Christina Perri Puts on a Happy Face for Her Fans: Concert Review

Christina Perri Performing Wiltern - P 2014
Kyleen James

Christina Perri Performing Wiltern - P 2014

The Los Angeles pop singer delivers a compelling, joyful performance centered on connecting to her audience.  

Hometown show is a dream come true for singer-songwriter, who shares her "Jar of Hearts" with mostly female audience.

Like most songwriters, Christina Perri is as much storyteller as she is a musician. The L.A.-based singer’s headlining performance at the Wiltern on Saturday night was punctuated by various anecdotes and musings, many leading into the songs she was playing off both her 2011 debut Lovestrong and the recent Head or Heart. “I’m very chatty today,” Perri noted at one point, her enthusiasm for the performance palpable. For the singer, who rose to acclaim after her single “Jar of Hearts” was played on So You Think You Can Dance four years ago, headlining this hometown venue was a culmination.

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“This is really blowing my mind,” Perri told the crowd as the show reached its peak. “I’m trying very hard to keep it together, but I’m not keeping it together.” She had another story, she said, almost apologetically, before performing “Jar of Hearts” in the encore. “I’m just so full of gratitude I can’t help it,” Perri offered. “So I’m going to tell you because the next song is the song that changed my whole life.” That story, condensed down, equates to the fact that Perri always wanted to be a musician, but kept saying no to everything because she was scared. “I said no all the time,” she said. “The first big yes was when my brother asked me to move to L.A. That first yes led to a whole lot of yesses.” She added, “You can get unstuck too – maybe just start saying yes.”

All these yesses have led Perri here, to her second album, which collects buoyant, amiable pop songs often inspired by the singer’s romantic relationship. The marriage of Perri’s soaring voice and her intimate, relatable lyricism has created a certain type of pop song, too, one that is more interested in an emotional connection than overwrought stage production or sexed-up outfits. She isn’t disaffected or distant, but instead seems to be having as much fun as the fans. It was clear, on Saturday night, that Perri would choose to be here, experiencing this, even if she wasn’t the performer. 

The same held true for Perri’s opener, U.K. singer Birdy, whose voice was the standout of the show. Birdy offered a mixed set of covers and originals, including tracks from her upcoming album and an emotionally heavy number from the soundtrack to The Fault In Our Stars called “Not About Angels.” Her best-known cover of Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love” laid the groundwork for Perri’s own set, urging the crowd to sing along. The audience, mostly women, responded urgently and with demonstrative fervor to both artists.

Perri took full advantage of the crowd’s commitment to the music, orchestrating a sing-along round during “I Believe” and setting the fans to snap in union to “Burning Gold.” At one point, she asked each section of the room if they were having a good time. As everyone shouted in affirmation, Perri, grinning and jumping in a circle, yelled, “Me too!” She received equal admiration for the boisterous pop songs as she did for the emotive ballads, particularly “A Thousand Years,” which appeared on the soundtrack for The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1. The musician switched between piano, guitar and microphone throughout, connecting the segments of the performance with several covers, including The Beatles’ “Please Please Me” and The Chordettes’ “Lollipop.”

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But while Perri is sometimes known for songs about heartbreak, the overall sensibility of her performance was one of sheer joy. Even as the crowd sang along to numbers about romantic loss, there was a feeling of elation. It is, perhaps, because Perri has learned that it’s okay to sing about happiness, that not all songs have to ache for something. “I have to tell you something,” she told the crowd midway through the evening. “It’s sort of like a warning because I have to tell you this is the happiest song I’ve ever written in my life. So I’m preparing you for ridiculous happiness.” The song, “Be My Forever,” is off Head or Heart and was written with Ed Sheeran, who apparently urged Perri to embrace her inner glee. “He goes, ‘I dare you,’” Perri noted. “Your only requirement is that you just smile real big because we will be smiling, too.”

In those moments, it’s easy to understand why fans are attracted to Perri and to her music. She preaches a sort of hope in her stage banter, encouraging those around her to follow their own dreams and say yes and smile. To embrace their own happiness the way she has hers. It’s a good lesson for musicians to remember – that not all songs have to be sad to connect with people.

Set list:

Shot Me in the Heart
Sea of Lovers
Burning Gold
The Words
Lollipop (The Chordettes cover)
Lonely Child
A Thousand Years
Be My Forever
Please Please Me (The Beatles cover)
I Believe
Jar of Hearts
I Don’t Wanna Break