The name Jesse McCartney immediately triggers a wave of nostalgia. I represent the generation that fangirled over the cute teenage boy with sweet dreams and wholesome mannerisms in The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. Well, that boy we cherished has grown up, bringing with him a new, mature sound without losing the teenage charisma of his “Beautiful Soul” days.
Last Tuesday at the House of Blues, Whitney Woerz opened for McCartney, delivering an empowering opening act. With a touching message that raised awareness in a personable matter, Woerz navigated issues surrounding mental illness while a sympathetic audience waved their flashlights along to her music. In tweed pants, a cute bralette, and adorable ponytails, Woerz radiated with spunky energy.
After 30 minutes of waiting, the crowd was ready to be awed. Blue lights flashed across the room as earsplitting EDM boomed loudly through the enormous speakers. A keyboard was dramatically placed in the middle of the stage with McCartney’s name emblazoned across the front in white cursive. As the singer-songwriter walked out from the shadows, a hush fell over the room—the audience didn’t know what to expect after his four-year musical hiatus. Suddenly, a spotlight lit up the stage and we were confronted by the sight of a blonde gentleman dressed in a purple striped tracksuit with a gold chain.
It’s immediately clear that he’s not the early 2000s Disney sweetheart he used to be. He croons the first few notes of “She’s No You,” and with that we were reassured that a hint of the songbird we knew and loved remains in this charming new man.
His next song “Leavin’” was received enthusiastically by the audience, and even though it wasn’t necessarily about the pressures of school or exams, the “don’t stress, don’t stress, don’t stress” bridge struck a chord with students going through midterms in the audience (aka me). The purple lights and pulsing beat added to the invigorating effect of the song and made the whole house shake with a buildup of excitement.
This trapped energy exploded when McCartney performed his new song “Selfless,” which was accompanied by green and blue laser beams that shot across the stage. McCartney continually rallied his audience by pointing at the balconies, flipping his mic whimsically and exchanging dramatic glances with audience members. He was also in synergy with the rest of his band: His camaraderie with his guitar player was especially endearing throughout many of the guitar solos in his songs. It was then that a couple of girls next to me discovered his “intense eyebrows” and found a new aspect of McCartney to admire.
In a flaming red suit, McCartney delivered a blazing performance, illuminated by the sea of phone lights blazing in the dark. For someone who has been out of the spotlight for a while, he animated the stage like a seasoned performer who knows his way around the crowd. After all, he has been at it for more than 10 years.
McCartney tackled the second half of his concert with a mellower approach. He went back to his instrumental roots with a simple guitar and keyboard, sitting down to play “Anybody” and “The Stupid Things.”
At one point, McCartney paused to ask the audience about their New Year’s resolutions. After some charming banter with the audience, he eventually revealed his dream to finish his new album. He then invited superfan Kesha up onto the stage to sing along with him. She had kept up with every up and down in his career since the beginning. Again, it struck me how long of a journey McCartney has had from being the boy wonder on Disney shows to the mature performer he is now. His self-awareness of his transformation took center stage in his last few songs. When he sang “Bleeding Love,” the hall lit up in ethereal blue and an explosion of shooting stars. The galaxy expanded as he wrapped up with a monologue about his journey to restart his music career and what a blessing 2018 had been for him.
Of course, McCartney couldn’t leave before he sang the song that started it all: “Beautiful Soul.” I admit, it took me back to see him on stage singing a song I had enjoyed so many years ago. In all, I think his Resolution Tour was aptly named and I’m waiting with suspense to see how McCartney’s musical journey will reach its resolution.