Intimacy is rarely associated with pop stars, on stage or otherwise. For Bebe Rexha and her fans, her show at the Larimer Lounge last Friday, March 17, was one of extreme intimacy, the kind that is both beautiful and uncomfortable.
The beauty came in the close-up nature of the concert, as roughly 250 people packed the rock club, its tiny stage cluttered with bandmates and gear, leaving barely any room for Rexha's dance moves.
The lack of space was a blessing in a way; the pop star spent most of the downtime between songs interacting with her fans because she could actually see their faces. The discomfort also came in that downtime, as every single utterance directed at Rexha by some less-than-polite fans was within earshot. "The funny thing about small shows — I can hear everything you say," Rexha said, acknowledging the rowdiness. She handled compliments and creepy catcalls with equal finesse, her Staten Island toughness showing through as she punched back with verbal sass.
Rexha opened the show with "Bad Bitch," emerging without fanfare from the sticker-covered backstage door. She wore a glamorous green sequined bodysuit and held a gold, brass-knuckle microphone. Songs like "Gateway Drug," "Atmosphere" and "Small Doses" rumbled through the cramped room's sound system, the bass often overpowering the singer's voice. Fans helped Rexha through her own G-Eazy-less version of "Me, Myself & I," a chorus of voices screaming, "It's just me, myself and I/Solo ride until I die/’Cause I got me for life."
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The din of voices in the room was accented by a surprising number of children under sixteen, a nice reminder that kids are the often invisible and forgotten consumers of live music. The pop singer talked with several of these younger fans from the stage, apologizing for all of the F-bombs she was dropping. It didn't seem to bother the parental chaperones, who were dancing and screaming along with equal fervor.
Rexha did the now-typical pop-star mid-set "acoustic" sit-down, which was decidedly less effective on such a tiny stage. Still, the singer kept the show going with her banter, "I'm Gonna Show You Crazy," getting an extra punch from the stripped-down accompaniment. She pumped the show back up to full bass levels for "F.F.F." and "Hey Mama" before bringing a screaming woman who was either drunk or terribly nervous to the stage. Rexha handled the physical closeness with her audience like a pro, creating a comfortable space that appeared safe on her end while still offering her "Rexhars" a chance to be near her. An awkward exchange between the frazzled fan and performer ensued, a gentle reminder that this show was happening on St. Patrick's Day, the novice drunkard's holiday.
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The set wound down with more audience participation, as Rexha scanned the crowd, looking for someone to complete Nicki Minaj's verse from "No Broken Hearts." Two gentlemen both tried their hand at completing Minaj's expert flow, but to no avail. Pushed to finish the show before curfew rules set in for her young fans, the pop star closed with "I Got You" and without an encore.
Bebe Rexha was fantastic; seeing her in a room so small felt like a privilege for a superfan. What sucked? Aside from listening to grown men lob perverted quips at the 27-year-old singer, it was the phones. Everywhere. Polluting the viewing space of others who chose to enjoy the show instead of mindlessly documenting every moment, a constant reminder that we are no longer autonomous beings with the ability to revel in a public event, but merely participants in other peoples' obsessive desire to brag on social media.
A gentleman in front of me decided that he needed to share the entire show with his unwilling Facebook newsfeed, using the Facebook Live function for the duration of Rexha's performance. This meant the crowd standing behind him was subjected to viewing the real-time event through his crappy phone's screen; the woman in front of him even pushed back with her elbows a few times as he hit her in the head with his phone hovering above her.
The question of 2017: Will it be Snapchat or Facebook Live that ruins the majority of live concert experiences? Check your feed and decide for yourself.