by MIKE CHAIKEN
You have to concede that Charlie Puth is one good looking guy.
The young girls filling the Mohegan Sun Arena on July 19 clearly thought so. They screamed and cried when the singer stepped on stage. There were shouts around me, “Take your shirt off.” (And midway through his 90 minute set, Puth complied with the cries to strip down to show off his sculpted abs.)
And Puth clearly has the pop star thing down pat. He has hits. His music is catchy. And he has a damn good voice.
But beneath the beautiful sheen, Puth demonstrated he has a dirty little secret.
He’s also damn good musician and songwriter who can create more than a beat-leaden pop cream puff.
But Puth’s unthreatening good looks allow him to lead his young female audience toward a more sophisticated musical universe.
An example of Puth’s musical skill was the way he approached his big hit, “Marvin Gaye.” As originally recorded, it was a top 40 catchy, sexual come on to a woman at a club. But in concert he slowed it down, rearranged it, and changed it from a one-night stand come on into an anthem for a committed couple looking to keep the fire of romance burning.
Puth also was willing to extend his hits with musical vamps and jazz-based solo runs. And the solos weren’t left to his back up musicians. He consistently stepped up to the piano or grabbed his keytar (evidence of the musical nerd lurking beneath the good looks) to demonstrate his musical chops. The beats on stage also went beyond the standard four on the floor dance pattern. His drummer again and again added a swinging rhythm to the songs.
Puth also slipped in a sly reference that gave an indication as to his secret influences. In a brief comment to the parents accompanying their daughters to the show, Puth name-checked old school classic rock warhorses, Ambrosia and Steely Dan. The fact the 25 year old singer even knew who these bands known for their jazzy chords and subtle hooks provided brief evidence that he looked toward those groups for inspiration.
I like Puth’s radio friendly hits such as “One Call Away.” But his performance in concert has inspired me to go back and listen to his full albums to see what other musical secrets lurked beneath the pop sheen.
I give Charlie Puth at the Mohegan Sun Arena on July 19 four out of four stars.
PHOTOS by MIKE CHAIKEN