Camila Cabello hit the falsetto notes — and got noticed. (Photo by F. Carter Smith )
Camila Cabello showed off her soft and sultry sides at the rodeo. (Photo by F. Carter Smith )
This pretty much sums up the entire night of Camila Cabello. (Photo by F. Carter Smith )
Camila Cabello's Rodeo concert wasn't all innocent. (Photo by F. Carter Smith )
Camila Cabello got to play cowgirl for the night. (Photo by F. Carter Smith )
Camila Cabello played a range of her radio hits. (Photo by F. Carter Smith )
Camila Cabello knows how to play a crowd. (Photo by F. Carter Smith )
Camila Cabello (Photo by F. Carter Smith )
Camila Cabello will never be the same. (Photo by F. Carter Smith )
Camila Cabello had no trouble commanding the Rodeo stage. (Photo by F. Carter Smith )
Camila Cabello's Rodeo concert brought plenty of theatrics. (Photo by F. Carter Smith )
Camila Cabello became the latest Rodeo Houston performer to pay homage to Selena. (Photo by F. Carter Smith )
It’s been several years since Fifth Harmony split, and Camila Cabello’s truly come into her own. That much was clear at the Houston Rodeo concert Tuesday night. And she didn’t come to play — unless it was to play with her hair, or play off the energy of the crowd of 55,782.
The queen of bops (“Inside Out”), ballads (“Consequences”) and bangers (“Havana,” obviously) certainly didn’t play her cards close to her chest.
And her fans came in full support, some donning bright yellow “Never Be The Same” T-shirts, which Cabello thanked them for, others holding up a massive “Happy 22nd Birthday!” sign.
People who came to see Cabello were excited, but not entirely sure what to expect. The rising pop princess is a little hard to pin down. Her debut album, Camila, which has gotten her well over a billion streams on Spotify, was originally titled title The Hurting. The Healing. The Loving.
You could argue the name change was simple, that Cabello herself embodies all of that. At the Houston Rodeo, she proved what you see is what you get. And there’s a lot you see, from melancholy to electric, her eyes cast down or all eyes on her.
Yes, she came off sensitive and sincere even in the outfit she was wearing.
Volleying back and forth between sultry and vulnerable — the latter a considerable feat when you’re decked out in a bustier, sleeves that are either sequin or chainmail, possibly both, and thigh-high boots that you’ve described as ‘cowboy boots’ but definitely aren’t — the breakout star wasn’t afraid to show her sensitive side.
When you wear your heart on your sleeve like that, you’ll gain a lot of love, but you’ll also risk a little injury.
Case in point: despite her passionate performance, her nonstop energy and the back-up dancers’ eye-popping moves, the stunning Cuban-American songstress lost a few points.
Why? It’s hard to find fault with Cabello’s common dance breaks, whether she’s shimmying and shaking or her backup dancers are straight-up breakdancing, or her tousling that perfect Pantene commercial-worthy hair, or her constant checking in with the crowd.
It’s just… she didn’t know where the crowd was.
“Let’s make the Astrodome shake!” she cried out into the stadium — NRG Stadium — not once, but twice during the second and third songs.
But the girl group breakout star definitely meant well. Camila Cabello’s that rare combination of uber-confident and self-aware that you just can’t stay mad at, or disappointed with, all that long.
After all, it takes a certain kind of person to date a dating coach. Cabello’s literally found her match in a British matchmaker. If that’s not pressure, we don’t know what is.
The singer proved she thrives under pressure time and time again. Sometimes, she would stand at the piano, singing out with crushing candor. Or, on the flip side, she acted like she was in a club, dropping it low, grinding her hips or falling to her knees, just for some added flair.
No Safe Show for Camila Cabello
Cabello definitely took some risks — no surprise, from a talent who struck out on her own despite finding amazing success as part of a pop powerhouse.
It’s possible she drew on some real-life experiences for “She Loves Control,” her second song of the night. The EDM-meets-dancehall-meets-moombahton hit is a bit of a girl power anthem, after all.
Three years ago, she fled Fifth Harmony, committed to experimenting with her music, from R&B to reggaeton, hip hop to dance hall — and sharing it with the world.
Sometimes that calls for some puzzling interludes and introductions that might have fit better in a smaller, more intimate venue.
Before several songs — including the debut — some sort of spoken word poetry from Cabello poured out over the speakers, with common thematic elements of love and loss, paired with visuals on the screen of Cabello stalking through the darkness.
“So much love I could die. A life worth living, not just existing.” An image of Cabellos’ face, from the bridge of her nose up, filled the screen, her eyes closed. Then the time started counting down and her eyes shot open.
