WHEATLAND, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 22: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Demi Lovato performs onstage at Hard Rock...
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Culture

Demi Lovato’s Holy Fvck Tour Is A Well-Deserved Triumph

On their Holy Fvck tour, Demi Lovato inspires a Beatlemania-like devotion from a crowd who has nothing but love for them.

Thirty minutes into Demi Lovato’s set, on their second night at the Beacon Theater in New York City for their Holy Fvck tour, the crowd was already calling for an encore.

“DE-MI, DE-MI,” the audience chanted as the pop star in punk rock regalia thanked her fans. The “DE-MI” chant happened at least two more times from a crowd that never let up in their devotion; Beatlemania-level shrieks permeated the gilded walls. I was sitting in the sixth row, center, and was the only one who didn’t know the lyrics to every song of Lovato’s hour and 15 minute set, in which they crammed about 20 songs from their catalogue from over the last 14 years, reimagined into punk rock headbangers.

And for an artist whose catalogue has been mostly shiny pop, there was a lot of head banging. I lost an earring during their famous gay anthem and set closer “Cool For The Summer.” But the real head-banging stars were Lovato’s bassist and former Alice Cooper guitarist, Nita Strauss, who, at any given moment, was relentlessly shredding with enough vigor to warrant their own headlining shows. Seeing five women onstage in corsets, leather, dangling crosses, and pleated skirts making urgent music about being angry and surviving did more work to heal my inner child than most therapy sessions.

For as good as Lovato is at glistening vocal runs and shiny pop, they are a survivor. The girl has almost died, again and again, and at the end of the day isn’t just surviving, but excavating demons, and helping other people excavate their own — which explains fans’ fierce protection and celebration of Lovato. Not one song passed without someone loudly screaming “We love you Demi!” as if to say, keep going.

Demi Lovato performing at the Holy Fvck show in New York City.Sophia June
The author and her friend meeting Demi Lovato in 2008.Sophia June
The author and her friend at a Demi Lovato concert in 2008.

The Holy Fvck show was night and day from the last time I saw Lovato 14 years ago, when they opened for the Jonas Brothers at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California. Their first album Don’t Forget hadn’t even come out yet. My friend and I were 15 years old and met them at a meet and greet event sponsored by Verizon Wireless, and when they told my friend they liked our outfits (Urban Outfitters plaid mini-dresses, leg warmers, and denim high-top Converse), it made the next six months of our lives. This was a month after Lovato’s career-launching Camp Rock was released. (A piece of culture the singer will never escape, for better or for worse. I overheard a security guard tending to the restrooms say, “I hope they play ‘This Is Me’ tonight.”)

In 2008, we had nosebleed seats, the crowd was thin for Lovato, and we were mostly deeply jealous they got to hang out with the Jonas Brothers. “So much has happened since then,” that same friend said to me as we watched Lovato from the sixth row last night. But 14 years didn’t stop my brain from unlocking the box that holds the lyrics to every one of their early songs, which I found myself compelled to sing along to during a three-song stretch that included “La La Land” and “Don’t Forget.” Those songs felt like a lifetime ago, for all of us. Lovato’s voice can still flex into Disney pop and the shiny, bratty pop of songs like “Confident,” but where they feels most at home is in their pop punk era. The girl can really sing, and as much as their vocal runs and complex key changes are like butter, Lovato snarls and growls and head-bangs with the same effortless fervor. Why? Because they’re actually angry! Seeing old songs reimagined with a punk snarl feels like a reclamation of all the past selves Lovato’s had to be, and a celebration of who they are now.

I write a lot about Demi; their devotion to all things extraterrestrial and love for fake Egyptian antiquities, and while those antics are entertaining, I couldn’t help but feel boundless love while watching them onstage. To go from the trauma of being a child star and almost dying from an overdose to snarling lines like. “Demi leaves rehab' again/When is this sh*t gonna end?” and belting “I'm alive by the skin of my teeth/ I survived but it got harder to breathe” onstage alongside an Alice Cooper guitarist, I couldn’t help but thinking about their power. Lovato is an imperfect celebrity, and people feel moved by this; they’re moved to shrieks, moved to know every single word, and moved to shower them with chants of “DE-MI!” 30 minutes into a set.

The most powerful moment was just before “29,” the stop-in-your-tracks song off Holy Fvck, which though unconfirmed, is likely about Lovato’s relationship with Wilmer Valderrama, whom they dated when they were 17 and he was 29. Lovato thanked fans for the many, many messages they sent her about how relatable the song is. “I always want to make music people can relate to,” they said. “But it hurts that people can relate to this one. My heart is with you. F*ck the ones who hurt us,” raising their middle finger up to a crowd, who all did the same.