There's one pertinent question when it comes to Carly Rae Jepsen:
Does she have what it takes to survive after "Call Me Maybe" has faded from memory?
Based on what I saw from the singer on Tuesday night at the lovely Mountain Winery in Saratoga, the answer is a resounding, well, maybe.
She shows the kind of vocal range and power that makes one think she could have a future. Yet, her songbook tells a different story.
She's directly targeting the profitable "tween" market with her starry-eyed tales of memorable kisses, heart-pounding crushes and hot guys. It's working OK for her in 2013. Yet, it might not play as well in a few years when she's pushing (gulp!) 30 -- and the majority of her fan base has driver's licenses.
In other words, she'll soon have to deal with the same dilemma that every pop artist who builds their fortunes on young fans' allowance money eventually faces. The 27-year-old Canadian will have to figure out how to hang on to fans who'll eventually outgrow such titles as "Tiny Little Bows," "Sour Candy," "Sweetie" and "I Know You Have a Girlfriend."
Of course, she could just crank out another dozen or so songs like "Call Me Maybe" -- one of the best pure pop gems of the last 10 years -- and then she'll have it made.
Yet, the chances of her crafting even one more tune like "Call Me Maybe" seem slim. And her popularity already seems to be slipping.
She was only able to attract roughly 1,000 fans to the 2,500-capacity Mountain Winery. Part of that has to do the setting, a lovely, historic venue that is better suited for hosting the likes of Chris Isaak and Lyle Lovett than a show that is one step up from the Wiggles. Enjoying a few glasses is of vino is often part of the Mountain Winery experience.
Yet, I bet the venue didn't sell much wine on this night. Although a few of the parents (i.e., chauffeurs) at the Mountain Winery looked like they could've used a drink.
While the crowd wasn't large, it most certainly was vocal. The young, mostly female fans, who seemed to range in age from six to 16, squealed with glee at the sight of their heroine taking the stage to sing "This Kiss." They'd keep the decibels up throughout the show, which featured 14 songs and ran roughly one hour.
Backed by a four-piece band, Jepsen sounded strong as she ran through one lightweight ode to young love after another. She showed a good deal of stylistic range, moving from the energetic dance-pop of "Tonight I'm Getting Over You" to the folksy acoustic renderings of "Almost Said It" to the mild rock of "Guitar String/Wedding Ring." Yet, it still all sounded like we were listening to a Radio Disney playlist.
Jepsen is certainly an engaging front person, who's only grown more comfortable onstage since the last time I saw her perform, back in December at the Event Center at San Jose State University. She interacts quite well with the crowd, even though some of her stage banter about relationships probably goes right over the heads of her young fans.
She's also absolutely dynamite on the microphone. Those who only know Jepsen from "Call Me Maybe" -- which, let's face it, is the majority of the general public -- certainly haven't heard all she has to offer. In the live arena, however, she's able to more fully showcase her versatility and power. The vocalists who she most reminds me of are Jewel and Kelly Clarkson.
Of course, Jepsen closed her show with "Call Me Maybe," a fitting farewell that sounded no less sweet for having heard it roughly a bazillion times before.
In all, it was an enjoyable enough hour of music, yet one that shed little light on whether fans will still be calling for Carly in years to come.
Follow Jim Harrington at http://twitter.com/jimthecritic, www.facebook.com/jim.bayareanews and http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei/category/concerts.