Shawn Mendes – Illuminate World Tour
By: Frances Nieves
Shawn Mendes’ Illuminate World Tour started in late spring on April 27th, 2017 and has been running all summer. It will continue through the fall and is slated to end on December 18th, 2017. Coming off the immense success of his newest single “There’s Nothing Holding Me Back,” Shawn’s tour headed to Tampa, Florida where I was not only able to attend, but I was able to take my younger sister to her first ever concert. On July 25th we arrived at the Amalie Arena in downtown Tampa at around 2pm. VIP’s were told to show up for check in at 2:30pm and were promptly let into the venue at 3pm. Thankfully, Shawn’s team had it set up so that the fans could line up inside if they arrived early and did not have to stand out in the sweltering Florida heat.
There were three different levels of VIPs for the show (Silver, Gold and Platinum), but all VIPs received an Illuminate Tour badge and lanyard upon entry and got to attend a Q&A with Shawn. The Silver VIPs received a special edition tour poster and had early access to the venue and merchandise table. The Gold and Platinum VIPs received the special edition tour poster signed had early access to the venue and merchandise table, got to see a Shawn Mendes Museum full of multiple outfits, signature guitars and props from award shows (including his 2016 Kid’s Choice Award and People’s Choice Award) and afterwards had a Meet & Greet with Shawn. The Platinum VIPs also received a signed Taylor guitar from Shawn post show. In total, there were around 200 VIPs and everyone attended the Q&A together.
My little sister, our friend Lisa and I had Gold VIP passes so after being checked in and screened through security we were directed up to where the Museum and Meet & Greet area were set up. All the Gold and Platinum VIPs were directed to the same area and asked to line up. While we waited for the M&G to start we caught Shawn’s band finishing up their soundcheck without him. He almost didn’t need to be there though because every single fan was singing out all the words to the songs as the band was on stage. It was totally normal one second and then all of sudden it was as if everyone was in choir and not a single note or word was missed. The atmosphere was really great and welcoming and the staff made sure we everyone was comfortable and taken care of. These are things I may not have paid as much attention to, but seeing as it was my sister’s first show I wanted to make sure she had the best experience possible and she absolutely did. As we waited in line for the M&G to start, some members of the Shawn Access team came around and stamped Shawn passports for fans that had them and were part of the fan club. There are different stamps for each show and everyone was excited to get theirs, even the parents that were accompanying their kids.
Around 4:30pm the line started to move and we could tell the photos had started. Every fan that had a pass was allowed one photo with Shawn so my little sister went first and took her photo with him and then I used my photo to get one of us together. When I mentioned to Shawn that it was her first show he was super excited for her and definitely about the sibling picture, which was really sweet and made her feel special.
After their photo with Shawn each VIP received a holographic special edition signed tour poster and was directed to the Q&A room. I really loved the setup they had for the Q&A because it allowed for everyone to feel comfortable and at home. There was a chair at the front of the room where Shawn sat in front of an Illuminate Tour background and then all the fans were asked to sit on the floor so as to allow everyone to see. It was great because there were fans from a very young age attending. Shawn took questions from the audience with a ton of energy and a huge smile on his face.
A fan asked about his album and why he decided to call it “Illuminate” and he said that he’s noticed that “when it comes to people’s dark points in their lives they kind of rely on music” and that what’s the album is about. “It’s about shedding light on the darkness we feel.” After being asked what inspires him the most to write, he revealed that he wants to have his heart really broken because although it sounds crazy he thinks that’s when he will write his best music. There were plenty more questions surrounding the album and music, but he also fielded some fun non music related questions like which cologne he wears (Gucci – Made to Measure), a few Harry Potter themed questions (his favorite movie is Prisoner of Azkaban which bumped him up a couple of notches on my favorites list), what he would do if he wasn’t a musician (still work in the entertainment industry but in acting or something similar instead) and was also asked by a girl if he’d marry her to which he responded “ahhh sure” with a smile and chuckle.
After the Q&A was finished the VIPs were allowed early access to the merch table, which was set up in a lounge where everyone also had a chance to take a picture with one of Shawn’s guitars and recreate the Illuminate album cover. The merchandise included quite a variety of different styles and items so there was something for every fan. Items included multiple tour shirts with the dates on the back and various pictures of Shawn on the front, hoodies and long sleeve shirts with different designs including a baseball tee with the number 98 (his birth year) on it and one of his tattoos. There were also wristbands, bracelets, necklaces, chokers, tote bags and a fleece blanket that had “Shawn Mendes Illuminate” on it and a big maple leaf with the number 98 in the center (which I may or may not have taken home…).
