Carly Rae Jepsen at Somerset House Summer Series gig review: This should be prescribed on the NHS
When did “nice” become such a damning descriptor? In music, it’s a term often synonymous with an aversion to risk-taking, or symptomatic of a general lack of ambition, but in this age of anxiety what could be more admirable than a pop artist determined to bring listeners some much-needed escapism via pure, unadulterated musical joy?
Carly Rae Jepsen clearly knows the score, naming her latest world tour So Nice without so much as a wink to camera. Fresh from last weekend’s performance at Bristol Pride, the Canadian star closed out the tour’s European leg at Somerset House, bringing with her a five-piece band and a hit-packed setlist so serotonin-replenishing it could justifiably be prescribed on the NHS.
That’s not to say Jepsen’s songs are facile or unrealistically upbeat. On the contrary, the likes of Too Much, Your Type and Julien deal in the same quietly devastating strain of euphoric sadness as their spiritual forebears ABBA and Robyn. But where less secure singer-songwriters might opt to play it cool to preserve some sense of mystery, Jepsen commits wholeheartedly to her hopeless romanticism, and in doing so grants listeners permission to be in their feelings too.
Last night, that sense of communal catharsis was particularly palpable during self-love anthem When I Needed You, with the audience bellowing back the rousing chorus a capella. Similarly, an outing of Sia-co-write Boy Problems felt like an emotional exorcism, albeit one you could shimmy to, arms wrapped around your best pals.
As a songwriter, Jepsen remains at her most compelling contemplating the first flushes of infatuation. Casually dropping Run Away With Me – one of her biggest hits – three songs in, she united the entire courtyard in giddy joy, while the much-memed sax riff was playfully replicated on screen with swirling graphics. Call Me Maybe arrived not long after, and found Jepsen running down to the front barriers to embrace fans.
Gamely following a bonafide pop phenomenon with new material, the mellow sounds of latest single Western Wind provided the perfect antidote to the sticky summer evening, and hinted that Jepsen’s best material might still be ahead of her.
After almost exactly an hour, Jepsen and her band wound up their brief yet perfectly formed set with an ecstatic rendition of Cut To The Feeling, before the audience dispersed in a dopamine-induced daze. All in all, it was a triumphant performance, and one that proved that – if you can bear to put your cynicism aside – there are few nicer times to be had than at a Carly Rae Jepsen show.