Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Caroline Rose Lights Up Beachland Ballroom with Fiery Performance

Lucy Curtis
Caroline Rose brought The Art of Forgetting tour to Cleveland Sunday, April 14.

The best way to describe Caroline Rose in concert is that they are a spitfire. They came on to the stage in a blaze of red and pushed through to play a jaw-dropping, heart-stopping show despite technical difficulties during the first moments. 

Let’s rewind. Before the concert, I was familiar enough with Caroline Rose to know that I liked them. I knew and loved a couple of their hits like “Jeannie Becomes a Mom” and “More of the Same” and had been interested in the singles they released for their most recent album, The Art of Forgetting. However, time got away from me — as it often does — and I never got around to listening to the full album. While I liked the artist, I certainly didn’t follow them. 

That said, if you know me, you know I love live music more than just about anything. I was honored to be invited to Caroline Rose’s show at Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland with the Review, and I jumped at the chance to attend and write about the show. 

Another journalist was supposed to attend the show with me, but unfortunately, they were unable to. I found myself making the drive into Cleveland by myself, having no idea what to expect. Despite being a music review writer, I’ve always managed to find a friend to come to shows with me — this was the first concert I’ve ever gone to by myself, and admittedly I was a little nervous. 

After the opener, I found myself standing next to two women in the crowd, neither of whom were talking to anyone else. It took a lot of courage, but I complimented one of their tattoos. We struck up a conversation, and then the other woman turned to us and said “Wait, did you also both come here by yourselves?” We excitedly identified that we each were there alone, and decided to stand together. One of them remarked that our willingness to go to the show alone must show how much we all loved the artist. Despite my role as a reporter, I agreed — going to public places by oneself is daunting, especially venues such as concerts. It says something about an artist if multiple people are committed enough to attend their concert by themselves.

Then, all of the sudden, the lights dimmed and we fell into a hush. Caroline Rose attempted to begin playing “Tell Me What You Want,” but something appeared to be wrong with her guitar. They looked at the crowd with an exasperated expression and simply said, “Damn.” Many artists might let a moment like this deter them or would be thrown off their rhythm, but Rose took it with amusement and joked about it with the audience while the issue was fixed. Then, as if nothing had happened, she moved into the song, and thus transported me into what was genuinely one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen. 

Something I grew to appreciate throughout the show about Rose and their music is the surprising twists they take in many of their songs. Most songs have a predictable structure: there’s a verse, chorus, second verse, chorus again, bridge, and final chorus. At some point thrown in there there might be some sort of powerful instrumental moment or beat drop or tempo change, but not always, and usually there’s only one of those. Caroline Rose, however, embraces unpredictability in their music. Her songs manage to sound completely different by the end than they did at the beginning, but not in a jarring way. Rather, I found myself hanging on to every word, every time the music swelled or stilled, eager to hear the direction the song would take next. 

The fourth song played, “Miami,” was one that I’d heard and liked before the show. However, hearing it live gave it a whole new life. The song builds tension as it goes along, starting slow and introspective, then moving into the singer trying to convince their mother that they’re okay in lines such as “I say this all the time, Ma / I’m really doing fine, Ma / I’m mean you know sometimes, Ma / Life is just plain trying, Ma.” By the end of the song, the guitar blared through the venue and Rose belted out the titular line of the album, “There is the art of loving / This is the art of forgetting how.” The whole song is compelling, but the end of it in particular gripped me, making me feel as if the entire rest of the room had melted away and Rose was singing to me alone. 

The show was not just about going and listening to some songs, rather, it was a whole experience. The lighting, which Rose designed herself, enhanced every song. It accompanied the mood and shifts of each number perfectly, immersing me in what felt like an entirely new realm. At the concert, I forgot where I was, I forgot I was alone — I was enveloped by the all-encompassing nature of the show. 

As the night progressed, so did Rose’s banter with the audience. They first introduced themselves as “Kylie Minogue” as a joke and later said that the audience was so respectful, “borderline too respectful.” After some more moments of laughter, Rose said that they’d play some of their hits. The intro to “More of The Same” came through the speakers, and immediately the crowd broke into cheers. From then on out, Rose became even bolder with her performance, often venturing to the edge of the stage and leaning out over into the crowd. She took advantage of the intimate nature of the venue and the enthusiastic audience, making direct eye contact with crowd members and at one point directly dancing with someone in the front row. 

One of the standout songs of the night was “Someone New.” This was one I’d actually never heard prior to the show, but its melody is infectious, and Rose’s ability to hit the high notes of the chorus blew me away. I’ve been dancing to it ever since. 

Before they performed what they claimed to be the last song of the evening, “Where Do I Go from Here?” Rose blatantly stated that they weren’t doing an encore, calling encores “stupid and French.” However, upon protest from the audience, they fairly quickly amended their statement to say that they would maybe do an encore, but that we would have to work for it. 

“Where Do I Go from Here?” certainly would have been a fitting ending, due to the themes of the song, its toned-down ending, and the way that the previously dynamic, wildly-colored lights switched to a simple spotlight on Rose herself. Then Rose expressed their gratitude, and her and the band exited the stage. But the audience was having none of that, and roared with cheers until Rose and their band reappeared. 

They jumped into a mini-reprise of a fiery song they played earlier, “Money.” The actual last song of the night, “I Took a Ride,” ended the show with a bang. The vocal range of Rose’s singing was astounding, and the dark, desperate quality of the song urged the audience to the metaphorical edge of their seats. The music engulfed us, and it seemed as if the crowd was stunned into silence. 

I walked into the Caroline Rose concert being familiar with the artist and walked out as a die-hard fan. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a live show that I’ve actively disliked, and it’s rare that I haven’t found some level of enjoyment out of shows. However, as I’ve started going to shows more frequently both as a fan and as a reporter, I’ve also noticed that I am less easily swept off my feet. Most artists are good, but I don’t feel like I walk out of the show a changed person. Not to be dramatic, but seeing Caroline Rose live altered my brain chemistry in some way. I can’t stop playing her music and rewatching show videos, and on Monday I proudly donned the colorful T-shirt I’d bought. Her songs are gripping and powerful, her stage presence is both lighthearted and strong. I left the show feeling refreshed and enlivened.

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