Since her Disney Channel days, Demi Lovato has delivered pop tracks that pack both vocal and emotional punches, and her concert at Capital One Arena on March 24 delivered each musical hit with new intensity. Lovato’s exceptional vocal stamina mixed with her candor and vulnerability enabled everyone in the arena, from the nosebleeds to VIP seating areas, to feel connected to Lovato and her performances.
To supplement her performance, Lovato brought two opening acts on the road for the North American leg of her “Tell Me You Love Me” tour.
First up was Kehlani, a rhythm and blues artist with a solid fan base and moderate mainstream success, most notably from her song “Gangsta” from the “Suicide Squad” movie soundtrack. Dressed in a cropped March for Our Lives hoodie and bike shorts with side snaps, Kehlani expertly worked the stage for her seductive and upbeat numbers, and it was clear from the cheering and audience’s loud singing that she had more than a few fans in the crowd.
Next up was DJ Khaled, a mega-producer who has found tremendous success orchestrating multi-artist collaborations such as “I’m the One” and “Wild Thoughts.” Khaled played snippets of both of those hits, but he also made the smart move of only playing parts of songs to keep the crowd from getting bored.
DJ Khaled discussed his weight loss, his son and the importance of love with bits like “when you love yourself you can love others.” While DJ Khaled barely did any actual DJing and his performance did not extend much beyond being a glorified hype man, his talent for pumping up the audience was impressive.
Rising from the floor in a black trench coat, Lovato kicked off her show with a rousing performance of “You Don’t Do It for Me Anymore” under a few striking spotlights, setting the stage for the many power ballads to come. She then sunk back into the floor as a section of the stage descended, and a pre-taped video featuring two Demi Lovatos — one a therapist and one a client — rolled, an appropriate introduction for her song “Daddy Issues.”
Next came “Cool for the Summer,” a song that faced some backlash when it came out for portraying same-sex attraction as something temporary and to be hidden with its line “Don’t tell your mother.” For this performance, however, “Go tell your mother” was displayed across the four giant screen panels behind her, signaling clearly for the audience members not to be ashamed of their sexuality, as Lovato danced seductively with both male and female dancers.
Lovato continued in the same vein with “Dirty, Sexy, Love” before performing one of her older hits, “Heart Attack,” a song that demands massive vocals even by Lovato’s standards. She delivered, making it a highlight of the night. Another song memorable for a different reason was “Give Your Heart a Break,” during which a giant kiss cam showcased couples.
Following energetic performances of “Confident” and “Games,” Lovato moved to her rotating B-stage that featured a bed, which ushered in the stripped-down portion of the show. Sitting on the edge of the bed in a silk robe and strumming an electric guitar amid a sea of black, Lovato made the arena feel much more intimate. The simplicity of “Concentrate” and “Cry Baby” allowed Lovato’s voice to be the center of attention without competition from background music.
After a seductive performance on the bed for “F—in’ Lonely” her dancers brought the mood back up while she returned to the main stage. Lovato re-emerged in a bright blue outfit to sing “Promises” and “Échame la Culpa.” While most of the night Lovato left the dancing to her dancers, she showed off her own moves during “Culpa” and brought some levity to the show.
Following a video montage of her growing up, Lovato spoke candidly to the crowd. She noted that, beyond music, she “want[s] to be remembered for making an impact” and explained her initiative CAST on Tour. CAST on Tour is a partnership with CAST Centers, a mental health and addiction treatment facility that Lovato co-owns, in which CAST Centers holds free, pre-show counseling sessions to provide a safe and uplifting space for concertgoers.
Regarding her performance at the March for Our Lives earlier that the day, remarked that it’s “so powerful that this generation stands up for what we believe in.” She noted that she recently celebrated six years of sobriety before performing the ballad “Warrior” at the piano.
Lovato explained that she “wanted to make this show really personal” before performing “Father,” a song she said she had never put on a set list until this tour because it was hard for her to sing live given her difficult relationship with her dad. The song, which starts as a delicate piano-backed song and explodes into a gut-wrenching power ballad, was the apex of her emotion-filled show.
For the finale of the show, Lovato brought Washington, D.C. group 18th Street Singers out to back her up for “Sorry Not Sorry” and “Tell Me You Love Me.” The songs made for a spirited, church-like finish to a concert that proved once again that Lovato is a singer whose personality is just as real and powerful as her voice.