I arrived at the Sunset Strip House of Blues at 9am and was sixth in line. The Listen Up Tour bus pulled up about 15 minutes later and we were greeted by Darrens brother Chuck Criss waving out the window, but he and Darren were whisked away shortly after.
At 6:30 when the doors opened I rushed in to the center of the crowd about five rows back, a pretty fair vantage point. The first opening act Chargaux (Charlie and Margaux) were classically trained hip-hop violinists. They treated us to some original music, “The Earth is Flat” which Charlie told us she wrote in one take. They followed up by challenging the crowd to recognize their covers of songs as they played them where we were treated to snippets of Call Me Maybe, Hopeless Place and Somebody That I Used to Know.
Up next was the second opening act Theo Katzman, who had fun riling up the crowd by asking if we were excited to see Darren. He was answered by ear splitting screams. This crowd was ready for Darren. Katzman played one of his new songs “Pop Song” which I still can’t get out of my head. I’m sorry to say I can’t say much else about the rest of his set that night as dehydration and exhaustion caused me to blackout. After some water I realized standing through the concert wasn’t a possibility so I headed upstairs. A friend of mine knew the right people so before I knew it I was in the VIP area waiting for Darren to start. Just walking in I spotted YouTube star Tyler Oakley, Starkids Lauren Lopez, Joe Moses, Devin Lytle and Joey Richter, Glee cast members Chord Overstreet, Max Adler, Jacob Artist and Becca Tobin, and comedian Kathy Griffin. I spoke briefly with Mia Swier before the set began and she rushed off to sit with Darren Criss’ parents as his set began.
The only time I had seen Darren perform live before was at Glee Live two years ago from the third balcony. This was an infinitely more intimate setting and felt it. As soon as Darren stepped foot onstage the room explodes, not just with the screams of teenage girls and 35 year old women but with electricity. He fills up a performance space as soon as he enters. Whatever ‘it’ is, Darren Criss has it in spades. He opened with “Circle of Life” which segwayed into I Still Think. We were then treated to the first of Darrens new songs “Any of Those Things” which was asking an ex if they next person in their life will do all the things you did for them. He played Sami, which is from the webseries Little White Lie. He played the next of his original songs, “Picture Perfect” which is so catchy and boppy I can’t stop singing it. About halfway through the song he pulled a ucky girl out of the crowd and serenaded he with the second verse. He of course sang Starkid favorites like Not Alone, To Have A Home and songs from his EP Human. His brother Chuck came onstage to sing a duet “Two of Us” which he says he used to play back home all the time. His final new song “Pheremones” was so sultry it had everyone pushing to get closer to the stage.
His encore came after the crowd chanted his name. Darren sat at the piano and began to play eyes on the keys, it was at first unrecognizable until Darren turned to the crowd smiled and sang quietly “You think I’m pretty without any make-up on…” The crowd exploded into louder cheers then I had previously heard. He transformed the acoustic version into a rocking tune which had the whole crowd singing along. It transitioned into one of his older songs “Stutter” which had the whole crowd singing along the reprise “Don’t you tell me that you don’t want to!” over and over until he finally ended the concert with the final verse of “Circle of Life” which ended with an explosion of sound, light and confetti.
The concert was well worth the 9 hours on a Los Angeles sidewalk and I would do it all over again. The set lis was a great balance of old and new songs which let the old fans feel as though this were the concert they never got to see and made the newer fans feel included The lighting made the whole show electrified. Darren Criss is an incredible performer and song writer and I look forward to hearing the studio versions of the songs I can’t stop singing.
All Photos Taken By Chelsea Sanders