Culture / Entertainment

Alessia Cara Shuns the Diva Life at Houston Rodeo, Shows Pop Stars Don’t Have To Be Full of Themselves

Powerful Songs and an Oversized T-Shirt Say Plenty

BY // 03.05.18

Alessia Cara earned her prime spot in pop music with her antisocial anthem, “Here.” The alternative R&B songstress slipped onto the scene covertly in 2015 with that sleeper hit, an ode to feeling out of place at parties, a psalm for people watchers.

“I’m sorry if I seem uninterested,” Cara begins.

In her RodeoHouston concert debut on Sunday, the reigning Best New Artist Grammy winner was anything but. The 21-one-year-old star was brimming with excitement throughout her too-short 45-minute set. She used her platform —meaning her status, but the Houston Rodeo’s high-tech new stage didn’t hurt, either — to promote self confidence and positivity.

Cara kicked things off with “I’m Yours,” a love song about taking chances after heartbreak. She shook the lyrics up from “Oh baby, I’m yours” to “Oh Houston, I’m yours!” toward the last verse. Cheers erupted from the crowd.

The singer did not thank Houston for having her. Instead, she told Houston, “Thank you for having us!” She was grateful for the opportunity for her and her bandmates. Cara did not look like your average pop star. She was no drama, from her attitude to her attire. Cara came ready to bare her soul, and she came bare faced in an oversized T-shirt, jeans and sneakers.

Cara owes her celebrity not just to her smoky-silky sound, but to marching — and singing — to a different drum. She belts out her share of love songs, but she has a wide number of songs about the self, not just a significant other. Despite being authentic, her songs are famed for being undeniably relatable.

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The singer/songwriter beat her own drum, adding to her drummer’s percussion at the opening strains of “Wild Things.” The sound reverberated throughout the stadium, blending with cheers and whistles from the audience. The tune is one of her most popular, a friendly follow-up to “Here” that’s no less feisty.

Cara slowed things down next with “Overdose,” strumming an acoustic guitar. Before the next song, Cara took a pause. “I want to ask all of you a question,” Cara said. She spoke directly and earnestly, but a little quickly. You could tell she was talking about something she considered often, but hadn’t exactly rehearsed.

“How many of you came here with a loved one today?” Cara asked. Then, she urged the crowd of more than 61,000 at NRG Stadium to hug or kiss their loved ones and “Tell them how much you love them.” The concert crowd was more than happy to oblige.

It was two more songs before Cara asked her next question. Were there any Disney fans in the house? You’d better believe it. Before she said it, the fans knew what was next: “How Far I’ll Go” from the Moana movie. Fans across the stadium sang every word from the beloved movie theme song.

Alessia Cara brought her Moana magic to the Houston Rodeo.

The next song was prefaced by a sincere speech that came out a mile a minute. In all of the hate in today’s world, Cara wanted to make it clear that “Nobody lives your life but you. Only you live your life.” She went on, sharing that you should “Do what you want. Because that’s what matters.”

She burst into “Scars To Your Beautiful.” From the screams across the crowd, you could tell some people came just to hear this song. If Cara had played one song and one song only, they would have chosen that one. Voices from the crowd rang out, adding to the affirming song about self-care.

Cara couldn’t have left without performing the song that started it all. “It’s the first song I ever recorded and it’s why I’m here tonight,” she said before breaking out into “Here.” She gave her hit an H-Town update, singing she was “standing here in Houston.”

The night ended with on a high note, even before Alessia Cara hit the high notes. “Want to hear a cheesy joke?” she asked. “We have to leave soon but I really wish we could stay,” she said, emphasizing the final word.

She left the crowd with her smash “Stay.” The chart-climbing electro-pop hit by Cara and Zedd got people up out of their seats. Many fans danced until the very last chords.

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