Alessia Cara celebrates imperfection and ‘Growing Pains’ at The Masonic

Alessia Cara

Alessia Cara performs at The Masonic in San Francisco on Nov. 8, 2019. Photos: Steve Carlson.

SAN FRANCISCO — Home may have been thousands of miles away for Ontario, Canada singer-songwriter Alessia Cara, but the stage at The Masonic had that feeling Friday night. Adorned with furniture, lamps, shelves, and other accessories, the stage took on the intimate homey feel for Cara’s The Pains of Growing Tour. The show was a celebration of individuality, imperfection and the commonalities that bring everyone together.

Starting with bouncy album opener “Growing Pains,” Cara was off and running.

“Let’s take things back to the very beginning,” she said before launching into “Here,” from her 2015 debut album.

Alessia Cara

Alessia Cara performs at The Masonic in San Francisco on November 8, 2019.

The vast majority of the evening’s set would come from Cara’s two most recent releases, The Pains of Growing and recent EP This Summer, but she made sure to mix in “the old stuff.”

Cara rocked a reggae-like flow for the mid-tempo “Ready,” as her band provided ample musical muscle to support her powerhouse vocals. She made full use of the various furniture pieces, lying across the ample-sized bed on “Not Today” before moving over to kick her feet up on the couch for a cover of Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good.” Cara strapped on an electric guitar for “Comfortable,” even jamming along with her band for an extended guitar outro that added fireworks to the performance.

While the early portion of the show was focused on the music, the middle portion took on a storytelling vibe with Cara talking about the origins of the material and playing an acoustic guitar. She spoke of her love of San Francisco, partly because of TV show “That’s So Raven.” She joked that she’d always hoped to acquire psychic powers. Later, Cara was given a Golden State Warriors hat by a fan but pointed out that last time she played here, her hometown Toronto Raptors defeated the Warriors in the NBA Finals.

“This is a test of the deep cuts right now,” Cara said before launching into the next song. “We’re gonna see how well you know these.”

Alessia Cara

Alessia Cara performs at The Masonic in San Francisco on Nov. 8, 2019.

She mixed in a pair of acoustic numbers, playing “Wherever I Live” and “A Little More,” at times challenging the crowd to sing parts of the lyrical melodies on its own. Cara introduced “I Don’t Want To” as being a “break-up song about being in denial about a break-up.”

“October” and “Rooting for You” led into the beat-heavy “7 Days” and “Nintendo Game.” A group of frenzied fans reached out for the singer between songs, asking her if they could come on stage and join her to dance.

“I’m not sure if I can even do that; will I get in trouble?” she said before glancing over to her crew. “Let’s do it. Get up here.”

The impromptu moment was both sweet and engaging, as an excited fan named Ariel performed alongside Cara as she sang her Disney hit “How Far I’ll Go,” from the “Moana” soundtrack. The performance concluded with the crowd singing the final chorus a cappella.

Before “Out of Love,” Cara spoke about the depression, sadness and isolation people feel when relationships fall apart. She asked fans to raise their hands if they’re currently going through heartbreak to show how the feeling is universal. Cara followed it with “What’s On Your Mind?”

Before she could begin her next song, one overzealous fan somehow managed to climb onto the stage in an attempt to deliver something to the singer. Security made quick work of the intruder while Cara played it off without losing any momentum. Throughout the show, she showed poise and maturity in both singing and stage presence. It was easy to forget she’s still considered a rising star at 23.

Ryland James

Ryland James performs at The Masonic in San Francisco on November 8, 2019.

Cara closed out the show with her two standout hits, “Scars to Your Beautiful” and her Zedd collaboration, “Stay.” She described the former as a signifier of the beauty of imperfection in her own life as well as an inspirational anthem for her fans. “Stay,” meanwhile, provided some of the most vibrant energy of the evening, with fans bouncing and singing along in the aisles.

Canadian singer-songwriter Ryland James opened the show with a mature set laced with R&B rhythm. The 20-year-old’s songs are built with soul but performed through the lens of pop music, which made them even more infectious. James grabbed attention immediately, opening with a single spotlight and delivering the opening lines of his first song a cappella. Flanked by a drummer and a keyboardist, he occasionally played an acoustic guitar. James’ set included songs like “Better Off,” “Good to You” and his current single, “In My Head.”

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