By her own admission, former Disney tween star Demi Lovato has had a rough two years. Having entered rehab for "self-harm" and bulimia, she emerged a healthier and stronger woman that has inspired people all over the world.
With a hit song ("Skyscraper") from her third studio album and a more mature sound, Lovato is perched on the verge of superstardom. Earlier this spring it was announced that she would be taking over co-hosting duties on Fox's underrated Simon Cowell talent show "The X-Factor" along with another former Disney star, global icon Britney Spears. So it's no surprise that Lovato would spend her summer touting her album before her star burns even brighter. And judging by her performance, she won't be letting anyone down.
After Lovato's opening acts performed -- the squirrelly and thin-voiced Neon Hitch and the hipster fave Owl City -- Lovato appeared atop a center-stage staircase at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles looking more like a woman than she ever has before.
Roaring to life with "All Night Long," Lovato ripped through the song with a powerhouse voice and a lot of lush, swinging hair. While the stage was fairly simple and featured only her band and two back-up singers, Lovato commanded it like a pro, fully displaying her many years as a Disney Channel staple. She then touched back on her previous albums with "Got Dynamite" and "Get Back."
As energetic as she is on the upbeat tracks, she truly shines on the numbers that allow her pipes to really be highlighted. While many might want to write this girl off as just an over-acting Disney actress trying to make it as a "rock star," Lovato is a truly talented artist who not only sings, but also plays the piano and guitar, as well as writes some of her tunes. The first time she donned a guitar was when old friend Nick Jonas joined her onstage to sing "Catch Me" and "Don't Forget" to the screams of every 14-year-old girl in the audience.
But it is the ballads that make Lovato's voice (and her spirit) soar. When she slowed down the evening to perform favorites such as "Lightweight" and her mega-hit "Skyscraper," it was apparent that this young woman has a long and vital career ahead of her. What's promising about her is that the songwriters she uses, combined with her own writing skills, makes her song catalogue that much more impressive. Whether it is the raw pain of a broken heart ("Fix a Heart") or the lighthearted wink of a hip-hop laced track ("You're My Only Shorty,") there really isn't a dud in her collection of songs.
But what makes the songs so terrific is the fact that Lovato is an incredibly likeable presence. Her smile is sincere, her emotion is real, and while her earnestness shows her young age ("I want you to know my music is here for you. I'm here for you,") her heart is a genuine one.
Take, for example, when she was about to break out into the infectious Jason Derulo duet "Together" from her current album "Unbroken." Without Derulo present, she pulled her young half-sister Madison "Maddie" De La Garza on stage to sing it with her. (Incidentally, De La Garza played Eva Longoria's daughter Juanita on the long-running series "Desperate Housewives.") Impressively, the girl has some pipes. One only wonders if she will follow in her big sister's footsteps.
As the night wound down and the crowd of mostly screaming teenage girls and self-aware gay boys was still flying high, Lovato kept up the energy treating the night like a dance party in which she was the humble host. Finishing off the night with encores "Unbroken" and "Give Your Heart a Break," Lovato (whose solid voice seemed a bit weary by the end) left the audience satisfied and happy.
We might complain about the state of role models for girls today, but Lovato -- despite her personal hiccups -- is a girl who not only has accepted responsibility for her issues, but also has come out stronger and open about it all. Add to that a talent that is unmistakable and this one emerging artist that will be around for a long, long time.
Demi Lovato continues her U.S. tour through September 1. For more info, visit www.demilovatotour.net/. For tickets, visit www.ticketmaster.com/Demi-Lovato-tickets/artist/1224909