Selena Gomez Proves Her Pop Star Chops on ‘Revival Tour’
Selena Gomez has lived a thousand lives since her industry emergence as a moon-faced child actor on Barney and Friends. She grew up with and then out of her Disney roots, her friendship with Demi Lovato and her relationship with pop's prodigal son Justin Bieber. And barring a stint in rehab that her team has worked tirelessly to cover up, Gomez has maintained the nonthreatening air of normal-girl purity so many young stars work tirelessly to dispel as soon as they turn 18.
Her 2015 Revival release is a departure from all that, and her June 1 stop on the album's supporting tour at Brooklyn's Barclays Center made it clear: Gomez deserves a place among her musical contemporaries, and her rise as one of pop's premier acts is imminent.
The show began just as any good pop concert should: With a cyclone of smoke, dizzying lights and pulsating music. Revival's title track blared from the arena speakers before Gomez's lean silhouette appeared behind a curtain, flitting against the backdrop in time with the beat. She emerged after an acceptable amount of suspense, segueing into a lightly choreographed version of the chart-topping "Same Old Love," a cutting goodbye to a toxic relationship that deserved its fiery end long ago.
It was here, during the evening's first full-length song, that Gomez let go: She bounded across the stage floor, pounding at her chest with her fist, tossing her glossy, Pantene-sponsored hair back with a kind of unexpected rage as she sang, "I'm so sick of that same old love / That sh---t it tears me up." It was a convincing, cathartic admission: Bieber really was a nightmare of a boyfriend, wasn't he?
That violence and fury Gomez has never once expressed outside the arena — at least not publicly — became a repeat display throughout the evening (especially during "Sober," "Me & My Girls," and, weirdly, "Survivors"). And it was plenty believable, though that's perhaps a credit to her acting chops. Because while there were few technical missteps throughout the show, it's also where things fell a bit flat.
Gomez no longer gives much of herself to the press, but she was guarded onstage in a way that formed a gaping disconnect from the audience. This can be the mark of a good pop show, too: No off-script moments, no pyro disasters, no slipping or nip-slips or screw-ups. But the highlights of Gomez’s previous tour stops have been in its unexpected moments: A torn sign here, an onslaught of unplanned tears there.
There were none of those moments in Brooklyn, and it became such that you could see the wheels turning in Gomez’s head — it’s as if her pop stardom doesn’t come quite as easily to her as it does her contemporaries, and she knows it. She refuses to fail, and with that comes a slightly off-putting rigidity.
But that's something she can work on, and considering the show's intricate staging, it's understandable how Gomez may get caught up in the mechanics of the pop machine.
Gomez was careful to incorporate sexuality onstage without ever getting too risqué -- the sensual "Good For You" saw her languidly move across the stage with her dancers, draped in deep red hues. "Come and Get It" made for a bolder Gomez, the track sounding more like a demand than its original come-hither incarnation. And "Me & the Rhythm" saw her at her most spirited, serving as a welcome shift from that (understandable) initial upset.
While Revival cuts made up the bulk of the set list ("Sober," "Hands to Myself" and "Body Heat" were obvious standouts), Gomez knows better than to alienate her core audience, the one she built as a witch on TV and solidified with watery, inspirational tracks. She performed fan-favorite "Who Says" to a weepy crowd and then upped the ante with a Jesus-heavy Hillsong United cover "Transfiguration."
These slow moments were, mercifully, few and far between. Gomez is aware that despite finally finding her vocal sweet spot -- somewhere between the drawl of Lana Del Rey and the after-effects of guzzling a full bottle of NyQuil -- she's not the strongest singer, so she opts for showmanship instead.
Her dancers were excellent, fleshing out the space surrounding Gomez in a way that nearly stole the show from out beneath her. Her backup singers were similarly gifted, a point made all the more obvious when Gomez allowed them to take over on vocals, anytime she dropped her mic to the side -- which was, admittedly, a frequent occurrence.
But no matter: As the show came to a close, a remix of "Revival" ushered Gomez & Co. offstage amid a burst of confetti, creating the perfect bookend to a night that felt, quite firmly, like a beginning.
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