CANADIAN pop sensation Alessia Cara brought her rebellious teenage attitude to Manchester’s Sound Control. Quays News entertainment reporter Nathan Salt headed to Oxford Road to catch a glimpse of the YouTube star…

A Sound Control sell-out tends to make a minor splash, rather than waves, on the Manchester music scene, yet Cara brought intensity fit for 10,000 (or in this case 100ish lucky individuals).

The 19-year-old remains an unknown quanity to many fans of the mainstream market but that appears the least of Cara’s problems as her music career is, excitingly for her fans, in its infancy.

Supported by fellow Canadian, Craig Stickland, the pair put on a show that proved the Canadian music scene is about so much more than just Justin Bieber.

Stickland – a man with such a resemblance to the Two and a Half Men star Ashton Kutcher it was frightening – was cool, calm and collected as he, armed with just his guitar, dazzled with a powerful, husky vocal.

Craig Stickland

A six-song set compromised of five originals and one very special cover of BRIT award winner Adele’s ‘Hello’. For his first visit to Manchester there appeared very few nerves from Stickland; it was a crowd unfamiliar with his work and despite a male vocalist on a guitar singing love songs an industry cliché, Stickland left the crowd firmly in the knowledge that he has a bright future in music.

Part of the charm with Stickland was his relatability. There were plenty of couples in the room – as well as those reminiscing on heartbreak – which could take solace from tracks such as ‘Cry’, ‘Castaway’ and ‘Be My Queen’. Much like the woman he covered, his original music was wholly based on struggles in love with ‘Déjà vu’ a song written about someone “that is simply no good for you but you can’t help but go back,” he admitted.

Whilst his husky, country-esque vocal was his unique selling point, the Toronto male also had an impeccably held falsetto. A diverse vocal range seperates the good singers from the great and on ‘Break Every Rule’ it was deployed with aplomb.

Those that emerged after Stickland’s slot must have been ruing their timekeeping as they had missed an artist with potential in abundance.

But the sell-out crowd were there to see the effervescent works of Alessia Cara and, unsurprisingly, she put in a magnificent, playful performance.

Much like Tori Kelly, Cara rose to prominence through YouTube as she put out covers, wowing the Internet fandom with her unique vocal tone

Sound Control was treated to 11 songs from her debut album ‘Know It All’ – a record those in attendance were clearly well versed on as the harmonies were evident on each and every track.

Kick-starting with ‘I’m Yours’ and her latest single ‘Wild Things’, the Canadian pop star demonstrated the swagger and confidence of a rebellious teenager; the audience were captivated throughout.

An artist with such youthful exuberance is ultimately so refreshing in a live environment, and to anyone who questions how Cara sounds in a live environment it is official that it mirrors the quality on the record.

Tracks such as ‘Stars’ and ‘Stone’ provided a much more emotive, sombre, pathos-churning mood, which balanced the urban pop songs such as ‘Overdose’, and her biggest hit to date ‘Here’.

As flawless as her vocals were, the lasting effect left by Cara was partly due to her empowering speeches, so to speak, in between the tracks.

She spoke openly about her lack of confidence with her body prior to ‘Scars To Your Beautiful’ and admitted ‘Stone’ is based around that one person who is “your rock when you are having a really bad time.”

It was real and much like Stickland – he was now playing guitar for Cara in her backing band – it was ultimately relatable to the teenage-heavy crowd.

Many in the crowd did not want to admit that ‘Here’, a track that has racked up just short of 80 million views on YouTube, was the moment the evening hinged on.

Would it be underwhelming? For those whispering that as the set began to wind down, Cara’s set concluded with a rendition of ‘Here’ that was equally, if not better, than that on the album.

Marauding across the stage with sassy hand gestures and a facial expression that told its own story, Cara put on a show which, for a newcomer, isn’t always an easy feat to achieve.

She might have been standing in the corner, rather uninterested at that party but the Mancunian crowd were quite the opposite.

She’s the rebellious introvert that has so much untapped potential it is frightening.

If this is Cara still learning her trade then an accomplished version could, quite easily, fill a much larger venue across the city and that will no doubt be the aim.

You are welcome back anytime Alessia! 

By Nathan Salt

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