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I believe I witnessed a superstar in the making Saturday night in San Diego.  Twenty-eight year old singer songwriter Melanie Martinez brought her Portals tour to San Diego mesmerizing the audience with a captivating and visually stunning show that felt more like performance art than just a concert.  The world was first introduced to Martinez in 2012 when, at just 17 years of age, she finished 6th on the NBC hit singing competition series The Voice.  I specifically recall her rendition of The White Stripes hit "Seven Nation Army", a creative and fresh approach utilizing those now familiar delicate emotive breathy vocals.

After success on The Voice, Martinez launched her solo career with a successful bang.  Her debut album Cry Baby (2015) went double platinum with several commercially successful songs.  The follow-up album K-12 (2019) went gold and was accompanied by a limited release musical film of the same name where Martinez, who also wrote and directed the film, played the main character, her creation “Cry Baby”.  Unfortunately, the tour supporting this album was cut short due to the Covid pandemic.

Martinez launched her third album Portals on March 31st debuting at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart.  An ambitious world tour was announced, with interesting notes that the tour setlist would be the Portals album beginning to end with Martinez performing in character portraying the latest incarnation of Cry Baby.  This character turns out to be a pink four-eyed fairy nymph like creature. 

Showing up to the Viejas Arena in San Diego, it was immediately clear that Martinez had a wildly loyal following.  Portals was barely two months old but a large percentage of concert-goers (dominated by females 12 to 25 years old) were wearing outfits inspired by the art and visuals of the new album - fairy princess type dresses, elf/nymph ears, glittery makeup, and cosplay type wigs.  Although awkwardly self-aware of being perhaps the only middle aged dude in the entire arena, I was determined to see what all the buzz was about.  I did find myself yearning for a set of elf ears to better fit in, but no luck.

When the arena lights dimmed, I immediately regretted not bringing earplugs.  The piercing screams of the sold out arena filled with Martinez maniacs had me both impressed and wincing. I had never experienced a crowd so loud in my life.  I’d guess only a Taylor Swift indoor arena show could rival the magnitude of this crowd’s excitement.  As promised, the show opened with the first song and lead single on Portals, “Death”.  The song was a perfect transition and introduction to the new album, describing how the Cry Baby vessel from the previous album (and film) has died but the spirit had transitioned into a new form – as Martinez appears on stage as a masked pink four-eyed fairy nymph character:


They’re carving my name in the grave again

The flowers are fresh and their faces wet

My body as died but I’m still alive

Look over your shoulders I’m back from the dead


Into the second song (and second single “Void”), the audience continued to scream every lyric at the top of their lungs, often drowning out Martinez.  It was becoming clear that this wasn’t just a concert, it was an immersive interactive experience.  Surrounded by an elaborate fantasy-inspired set, Martinez captivated the audience with synchronized dancing and movements supported by a talented group of six graceful dancers who played a major part in the overall performance.  Revolving animated backdrops, changing stage props and a variety of costume changes gave the show the feel of a theatrical play.  Martinez delivered an energized and emotional performance motivating a locked-in audience to sing, dance, cry, and celebrate with her all night. 

Martinez’s creative vision boldly came to life on stage before our eyes, highlighted by her strong connection with adoring fans.   Her wispy ethereal vocals and blended elements of pop, alternative, and electronic/synth are a signature style that will take her far.  How far?  After her ambitious 33-date North American tour this summer, the Portals tour heads to Europe for an 18 show run in the Fall, followed by an Australia/New Zealand leg in January 2024.  My take is that by the end of the tour, the multi-talented Martinez will have exploded from popular singer to worldwide superstar.

Keep rockin’ and be well,  Greg Vitalich

Greg Vitalich

Photojournalist - San Diego

Website: Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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