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Demi Lovato injects some grace into a loud and raucous Sprint Center show

Brian Davidson

About halfway through her performance at the Sprint Center on Tuesday, Demi Lovato delivered a sermon, a message about survival, forgiveness, gratitude and empowerment.

“Leave your past in the past,” said Lovato, 22, who has conquered some well-publicized demons and addictions. Then, sitting at a grand piano, she performed “Warrior,” an anthem about recovery and resolve.

It was a rare moment of tranquility in a 80-minute performance that was otherwise loud, brash and dynamic before a crowd of more than 9,000 fans. Many of them were preteen and teenage girls who couldn’t contain their screams and squeals for a performer who has been in the limelight since she was a 7-year-old cast member on “Barney and Friends.” She has since starred in a Disney Channel sitcom and served as a judge on the reality show “The X Factor.”

Lovato is touring on her fourth studio album, “Demi,” released in May 2013. Like its predecessors, it is chock full of big pop/disco anthems that give Lovato a chance to unleash her powerful mezzo-soporano voice, which bears more than a slight resemblance to Kelly Clarkson’s and Pink’s. She had plenty of help, including a four-piece band, four acrobatic dancers, two background singers, a busy light show, video screens and occasional wafts and bursts of smoke.

The setlist focused heavily on the “Demi” album -- seven of its 13 tracks -- including “Really Don’t Care,” which shares some identical traits with “Shadows of the Night” by Pat Benatar, another singer with a siren voice. But it also visited her early albums, even her 6-year-old debut, “Don’t Forget.” She would play three of those songs, including “La La Land,” a fan request.

It all blended seamlessly as she and her troupe vaulted from one high-octane, skyscraping anthem to the next. Lovato isn’t the most polished dancer, so she kept her choreography understated, when stated at all. But she kept the energy flowing on stage, and when she wanted to deliver a big moment, she uncorked that voice, which can reach the rafters effortlessly. She also tapped into a stage personae that knows how to make a crowd feel special. “I’m going to talk to you because I want a connection between us,” she said. Mission accomplished.

Highlights: the jackhammer “Remember December,” which has some head-banging pop metal in its bones, the frenetic “Heart Attack” and the ballad “My Love is Like a Star.” Lovato and her dancers also executed a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” that did nothing to eclipse or improve on the original.

She ended with the flashy dance tune, “Neon Lights,” the song that gave her tour its name. But before that, she sang “Give Your Heart a Break,” another warm gust of encouragement and solace and an appeal to look forward, not back, and take chances, something she has learned and lived.

Opening acts

Christina Perri was one of three openers, and the one that most deserves mention. Her music evokes comparisons to Sarah McLachlan, Sara Bareilles and, at times, Katy Perry. Her set included her first hit, “Jar of Hearts,” and “Be My Forever.”

Before Perri’s set, the crowd listened intently to motivational speaker Spencer West, who lost both of his legs to a genetic spinal disorder, but who nonetheless has achieved some spectacular feats, including a climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro. He also told the crowd about a trip to East Africa he shared with Lovato with the group Free the Children, which aims to empower youth.

To reach Timothy Finn, call 816-234-4781 or send email to tfinn@kcstar.com. Follow the Back to Rockville blog on Twitter @kcstarrockville.

SETLIST

Really Don’t Care; The Middle; Fire Starter; Remember December; Heart Attack; My Love Is Like a Star; Don’t Forget; Catch Me; La La Land; Let It Go; Warrior; Two Pieces; Thriller; Got Dynamite; Nightingale; Skyscraper; Give Your Heart a Break; Neon Lights.

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