Meghan Trainor tries to keep it real in hometown show
If the empowering message of Meghan Trainor’s breakout smash “All About That Bass” curdled into a sometimes-sour brattiness on “Thank You,” the artist’s sophomore major-label album, the effect is tempered by the fact her songs are designed as sing-alongs, vessels to be filled at any given moment by fans adopting Trainor’s “I” as their own.
The persona projected in the Lady Gaga-inspired “Me Too” doesn’t really sound so pleasant, but girls and young women everywhere need, and deserve, their rallying cries.
There was plenty of singing along on Saturday night at the first of Trainor’s two sold-out shows at Blue Hills Bank Pavilion. It was very much a hometown crowd for the Nantucket native, who shouted out many friends, family, and teachers who were there to root her on for the conclusion of the tour behind “Thank You.”
That album dampened the much-noticed retro flavor of Trainor’s debut in favor of a more contemporary, less distinctive sound dialed up by a rotation of more than 20 co-writing collaborators. But a seven-piece band brought a soulful depth to everything throughout a high-energy, satisfying show. “Friends” featured saxophonist James Casey and trumpeter Enrique Sanchez trading solos; “Lips Are Movin” became a full-on rave-up, with Trainor’s four dancers contributing backing vocals.
Her band’s solid performance underlined the fact that Trainor’s greatest asset is her songwriting, not the other sparkly stuff of pop stardom. An opening trio of new tunes “Woman Up,” “Watch Me Do,” and “Me Too” was the least convincing portion of the set, with Trainor laboring to present as the slick pop star she really isn’t. She seemed more comfortable leading her band around the stage as it expanded on the old-school elements of “I Love Me,” and playing ukulele, to only guitar accompaniment, for “Just a Friend to You.”
A tall screen showed video snippets of the performer, mostly recorded in close-up, and several photo portraits treated to look like mash-ups of the work of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. Rather than creating the impression of a new pop icon, the effect was to make the genuine article seem smaller by comparison. Keeping it real is Trainor’s best look.
Near the end of the show, she invited some lucky fans to dance with her onstage. She also praised a group of girls who attended in giraffe costumes, announcing that she’d beamed out their photo on Instagram. It’s interesting to ponder: Which fans won the greater prize?
With Common Kings. At Blue Hills Bank Pavilion, Sept. 24