Demi Lovato could be the Dr. Phil of pop music.
In her conversation, songs and 2017 documentary film, the 25-year-old former Disney star encourages people to get help, treatment, therapy or whatever they need so they can get to a place of self-love. She even now co-owns the treatment center that helped her find sobriety six years ago.
Before Lovato's concert Saturday night at Target Center, she had a select group of fans attend a motivational wellness session at the arena with Lovato's mom, who is a published author, and Lovato's co-owner of the CAST treatment center. Mom's been through it with Demi, who has struggled with bullying, depression, eating disorders, chemical dependency, bipolar disorder and her abusive father's death.
During her concert, the pop star gave short speeches live and on video about the importance of seeking treatment and loving oneself. She even brought out Twin Cities choir singers in T-shirts emblazoned with "self-love."
While Lovato informed and inspired, she came up a bit short when it came to entertaining. Eschewing the usual pyrotechnics and lavish spectacles of most female pop stars, she kept the flash to a minimum.
Yes, there were backup dancers (11), different outfits (eight), wig changes (three) and a kiss-cam (which Adele and Garth Brooks have done before). Lovato had a satellite stage where she kind of romped on a giant revolving bed with two dancers. But she did not have a strong physical presence. She did not fill the room.
Yes, she moved, but hardly with the agility or athleticism that would compel one to call her a dancer. Bringing energy is not her strong point, which she underscored by opening the concert with a dark ballad and closing the main set with another sad ballad.
Lovato pretty much maintained the same expression on her face during the 80-minute performance. And she even delivered her inspirational speeches in a very pat and practiced way, especially compared to, say, Lady Gaga, who similarly champions underdogs, but speaks off the cuff in concert.
Lovato's vocals were best when she played it the most intimate and stripped down. Heard on the satellite stage, "Concentrate" was passionate, "Cry Baby" was urgent and "Lonely" was heartfelt. "Father," a piano ballad, was special and unburdening for her, but its impact was diminished by her segueing into "Smoke and Mirrors" about an unsatisfactory love affair.
Lovato wasn't always effective as a belter, especially on an off-key reading of her collaboration with Cheat Codes, the danceable "No Promises." However, her up-tempo Luis Fonsi Spanish/English duet, "Échame la Culpa," brought refreshingly frothy fun.
Most of the material was from 2017's "Tell Me You Love Me," her best album. Two tunes from that CD filled the encore, the dance-pop "Sorry Not Sorry," her biggest hit to date, and the title track with its confetti shower; both featured vibrant local choirs, which upped the energy manifold.
While Lovato's energy seemed low and her positivity high, she couldn't have chosen a better opening act than DJ Khaled. Since he became a dad in October 2016, he's all about love. He told that to the crowd of 12,000, showed videos of his son and just oozed enthusiasm. In 40 minutes, he must have spun snippets of 20-some songs and shouted "make some noise" a dozen times.
Although he's principally a hype man onstage, he did some DJing on Saturday, lots of scratching and switching less than seamlessly between tracks, most of which he produced. Among the many numbers were "All I Do Is Win" and his brand-new "Top Off" with Jay-Z, Future and Beyoncé. He often asked the crowd to sing along and the fans accommodated him. In fact, they responded more enthusiastically to his request to sing than they did to Lovato's invitation to essay "Warrior" with her.
Like a hyperactive teenager, Khaled, 42, zoomed through too many hits to keep track of, but only one record was played in its entirety — Prince's "Purple Rain."
Announced Khaled: "We have to pay homage to the icon. The legend. Minneapolis' own. Put your hands in the sky. Make some noise for Prince!"
Appearing before DJ Khaled was Oakland singer Kehlani, 22, who has an assured presence and encouraging pop-soul instincts. Most impressive was the ballad "Honey," in which she described herself as "a colorful mess" but then listed some of her attributes, such as that she's funny and charming. It seems as if she and Lovato could collaborate on the same motivational session.
Twitter: @JonBream • 612-673-1719