As Carly Rae Jepsen’s devoted following awaits a proper follow-up to 2015’s critically acclaimed Emotion, the pop songstress has done little to slow down. Last year’s Emotion: Side B was a killer collection of B-sides that felt like a completely new album. Throw in a role in Fox’s Grease Live, the release of 2017 song of the summer contender “Cut to the Feeling”, and an upcoming opener slot on Katy Perry’s Witness tour, and Jepsen has kept a full schedule.
In the midst of it all, Jepsen found time to perform with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra on November 21. While the initial announcement of the performance garnered varied reactions, the night itself lived up to every possible expectation.
While covering Jepsen’s Gimmie Love Tour in 2016, I remarked on the joyfulness of Carly’s audience and her unique ability to liven a room. A year later, even the confines of an orchestral performance inside the gorgeous Hilbert Circle Theater in Indianapolis couldn’t hold onlookers in their seats.
Such a performance requires a bit more than mere stage presence, to be sure. Without the familiar comfort of her backing band and tracks, no backup singers, and accompanied by one of the most renowned symphonies in the world, Jepsen held her own. From the opening moments of “Run Away with Me”, preceded by a beautiful introductory arrangement, Jepsen’s voice filled the auditorium.
Throughout the evening, Carly showcased her vocal abilities, hitting big notes with ease on tracks like “Making the Most of the night” and “When I Needed You”. Perhaps even more impressive than her pitch-perfect delivery was her knack for morphing her unique brand of pop to fit new arrangements. It’s hard to imagine a song like “Cut to the Feeling” meshing with strings and woodwind instruments until you hear it for yourself in such a setting. Give credit to the Indianapolis Symphony for capturing the heart of these songs in new and exciting ways.
Just as sections of the crowd near the stage would begin to stand and move with the music, strategically placed intermissions allowed for Jepsen to exit as the symphony played classical pieces. Still, as the night progressed, performances of “Boy Problems” and “Call Me Maybe” ended any reverence for the theater setting. By the time Jepsen returned for an encore of “I Really Like You”, the auditorium aisles had transitioned to narrow dancefloors.
The point here is that the joy of a Carly Rae Jepsen performance is not determined by setting or arrangement. Standing in front of an orchestra, dressed in gown and heels, Jepsen not only held her own as a vocal performer, but shared the joy of the moment with her audience in a way that so few artists can. That’s a talent that doesn’t fade quickly, and it’s why so many of us are so excited for what comes next.
by Kiel Hauck
Kiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.