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Shawn Mendes helps close out SXSW with the power of a one-man boy band

Kelsey Bradshaw
Austin 360

Austin screamed as Shawn Mendes realized his power Saturday night, as South by Southwest Music Festival came to a close.

Mendes, who rose to fame on Vine and is only 23 years old, put on a part-pop-part-rock show at Moody Amphitheater in Waterloo Park. A line wrapped around the park well before doors opened at 7 p.m. The show was open to SXSW badge-holders and members of the general public who scored tickets. 

Staff at the show told us they had not seen the line look like that in the past two days of shows at Waterloo Park; Thursday's show featured rappers Gunna and Young Thug and Friday's starred Kygo.

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On Saturday, DJ YRWVY and Colombian singer Sebastián Yatra went on before Mendes. The crowd already was excited, but everything changed when Mendes arrived.

The lights went down right at 9:30 p.m. and smoke shot off from the stage. And then there was Mendes, in black jeans and a white shirt, buttons undone, with a white tank underneath. 

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The screams, oh, the screams. It was as if Mendes had announced universal healthcare or an end to the 40-hour workweek. The reaction to the pop star — who is really, very cute — was giddy. At one point in the show, he took the long button-down off to just wear the tank, and even we were screaming.

Shawn Mendes performs at Moody Amphitheater during South by Southwest on Saturday, March 19, 2022.

Mendes kicked off the show with "Wonder," "If I Can't Have You," and "Call My Friends." Underneath all that boy-band charm is a hugely talented performer. He sang and played piano, acoustic guitar and electric guitar. 

He displayed the suave style of a more seasoned artist. His voice was strong and smooth, and he hit all the high notes with ease. 

If at any point in the show Mendes wanted to stop singing, he could have. The crowd knew every word to every song, only pausing to scream when Mendes threw a guitar pick or brushed his hair back. 

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We enjoyed his slowed-down version of "Señorita," the song casual listeners were most likely familiar with, a duet with ex-girlfriend Camila Cabello. He sat at the piano for the song.

Throughout his set, Mendes grinned every time he realized the audience knew the words to yet another song.

Shawn Mendes performs at Moody Amphitheater during South by Southwest on Saturday, March 19, 2022.

"This feels like the first time I've really been able to connect and hear people sing back songs in two or three years," he said. "Thank you for singing. You guys sound awesome."

At the beginning of "305," Mendes brought a girl up from the crowd to sing with him. He asked if she knew the words. She said, "Yeah, I do," but her face said, "Duh." Was she a plant? We don't care. The whole thing was very sweet and added to our new stan-dom for Mendes. 

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Mendes closed out the show with "When You're Gone" and "In My Blood" and did not return for an encore, despite the screams for one more song. (Our screams among them.)

He had the power of a boy band but without all the extra boys. We also think he'll have longevity that, unfortunately for the human population, 'N SYNC did not have.