After being there since the early afternoon and nearly cleaning out the entire merch table, the VIPs were incredibly excited to see the show. At 6:30pm the doors opened to the general public and the energy in the venue heightened exponentially. Promptly at 7:30pm Shawn’s opening act, Charlie Puth, took the stage for a 30 minute set. Charlie got the crowd going with hits like “Attention,” “We Don’t Talk Anymore” and “Marvin Gaye.” He absolutely captivated them with ballads including “One Call Away” (a personal favorite) and “See You Again” (from the Fast and Furious 7 soundtrack). There was a really beautiful moment when everyone had their phones and lights on and Charlie just sat back while the entire arena sang the chorus of “See You Again” together. He had prefaced the song with a story about the inspiration for it coming from a personal loss of one of his best friends. The moment so powerful and the emotion was incredible palpable. It was a perfect ending to Charlie’s set.
There was a 30 minute intermission between Charlie and Shawn’s sets as the stages needed to be reset. At 8:30pm Shawn Mendes came up from under the stage holding his guitar and kicked off the show with his latest hit “There’s Nothing Holding Me Back.” The crowd went WILD the second he was on stage and on the big screens, his fans sang out every word loud and clear and you could tell he was having a blast. Shawn played for a total of almost two hours, coming off stage at 10:15pm. Throughout the show Shawn played a multitude of different guitars and even got on the piano for a few songs. He was also super comfortable without his instruments, which says a lot about how far he’s come as a performer. His band was incredibly talented and songs like “Ruin” saw themselves getting the John Mayer “Gravity” treatment by being extended to twice their original length with substantial musical interludes. Early into the show he played a few older fan favorite tracks for what might be one of the most fun mashups I’ve heard since the first Pitch Perfect came out. In a 10 minute block he sang “I Don’t Even Know Your Name,” “Kid In Love,” “Aftertaste” and “I Want You Back” (a Jackson 5 cover). He got the crowd even more riled up than they already were and everyone, including my little sister, lost their minds the more into it he got.
There were two stages set up for the show: the main stage was backed by a very large screen and two smaller screens that showed Shawn up close and the second stage was round and just large enough to fit a grand piano on. Over the smaller stage there was an orb like item that served as a fourth projection screen. Throughout the show it would change colors and direct your attention to each stage based on the song being played. The setup was fairly simple with most graphics being animations of Shawn on stage or just cool light shows. The most intricate stage production occurred during the song “A Little Too Much,” which Shawn spoke about a bit before he played it. He said that no matter where he’s been in the world or where he’s played a show, that particular song always seems to land. He said it’s a song that means so much to him and often means something important to many other people regardless of where they’re from and that it tells a message he feels we all need to hear at some point. During this song the lyrics were projected on the screen, but as Shawn sang them they started to form into shapes and as the song kept progressing the words shaped the walls and roof of a house and started to fill it in. He created a virtual home for all those he was singing to telling them they are not alone. It was really beautiful and a creative yet simple use of the screens.
“Ruin” served as the end to the first half of the show and after the jam session that was that song the stage emptied and Shawn rushed off to the second smaller stage. When he arrived there the stage was brightly lit with the orb above it resembling the earth and Shawn opened his set on the piano by covering Ed Sheeran’s “Castle on the Hill.” He then led into one of his first ever hits “Life of the Party” to which the arena could be heard singing along so loudly you could barely hear Shawn. During his time on the small stage Shawn was able to interact with fans that had seats around him. He sat on the stage and sang to them when he wasn’t on the piano and everyone loved it. It was a really nice way of making a huge arena show feel more intimate and it was reminiscent of the way Shawn used to play shows, just him, his instrument and his fans. The rest of the smaller stage’s set included songs a little more mellow and a few really close to Shawn’s heart as he said about “Three Empty Words.”
The show closed out back on the big stage. The transitions between the stages were full of audio recordings of fans, radio hosts and tv personalities talking about Shawn’s career and how he became a phenomenon from vine to headlining and selling out his own world tour. It was a perfect lead in to his song “Understand” that talks about wanting to know who you are and where your place is. The closing half hour of the show was the most energy driven part (as if I thought it could get more high energy). The last songs were “Mercy,” “Never Be Alone” and “Treat You Better.” The lights were the most intense they had been all show and the band really went all out. Since this show was in the middle of the tour, I think many fans had a general idea of the setlist and how the show would go. It turns out that Shawn decided to play all the way through the hour and forty-five-minute show (only breaks being the time changing between stages) without an encore. The audience seemed to know this and by the time “Treat You Better” (the final song) started they went CRAZY. Shawn would sing a verse and then say, “Scream it” to the crowd and every person in that arena sang their heart out.
It was a long but incredibly entertaining and fun show. Shawn was captivating for the entirety of it, his on-stage banter was grateful and just adorable enough and he was just super comfortable with his audience. My little sister and I both left with huge smiles on our faces, no voice and many new memories. It was a killer first concert for her and another amazing one to add to my list. I would highly recommend catching the Illuminate World Tour on this run.