Selena Gomez’s Austin show less a ‘Revival,’ more a struggle for survival

If you don’t talk to your kids about Selena Gomez, who will?

The pop star boasts a young fanbase, entirely due to the Disney trenches from whence she came. But if your teenager’s first concert was at the Frank Erwin Center for a stop of the Revival tour on Friday, they deserve a do-over with a singer that wasn’t largely inert.

Selena Gomez performed at the Frank Erwin Center on June 17, 2016. (Suzanne Cordeiro photos/For American-Statesman)

Selena Gomez performed at the Frank Erwin Center on June 17, 2016. (Suzanne Cordeiro photos/For American-Statesman

Clearly, Gomez has earned a screaming arena show. Her celebrity trajectory is as archetypal as any in the American mythology:

  • Bouncing on “Barney & Friends” as a tot
  • Dealing weapons-grade pluckiness on “Wizards of Waverly Place”
  • Putting out some generic dance-pop albums to break into the music industry (though “Naturally” is legit in a “I’ve had wine and it’s 2009” sort of way)
  • Tangoing through a public “oh honey, no” with Justin Bieber and out-squadding the rest of Taylor Swift’s #squad
  • Transitioning to bikinis, bullets and James Franco in the film “Spring Breakers”
  • Releasing the inevitable “grown-up” album, 2015’s actually-sexy-and-not-uncomfortable “Revival”

This public growing-up, replete with odd-duck twists and along with some deftly down-to-earth interviews, would lead you to think that Gomez The Pop Star knows how to perform and, heck, might bring some humanity to the spectacle. Instead, she was a sleepwalking set piece.

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A shaky performance of “Same Old Love” launched the S.S. Revival Tour out into choppy waters, Gomez teetering between wobbly crooning and the world’s most restless shampoo commercial. Every other sound in the overwhelming mix — backup singers, robo-beats, misguided skittering — swallowed her voice on the should-be ballsy “Come and Get It,” and the singer never swam back up for air. By the time “Sober” rolled around, you couldn’t help but feel sad that the giddy kids in the crowd were met so listlessly.

Given the demographic in the seats, one might think Gomez was toning down the fire all around. But then she followed up a beautiful praise and worship song at the piano with a backdrop of her naked body covered in tar, so maybe not. The banter was canned — “Thank you for not judging me,” “You’ve seen too much of my life” — and Gomez betrayed few expressions. It seemed that she would rather be anywhere else the entire evening.

“Good For You”? Out of breath instead of breathless. “Love You Like a Love Song”? Tedious like a 99-cent T-Mobile ringtone. “Survivors”? Of the concert, sure. Delightfully weird and sexy single “Hands To Myself”? Bob Fosse’s hell, a troupe of badly bowler-hatted dancers dragging Gomez across the stage in the most wrongheaded production of “Cabaret” ever. She didn’t even sing the line “I mean I could, but why would I want to?” — which in the studio version of the song is a cheeky zinger worthy of karaoke hollers — and instead dropped out to let the audience sing it, which really only works if the energy in the room is above “politely watching a recital.”

Selena Gomez performed at the Frank Erwin Center on June 17, 2016. Suzanne Cordeiro for American-StatesmanNot even a cover of the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” could liven things up. And in fact, it made me immediately want to go watch Annie Lennox videos instead of watching the show I was at. The energy rose by centigrades toward the end of the show for “Kill ‘Em With Kindness” and “Revival,” but the EDM swell and a task force of dancers were responsible. Gomez’s spot on the stage remained a charisma sieve.

Maybe it was an off night for Gomez. Maybe it doesn’t matter what anyone who wasn’t there with their parent or legal guardian thought. But when I yawned in the middle of a snowstorm of red confetti, it seemed to be a good sign something had gone awry.


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