The '80s had Sting, the '00s had John Mayer, and we have Shawn Mendes. The pop-rock heartthrob is only twenty, and he just keeps getting better. After getting his start posting covers on YouTube and the now-defunct Vine app, Shawn was discovered by manager Andrew Gertler and Island Records A&R rep Ziggy Chareton, and the rest is history. Shawn has gone from performing in his bedroom to performing in arenas, but he's been A1 since the very beginning. These are his best live performances from 2013 to now.
What can we say that hasn’t already been said about Shawn’s duet with Zac Brown Band? The hitmakers teamed up with Shawn for an episode of CMT’s Crossroads, a genre-bending television series that pairs country stars with the biggest names in pop for multi-song sets. While some of the installments end up sounding as mismatched as they look, Shawn and Zac Brown Band’s performance of the single “Colder Weather” was a heart-wrenching, artfully arranged blending of both artists’ strengths where Shawn did what he does best: wearing his heart on his sleeve.
Watch his performance of "Colder Weather" on YouTube.
Shawn slays this deep-cut from 2016’s Illuminate every time he performs it, adding an audience call-and-response that allows him to show off his gravely, riff-heavy range. Even though the version on his MTV Unplugged album is pretty glorious, this bootleg shows that the kid had it even without some light editing. Way back when he was seventeen, Shawn played the Air Canada Centre and brought major John Mayer vibes, channeling his musical Gandolf both in his musical style and his easy treading of emotional ebbs and flows throughout his music. His grey button-up is also very Mayer, but that might just be a coincidence.
Watch his performance of "Ruin" on YouTube.
The only way "Never Be Alone" could be more poignant was by adding a cello. Shawn's hometown performance of Handwritten's "Never Be Alone" with the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra benefitted WE Day, an event benefitting WE Charity's initiative to educate and empower the youth. The then-babyfaced musician was backed by no less than twenty string instruments as the audience waved their cellphone flashlights, contributing to an epic performance that was only bolstered by the event's noble goals and the appropriately youthful frontman bringing it all together.
Watch his performance of "Never Be Alone" on YouTube.
BBC Radio 1's Live Lounge covers prove that today's pop stars have the musical chops to really call themselves artists. Paying homage to friend, tourmate, and fellow Canadian Alessia Cara, Shawn's acoustic cover of "Here" featured the dynamic guitar playing he's constantly lauding in his heroes alongside an impressive display of breath control and an adorable humility break where Shawn admits to being "so out of breath" without ever breaking a sweat. Alessia returned the gesture with a cover of "Stitches" for On Air with Ryan Seacrest, showing that this likely duo is one of the most underrated friendships in the business.
Watch his performance of "Here" on YouTube.
It's not a stretch to say that award show performances are rarely good, but Shawn and Miley Cyrus took Shawn's stadium banger and filled the Staples Center during the 61st GRAMMY Awards. Shawn was a two-time nominee that evening for Best Pop Vocal Album and Song of the Year, and this victory lap showcased his soft and sensitive side during its acoustic piano opening before Miley brought the party with a full band and killer harmonic belts. Both artists tip-toe on the edge of rock-and-roll, but when the fireworks started falling from the sky as the duo belted their way to the finish, they definitively proved they've got real rock clout.
Watch his performance of "In My Blood" on YouTube.
Shawn has graduated to arena tours, but his secret show with Verizon Up at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City was an intimate, intense performance for two-thousand lucky Verizon customers, some StubHub shoppers, and over half a million fans who were able to watch the live streamed show from the comfort of their homes. The show included Shawn's first live performance of "If I Can't Have You," and he was visibly feeding off of the audience's frenetic energy. Characteristic riffs abounded as he showed off his newly acquired falsetto, and we all relished in the fact that he's finally old enough for us to thirst after him without it being creepy.
Watch his performance of "If I Can't Have You" on YouTube.
Shawn's 2017 MTV Unplugged live album is so good, it's easy to assume his performances got a little post-show polishing, but this video of Shawn singing "There's Nothing Holdin' Me Back" at the Unplugged performance shows that these recordings were 100% him. Or at least 90%. Shawn's visible joy while performing is one of his most endearing qualities, and his connection with the audience makes his natural charisma a veritable superpower, even if he's working through a touch of vocal exhaustion.
Watch his performance of "There’s Nothing Holding Me Back" on YouTube.
God bless Shawn for keeping his teen covers uploaded to the official Shawn Mendes YouTube channel. A lot of artists that get their start online before breaking into the mainstream quietly remove their old work from the video sharing site, but Shawn proudly keeps the covers that made him famous available for his legions of fans. This cover of "Say Something" goes all the way back to the beginning in 2013 when Shawn first began posting music online, and somehow this literal fourteen-year-old was serving stadium-ready vocals from his bedroom. At times his timbre is even deeper and richer than some of Shawn's more recent performances, making us a little concerned that our mans has nodes (ironically, also like his mentor John Mayer).
Watch his performance of "Say Something" on YouTube.
Did you know that Shawn is Canadian? In case you, somehow, forgot that he hails from the great Northern moose, Shawn brought another Canadian cover to the BBC 1 Live Lounge in December 2016, covering Drake's "Fake Love." Arranging the rapped verses and adding a bluesy electric guitar, Shawn simultaneously provided a vocally impressive performance while demonstrating a potential new path for his music. After you've conquered stadium rock, bubblegum pop, and sad acoustic criers, it's time to sing the blues.
