over the past few years, I can barely count them on my (…”Thumbs,” “Hands,” insert your song pun of preference here!) Once upon a time, I photographed one of her outdoor concerts from the side of the stage where her mom stood, recording the set on her phone. And let me tell you, Sabrina has grown up so much since then, it’s mind-boggling.
I thought I was ready, I really did. After all, I’ve been following De-Tour news, videos, and photos since its day one, and Sabrina’s career as a whole even longer. But then Sabrina descended the now-iconic staircase set up on the stage, and I couldn’t believe my eyes. The powerful vocals. The sassy dance moves. That sparkle of star power that you can only detect in the truly special artists. It was all there in epic proportions, and I was glowing with that specific kind of pride that Sabs’ fandom — the Carpenters — know all too well.
Let me put it to you this way: when a dad started full-heartedly, top-of-his-lungs singing along to “Thumbs,” his tween daughter wasn’t even embarrassed by him. Can you imagine? She just joined in, like “I know, right? QUEEN.”
And that’s kind of the point. Sabrina has talked a lot this tour about how she wanted to unify people with her art. She spoke about this in person, telling her audience that even if they had nothing else in common with anyone else in the room, they can at least find a bond through their love for music. We’re living in this very special time right now when it’s up to us young people to build bridges, and find commonalities between others who, at first glance, may appear wildly different than our own selves.
If you’re already a fan, me calling Sabrina a superstar shouldn’t surprise you… but it will still make you proud. Because no matter how much she slays on the stage, continues to re-invent herself musically, and explore her talents, she is still the genuine young girl you know from Disney, yet also the force poised to take over the music industry. Somehow, all at the same time.
The De-Tour is the kind of performance you end with a mic drop.
Written by Kristine Hope Kowalski