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For many parents of tween-aged girls, the question, too often, seems to be "What do girls these days want?" On Sunday night in Atlantic City, the answer was clear: a Demi Lovato concert on an unseasonably warm school night.
Thousands of Halloween-candy-fueled girls ages 9 to 17 broke out their moms' heels, donned their best pop-rock duds and slathered on brightly colored lipstick for Lovato's long awaited concert at Trump Taj Mahal.
If her fans bore any lingering resentment about the concert's postponement earlier this year, they did not show it as Lovato's five-piece band blasted a few introductory notes to hype the audience. By the time Lovato appeared at the top of a flight of stairs, dressed in torn black skinny jeans, biker boots and a bedazzled white vest, the crowd was ready to oblige her request that the Atlantic City show - her last in 2009 - be the loudest and craziest on the tour.
From the first song, "La La Land," Lovato commanded the nearly sold-out Mark G. Etess Arena with ease. Shaking her hips, flipping her hair and touching as many hands as possible, the 17-year-old star of the Disney Channel's "Sonny with a Chance" performed like a seasoned rock star, bantering comfortably with the audience in between songs.
Once she had the energy pumping, Lovato rarely let up, belting out one song after another during her hourlong set. Her clear, strong voice danced easily through high and low notes with only slight variances from the recorded version to assure audiences she was not lip-synching.
After "La La Land" came "Trainwreck," "Nothing On Me" and her supposed favorite song, "Catch Me," for which Lovato was accompanied only by her own expert pickings on an acoustic guitar - and thousands of voices singing every word as clearly as a bell.
Lovato surprised at least one young fan when she sang her Camp Rock duet "This is Me" without the help of co-writer and singer Nick Jonas.
"She can't sing 'This is Me' because it's a duet. She needs Nick Jonas," said Evana Bogle, 11, adding excitedly that "Catch Me" also is her own favorite Lovato track.
Lovato invited on stage a girl holding up a sign that read "Can I sing with you?" and 16-year-old Marianne played it cool as Lovato commented "We're so close in age, we could, like, totally be friends." Lovato then draped an arm around Marianne as they sang the song together, giggling like two teenagers doing karaoke.
One of the few quiet moments came just before Lovato dedicated "Two Worlds Collide" to her friend Sarah Wisely, whom Lovato said is a victim of bullying. With just the slightest bit of shyness, Lovato briefly touched on her pet cause and introduced her fans to PacerTeensAgainstBullying.org
"All the gossip and the rumors, just stay away from all that," Lovato advised her audience. "It can feel like such a punch in the face. I didn't do anything back, and now I'm here on this stage tonight."
Afterward, Lovato picked the pace back up with "Solo," "Can't Stop the World" "Every Time You Lie" and a cover of Aretha Franklin's "A Natural Woman," during which she showed off her piano-playing skills. She ended her set with the singles "Remember December" and "Here We Go Again."
The frenzied chants had reached a sugar-charged high and fans in the grandstands stomped the wooden planks beneath their feet with a fervor that recalled a tribal rain dance when Lovato returned from a short break for a two-song encore.
After starting out whispery light on "Don't Forget," Lovato swung a shiny black electric guitar over her shoulder to finish with a bang and threw her pick into the gleeful audience. By the time she wrapped up "Get Back," the audience had largely fulfilled Lovato's second wish of the night - that they all go to school tomorrow hoarse from screaming so much at her concert.
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