Watch his performance of "Fake Love" on YouTube.
Anyone who doubts Shawn's musical expertise — whether it's due to his age, his legacy of teen pop hits, or his beautiful, beautiful face — can direct their complaints to The Rocket Man. Long before he covered "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" with SZA, Shawn performed "Tiny Dancer" with Elton John himself. The moment is notable for its novelty alone but to stand on his own next to one of the greatest artists of all time is the definition of success.
Watch his performance of "Tiny Dancer" on YouTube.
Oh My Disney
Shawn has always stayed true to his roots with an unending stream of covers, even after he's built an impressive catalog of his own. Bringing back his bluesy influences, Shawn covered one of the musicians that inspired him to develop this musical sensibility with Ed Sheeran's "Thinking Out Loud" during a performance for SiriusXM. Shawn has cited Ed as a mentor alongside John Mayer, and this cover shows how many cues Shawn has taken from those who came before him while still making it his own.
Watch his performance of "Thinking Out Loud" on YouTube.
Shawn Mendes acapella? Yes, please. Shawn debuted a new arrangement of his self-titled album's hidden gem, "Nervous," on The Today Show in June 2018 that opened with just his voice and a mic, which is a bold move on live television. He then led into a full-bodied instrumental before diving into the number. We know Shawn has the range, but he keeps it interesting by reinventing his songs when he, honestly, doesn't have to as a treat for his fans (and, probably, also himself).
Watch his performance of "Nervous" on YouTube.
Shawn's self-titled headlining tour opened at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam where he debuted what seems to be his favorite new mashup, Coldplay's "Fix You" and his own "In My Blood." If John and Ed inspired Shawn's singer-songwriter style, it's Chris Martin and Coldplay's arena-filling skills that, alongside Kings of Leon, informed his earlier singles. This tour staple combines both of Shawn's dichotomous performing strengths seamlessly and has become a fan favorite during his most recent tour.
Watch his performance of "Fix You / In My Blood" on YouTube.
Shawn is the King of Collabs. Justin Timberlake brought Shawn out at the 2018 iHeartRadio Music Festival for a surprise duet of his 2006 single "What Goes Around... Comes Around." JT described Shawn as "one of the coolest cats" he'd met, and this musical passing of the torch from one generation's falsetto to another's fit perfectly within Shawn's skill set. And if Shawn's ever actually ready to give someone his name, we volunteer as tribute. Same goes for JT sorry, not sorry, Jessica Biel.
Watch his performance of "What Goes Around… Comes Around" on YouTube.
Most of Shawn's best live performances captured for the internet to find and watch thousands of times have been small, intimate performances, but even on the massive scale of Budapest's Sziget Festival, Shawn shines. The singer told Entertainment Weekly that he discovered his falsetto while recording "Where Were You In The Morning," which is largely sung in his upper register. This upbeat performance of the sultry track is a strong showcase of his new skill.
Watch his performance of "Where Were You In The Morning" on YouTube.
Rumors have been flying about Shawn portraying Elvis Presley in Baz Luhrman's upcoming biopic for years, recently telling a tour Q&A that his film debut will be "sooner than you guys think." In the world's most public unofficial audition, Shawn covered "Hound Dog" in February 2019 for a televised tribute to the King. He could almost be mistaken for a young Elvis if you squint, but it sounds like he's got some stiff competition for the role with stars including Harry Styles, Ansel Elgort, and Austin Butler on a rumored shortlist for the role.
Watch his performance of "Hound Dog" on YouTube.
Shawn Mendes is an international superstar, and he has the sleeveless tanks to prove it. Jokes aside, Shawn has been in peak form during his self-titled headlining tour, and it's not just because he's been showing off his biceps. This tour has been a prime example of an artist in top shape, comfortable with his fans and the spotlight. He improvs, he opts up when he feels like it, and he knows how to connect with a crowd. All of that and more is on display during his Cologne show's performance of "Particular Taste."
Watch his performance of "Particular Taste" on YouTube.
When he listens to Frank Ocean >>> heart eyes. Shawn covered our favorite prolific hermit at Capital's Summertime Ball 2018 in London. Interestingly, Shawn vamps through "Thinkin' Bout You" largely in his chest voice, despite his recent penchant for playing around in his upper octaves at every opportunity. It allows Shawn to make the R&B hit his own instead of copying its auteur, and he adds a stadium rock instrumental interlude for good measure. We'd love to see Shawn try his hand at more of Frank's hits.
Watch his performance of "Thinkin’ Bout You" on YouTube.
Was this performance of "The Weight" the best thing that's ever happened in New Jersey? If pop culture in-jokes are to be believed, then probably, yes. Shawn sang "The Weight" from his first album, Handwritten, at The Prudential Center in Newark, and it's prime Shawn. His consistency as a performer is fascinating, even as he continues to grow, and this example of the boy with his guitar is the paradigm of Shawn's classic performing style.
Watch his performance of "The Weight" on YouTube.
Shawn and his maybe-GF Camila Cabello heated up the charts with "Señorita" in Summer '19, the sequel to their 2015 collaborative effort "I Know What You Did Last Summer." These BFFs don't get the opportunity to perform together enough, so this snippet from Z100's Jingle Ball back in the day is a rare example of Shawn and Camila getting to show off their chemistry live for their fans. We can only imagine what their inevitable live performances of the sexy "Señorita" will look like, especially if they come out as a pop power couple.
Watch his performance of "I Know What You Did Last Summer" on YouTube.