Meghan Trainor makes mixed debut at Saint Andrew's

Adam Graham
The Detroit News
Meghan Trainor performs Monday at Saint Andrew’s Hall in Detroit.

Saint Andrew's Hall isn't usually filled with 6-year-olds. But it was Monday night as "All About that Bass" singer Meghan Trainor made her Detroit debut in front of a sold-out Saint Andrew's crowd that ranged from age 6 to 60.

Pop stars with Trainor's credentials — "All About that Bass" racked up some 650 million YouTube views and was No. 1 for eight weeks, while her debut album "Title" also debuted at No. 1 — are a rarity at Saint Andrew's. But Trainor's is a unique case: When "All About that Bass" took off last summer, Trainor had notched little live experience, and she's still playing catch up with how rapidly her star has risen. Consider this as her dues-paying tour.

As far as those dues are concerned, Trainor has a way to go. Her performance Monday showed she's still finding her way live and figuring things out as she goes. Backed by a five-piece band and two backup singers and joined by two dancers, Trainor participated in light choreography and made hand-waving gestures toward her fans. But there was no fire, no passion, no urgency in her performance, and she never broke a sweat on stage. She seemed afraid to let herself go, so her show never took off.

Meghan Trainor performs Monday at Saint Andrew’s Hall in Detroit.

Her 15-song set — it only hit the hour mark after Trainor and her dancers mimed to Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars' "Uptown Funk" mid-set, and was padded further when she took a selfie break with a fan on stage — covered the bubblegum doo-wop on "Title." Her fluffy take on retro soul is laced with a sprinkle of hip-hop attitude; she's like a Kidz Bop version of Amy Winehouse. Her music is marketed to and geared toward children, though her references to sex and drinking make her more PG-13 than some of those kids in her audience may realize.

Trainor kicked off with "Dear Future Husband," with the crowd loudly singing along to every word — even the words about being the perfect wife and buying groceries, a sentiment which feels oddly out-of-step in 2015. There's a '50s housewife feel in several of Trainor's songs; in "Title," she seeks identity through her boyfriend's labeling of her, and in "Bass," female empowerment and positive body image is defined through making men happy. No one is saying that it's Trainor's job to speak for anyone other than herself, but the message that is being marketed to her young fan base seems like a step back.

"All About that Bass" closed out the set, of course, though it felt like an afterthought more than an exclamation point. (It's so one "Now That's What I Call Music!" collection ago.) Trainor has outlived the hit that threatened to overshadow her career — her follow-up, "Lips Are Movin'," hit No. 4, so she's graduated from the one-hit-wonder label — but she still has another hump to get over.

She's learning the ropes, but the title of performer is one she still has to earn.

Meghan Trainor performs Monday at Saint Andrew’s Hall in Detroit.

agraham@detroitnews.com

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