The lights came on the stage, and Cabello stepped out in her bustier, gleaming sleeves, opera-length black gloves and matching black cowboy hat.
“What’s up, Houston?” she cried before launching into a catchy-as-hell favorite, “Never Be The Same.”
It’s one of her most popular songs, in no small part because it showcases her vocal range from smoky and deep to breathless, powerful, ringing out, but barely above a whisper. Cabello commanded the entire stage, her band off in the back.
The pop star took her cowboy hat off to belt out “You’re in my blood, you’re in my veins, you’re in my head,” in her tantalizing track dedicated to intoxicating relationships, interwoven pain and pleasure. The Rodeo crowd knew all the lyrics, and they proved it. Just as she sang, they felt all her highs — especially when she hit those falsetto notes — and all her pain.
She kicked off her next smash, “She Loves Control,” which is definitely less well-known, with a charming smile and a “How many ladies do we have tonight here at the Rodeo?”
It was then that the backup dancers first arrived, two women clad in glinting, sheer catsuits and several men in fitted white-and-black tees and white pants.
Cabello got through several choruses before she just had to ask, “They say everything’s bigger in Texas — is everyone louder, too?” Cue the cheers, the screams, Cabello’s corresponding grin.
“Love You Inside Out” may just be a year old, but it sounds like a breezy, bouncy, danceable throwback. “I’m from Miami — I like it hot!” she started out. The crowd went wild when she hit a key part of the song: “De Miami a Mexico, esta cosa se prendió.”
And, of course, Texas. Also Jamaica, in a sense, when a full-on dance party broke out on stage for an unexpected section of Sean Paul’s “Get Busy.” Busy, they got. And while that song was the most overtly sexual she’d sang of the night, you could tell she wasn’t taking herself too seriously — she sang along to Sean Paul’s lyrics to herself, unaware of the camera, even as she got lower, and lower, and lower.
Next, “Bad Things,” surprisingly successful even though Machine Gun Kelly was nowhere to be found. It kept up that night-life theme, until she got to more of a starry night vibe.
Camila Cabello’s Touching Selena Tribute
Cabello promised a love song, but admitted that one of the most beautiful love songs had been written by someone who “calls this place home,” she said.
For the fourth time at Rodeo Houston this year, a performer gave a touching tribute to Selena. Cabello sang out “Dreaming of You” as lights from smartphones pricked up all over the stadium.
Cabello did mention that Selena had performed her song “here,” most likely thinking of the Astrodome once again. But what she said next more than made up for it. “We love you, Selena.”
“You all are beautiful. Those lights are beautiful.”
It was a lovely transition to “Consequences,” a stripped-down performance by Cabello as she cozied up to the keyboard. Her voice rose and fell wistfully over “loving you was young, and wild, and free.”
She let down her defenses in the lyrics and in the simple act of singing the song. It was delicate, distinct from the overall drama of the evening, with the coordinated dance moves and aggressive hair flips, Charlie’s Angels style.
Her voice sank toward the end. “Loving you was dumb, dark and cheap,” her voice hitting the lowest note at that last word.
Cabello had created an earnest intimacy in the vast stadium, and she carried it over to “All Those Years,” stepping slowly to one point of the star stage as it rose high, high, high. “Can I get a little closer?” she asked.
She said she loves music, country music especially, to just hear the intimate, personal details of people’s lives over the radio.
“Alright, this is really tall,” she laughed, looking out over the crowd. The bittersweet, tinged, R&B-tinged song about running into an ex was all too relatable. “I love you guys!”
An interpretive, modern dance unfolded below, dancers partnered up, scattered across the stage. They got close, too close, then separated again.
“In The Dark,” next, then “Crown.” Cabello dove back into full force with “Into It,” to the extent of breaking out coordinated dance moves and blowing a kiss to the crowd with an enunciated “Mwa!”
It’s a playful song, after all, with some not-so-perfect pick up lines she manages to make cute — “I’m not a psychic but I see myself all over you.” She finished with a loud, “I’m into it — ow!”
But she wanted to make sure we believed in the power of music and the power of love with a show of hands. Then, an offhand comment about how the end of the concert being her favorite part. There was a general sense of panic, since it was barely 9:45.
Not to worry. She did step off stage, but just to grab some stylish shades for “Sangria Wine.”
Then it was time for what everyone had been waiting for, not so much with bated breath since they’d already been singing. “Havana.”
Her voice filled the stadium, nearly overpowering the stadium. The crowd singing along didn’t even come close. She kicked. The music got low and she stepped up the stage, dancers in tow, snapping soundlessly. Half of her heart may be in Havana, but she put her whole heart into performing that finale song — salsa break included.
One thing’s for sure — the Houston Rodeo will Never Be The Same.