Charlie Puth at U Street Music Hall
“I gotta say I like being this up close and personal with you guys...this is the smallest room we’ve played on this tour so far.” Charlie Puth said to the very sold out crowd at U Street Music Hall Friday night. As I surveyed the crowd in the 500-capacity venue I noticed a few things I’d never seen before at any shows I’ve attended there. There was a barricade between the low stage and crowd, life-sized signs of Charlie Puth’s face, a larger sign with Puth’s face framed by a string of lights, and girls on shoulders—pre-teen girls are a force of nature when it comes to their pop kings.
Charlie Puth’s fandom has grown as steadily and as rapidly as his young career. The singer-songwriter gained a modest following from YouTube covers but everything changed for Puth when he collaborated with Wiz Khalifa for the chart-topping track, “See You Again." Today, Puth is a Grammy nominated artist signed to Atlantic Records, the 36th most streamed artist on Spotify with over 14 million monthly listeners, has released a full-length album, and is currently on a sold out US tour.
Seated at his piano for the set, Puth displayed his jazz piano skills and strong vocals. Puth’s authenticity as an artist is refreshing in comparison to other pop idols of today. There was no hiding behind cheap frills or dance routines, just a dude from New Jersey and his three-piece band bringing to life bubbly melodies, catchy lyrics, and polished hooks.
Highlights of the set included a stripped down version of “Then There’s You” when Puth sat perched atop his piano for an acoustic rendition of the song. As he sang this I could have sworn he was singing to me and only me—but I’m sure this was a shared feeling throughout the room. Other highlights included the moments Puth used this live setting to extend songs with vocals, beat boxing, and extended piano solos. During “Suffer” Puth’s jaw-dropping falsetto soared and was greeted with screeches from the crowd. “One Call Away” and “See You Again” resulted in massive singalongs and every cell phone in the room trying to capture the moment. When the hour-long set came to an end I found myself longing for more and in awe of the massive voice I'd just heard in such a small room—a setting I likely won't see Charlie Puth in ever again.
Crowd: Young, passionate, pure, cool parents, so many signs.
Banter: “You guys sound better than me” during “Left Right Left.”
Note: If cell phones in the air are indicative of how good a song is to a room of pre-teens, then “One Call Away” is a hit.