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Review: Demi Lovato brings girl power, vocal prowess to the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa



Bright pink hair whipped from side to side as Demi Lovato belted out her hits at the Tampa Bay Times Forum Wednesday night.

At times, she got down and rolled her hips a bit, thrusting her pelvis and reminding the audience she's no longer the Disney-kid, Camp Rock star of old.

But for the majority of the 20-song set on her Neon Lights Tour, Lovato reminded her fans that vocal talent is what sets her apart from her contemporaries. She delivered powerful high notes in her opening number, the radio blaster Heart Attack, and kept the show rolling from there.

The crowd of 6,818 was largely teen girls, and the self-proclaimed "Lovatics" were fully invested in every note of every song. They traveled from around the state to see the X Factor judge put on her show, and the ear-ringing screeches indicated that she delivered.

There weren't any big surprises in the set. Pyrotechnics were limited to bursts of fake smoke. There was only one sort of costume change, when Lovato donned a black skirt with her shiny black jeggings to perform her recovery anthem Skyscraper. And while the movements were precise in their staging, there was nothing one would call choreography going on up there. Lovato brought what she had to offer: Her story, her attitude and her voice. The combination brought the crowd to their feet for the full set.

Lovato’s backing band, (two backup singers, a drummer, a guitarist, a bassist and a keyboardist) kept it relatively simple, letting her voice do the work instead of remixing anything for a unique experience.

During the acoustic portions of the show, when Lovato herself played the guitar and piano, her voice wavered at times, a fact that probably went unnoticed by the fans belting along with her.

As she sat down at the piano to perform Warrior, Lovato talked about a Venezuelan baseball cap a fan had just given her. She said she recently played Venezuela, and witnessed the pain of the people who are experiencing violence in a time of political unrest.

"They are really hurting down there, you guys," she told the teens. "As Lovatics we're all united as one family. Please pray for them. Please spread the awareness. Don't just pray for the Lovatics, pray for the country as a whole."

Another heavy moment came toward the end of the set, when a clip reel of newsmedia and morning talk shows reporting Lovato's rehab stint played before she performed Skyscraper. Though still admittedly in recovery for her issues, Lovato didn't dwell on them, cheekily wearing a 1990s D.A.R.E. T-shirt as her performance costume and telling the crowd the Alcoholics Anonymous slogan, "It works if you work it.” She urged her fans to be empowered by her return to form after he public struggles.

Empowerment happened to be the theme of the night, as two girl groups, Fifth Harmony and Little Mix, served up classic girls-rule music to get the arena rocking.

Fifth Harmony sang and fist-pumped and posed and harmonized and hit high notes for the ages, declaring loudly that they're more than an opening act. The five-girl group dazzled in unique personas clearly defined by their get-ups, a la the Spice Girls.

The group formed on the second season of The X Factor's U.S. version and have been steadily trying to make their way into living rooms across the country. Their hits Me & My Girls and Miss Movin’ On sound like responses to One Direction songs. Each singer got the chance to take center stage and show what she could do, but the group's standout live singer was Dinah Jane Hansen, who had a couple of runs to rival Christina Aguilera in her heyday.

Little Mix, a British quartet of girl-power singers, was more dance-intensive than Lovato and Fifth Harmony, but no slouch in the vocal department. Covers of Destiny's Child's Bootylicious, En Vogue's Don't Let Go and Cameo's Word Up gave the girls a chance to show off their unique colors while still performing something familiar.

Hip-hop influences were evident when they began to move, even if the songs were the kind of light pop the night called for. Wings, which earned the strongest crowd response, delivers sassiness, style and canned confidence – exactly the type of anthemic pop Lovato delivers by the ton. The opening acts were a great way to stay on message.

-- Robbyn Mitchell, tbt*

[Last modified: Thursday, February 27, 2014 2:03am]


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