Sabrina Carpenter’s Emails I Can’t Send is exactly what it sounds like: detailed, diaristic and perfect for the digital age.
The fifth studio album from the 23-year-old singer and actress explores all the complicated, contradictory emotions of early adulthood — from unhealed heartache to nonsensical new love. Though segments of her “Emails I Can’t Send” Tour are regularly stitched together on TikTok, her energy translates best live on stage. On the night of April 14, Carpenter felt all her feelings at The Warfield, and she encouraged her audience to do the same.
Following a sparky opening set from spill tab, the stage transformed into a theatrical, Valentine-inspired set. Stage hands uncovered a tall, glittering tower on the left, and as “All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version),” played over the speakers, the curtain rose to reveal a giant mirrored heart. From the red curtain draped in the back to the street lamp positioned in the front corner, the stage was reflective, romantic and ready to receive the songstress.
Carpenter appeared spotlit on the tower, playing the piano as she performed the album’s titular track. Even as she examined her fraught relationship with her father, she took a beat to smile as though in disbelief. At the song’s conclusion, she stood to reveal her glittery slip dress and white thigh-high boots. The mood quickly shifted from meditative to groovy as she slid into sparkling “Read Your Mind,” detailing her partner’s indecision as she bopped across the stage.
Early on, Carpenter established easy rapport with her audience, urging them to embrace each and every emotion — no matter how messy. “Imagine a time when you were most angry at someone and it pissed you off,” she said front and center at the mic stand. As she delivered the emphatic “Vicious” bridge, the stage lights pulsed in frustration.
Carpenter then pivoted into what she called the “yeehaw section,” prominently featuring acoustic guitar. As she topped her blonde bangs with a glittery cowboy hat received from the crowd, she evoked country-era Taylor Swift. Playfully tipping her hat and dancing along to “Already Over” and “Bad For Business,” she punctuated the range of her musical style.
Though “Skinny Dipping” began as a spoken word stream of consciousness, Carpenter held the mic out to her audience to sing along — and they knew every word. As the song escalated into entrancing “ahhs,” Carpenter spun in front of the mirrored heart during a moment of cleansing release.
Throughout her set, Carpenter regularly checked in with herself and her audience. Admitting that she was having an emotional day, she then held the mic out to a forthright Libra still “stumbling over the pages of (a) relationship arc.” After a brief crowd-sourced therapy session, Carpenter dedicated the next song to the heartbroken concertgoer: a cover of “Hopelessly Devoted to You” from “Grease.” As the singer belted from her enchanting tower, the moment was both cinematic and heartfelt.
Digging into deeply personal tracks, Carpenter wasn’t afraid to be vulnerable on “Decode” and “Tornado Warnings.” But she also got speedy and sultry with “Fast Times” and “Bet U Wanna,” modeling how rapidly emotions can shift from one extreme to the other. Entertaining with older tracks “Paris” and “Sue Me,” she dazzled amid a sea of bright eyes and iPhones.
Carpenter’s hit track “Nonsense” has become an internet sensation, her improvised outro frequently making its rounds on TikTok. For her first night in San Francisco, her lyrics were quite frank: “Some parents think my concerts are a strip show. Where’d you get your shirt, it’s f—ing sick bro. Baby, you’re so golden San Francisco,” she sang.
Before commencing her final song, Carpenter joked that there are very few moments where one can freely proclaim, “I’m a slut,” taking pride in the fact that her concert is one of them. Addressing the challenge of dating “boys with exes” in front of the public eye, Carpenter was met with nothing but warmth during her triumphant performance of “Because I Liked a Boy.”
Indeed, Carpenter’s appeal lies in her ability to parse through the tangled emotions of early adulthood with candor and grace. Under her guidance, The Warfield became a safe space to feel freely and fully — offering catharsis to those young, heartbroken and lying to their therapists.