UNCASVILLE, Conn. — For many Western Massachusetts fans in the audience at Mohegan Sun Arena on Friday night, opening act Brynn Cartelli from Longmeadow was as much the star of the show as her mentor, Kelly Clarkson.
Clarkson — who rose to fame after winning the inaugural competition of the Fox reality series “American Idol” in 2002 — traveled to the casino for a two-night stop on her 28-date “Meaning of Life” tour, which began in January and ends on March 30 in South Carolina.
It’s Clarkson’s first tour in three years since 2015’s “Piece by Piece Tour,” and she brought along two rising stars, one especially close to her heart, to open for her.
Cartelli was coached by Clarkson on NBC’s talent competition, “The Voice,” and went on to become the youngest person, at age 15, to win the competition last May.
The evening of girl power began at 7 p.m. with Cartelli taking the stage for a five-song, 20-minute set that included several originals — her first single, “Walk My Way,” and her newest release, “Last Night’s Mascara” — and a cover of “Creep” by Radiohead. The teen singer demonstrated a strong stage presence and was in fine voice throughout her brief set.
When Cartelli introduced herself as being from Longmeadow, there were cheers in the audience, and she noted many family and friends had come to see her perform.
“The Voice” winner thanked Clarkson for including her on the tour, and also thanked all those in the audience who voted for her on the popular television show.
“Kelly really changed my life,” said Cartelli, who is currently writing new material while on her tour bus for her first album on Atlantic Records.
And then there was Clarkson.
The powerhouse vocalist wasted no time reminding people who she was (even though she’s been away from touring for three years she has remained in the spotlight) and opened the show wearing a flowing black gown and performing an a cappella version of “A Moment Like This,” sung on the “American Idol” finale and included on her first album “Thankful” released in 2003.
Before you could even tell, the gown disappeared revealing a shiny black dress beneath as she launched into “Meaning of Life,” “Walk Away” and “Love So Soft.”
Other songs in the 20+ set included “Whole Lotta Woman,” “Piece by Piece,” “Breakaway,” and a bevy of other hits and songs from her latest album, “Meaning of Life.”
It was clearly Cartelli’s night, who came out on stage with Clarkson to appear in a segment of the show called “Minute and A Glass of Wine,” which is live streamed, where she talks to the audience while enjoying a glass of wine high above the bar below the stage. This particular night, perhaps because Cartelli was performing not far from home, she had the rising star sing a duet with her — Ed Sheeran’s “Make It Rain.” She also showered praise on a very mature for her age Cartelli, who she is nurturing, calling her “an old soul for just 15 years old.”
The night came to an upbeat close which had fans standing and dancing at their seats as Clarkson performed “Heat” and brought out Cartelli and the night’s other opening act, Maggie Rose, to perform “Miss Independent” with her.
It was the show’s last song, but as the crowd stamped their feet for more, Clarkson returned on a riser lifting her off the stage to perform two covers – “It’s Quiet Uptown” from Broadway’s “Hamilton” and “Never Enough” from the movie “The Greatest Showman.”
When she was lowered back to the stage, Clarkson finished an outstanding night of music by launching into two barnstormers- “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” and “Since U Been Gone.”
Clarkson was supported during the evening by an eight-piece band accompanied by four backup singers. Of special note, the proscenium extending into the audience from the stage was surrounded by an oval bar serving up drinks to those watching the concert from the floor.
Before the show began, Clarkson showed a video clip of what her newest venture will look like — her own talk show which begins airing in September.