Christmas comes early at Kiss 108 Jingle Ball

A review of the KISS 108 Jingle Ball at the Tsongas Arena on December 11

, Contributing Writer

Tsongas Arena in Lowell was obviously the place to be for all Bostonian high school girls on Thursday, Dec. 12 at KISS 108’s Jingle Ball 2008. With a lineup of some pretty heavy hitters in the pop game, the teenage audience should have had more than enough to dish about back in the classroom on Friday.

There must have been some official instructions for the event that went out to all teenage girls living anywhere near Boston that read like the following:

1. You and all your girlfriends just have to buy tickets (or have your parents buy you tickets) way early, because it’s going to be, like, so sold out.
2. If you haven’t already made or bought matching T-Shirts that are “Jingle Ball” themed (these are mandatory), then buy them as soon as you get to the arena.
3. Immediately put them on and take pictures with your cell phones of you and all your friends.
4. Find your seat. Text any of your other friends to see where they’re sitting. Sit wherever the better seats are.
5. Walk around with your friends, talking, posing for pics, giggling, but mainly making sure everyone else in your high school who may be in attendance knows that you are also at the coolest event of the year.
6. Which means you absolutely have to get your picture taken by the KISS 108 staff so it will appear on their website. Make sure your parent is nowhere near you when this happens. A picture of you and your mom on the site could be socially fatal.
7. Be in your seats for the four songs the pop artists are going to play, and when they do, proceed to step 8.
8. SCREAM!!!

All joking aside, it turns out that teenage girls actually make a great audience with all of their screaming, singing-along, dancing, jumping and hand-waving. What better way to keep the performers energized than a sold-out arena filled with absolute adoration from their fans?

Mild-mannered American Idol runner-Up David Archuleta received some of the loudest of those screams, and seemed just as genuinely flattered with his shy giggle and humble smile as he did on Idol . Besides being a teen heart-throb, he really can sing. At the end of his “Works for Me” he had some nice vocal runs. He performed a cover of Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles” and played the keyboard as he sang, and the audience sang-along with all the words. He seemed truly gracious for all the attention, “You guys are one great audience,” he said before he sang his debut single “Crush”.

A stark contrast to Archuleta, (and even to pop artists Lady GaGa and Secondhand Serenade who played before him), was rock group Hinder, who were next on the bill. With their edgy-grunge looks and colorful language, the band didn’t exactly exude the bubblegum-pop vibe the audience craved. On acoustic guitars and a piece of wood in place of a drum-set they played “Use Me” off their ’08 album Take it to the Limit, with lyrics “She always leaves and makes me feel kind of sleazy. It’s kind of cool because she already pleased me. I’m lying here just thinking this is too easy”(Mothers, be glad your daughters aren’t screaming quite as loudly for these guys just yet). Vocalist Austin Winkler explained the unconventional set up, “We thought we’d give you a special performance and strip our music down tonight.” Winkler’s vocals were completely exposed without the cover of loud drum beats and guitar chords, but his naked voice had nothing to be shy about. The rugged rawness he brought to “Lips of An Angel” was warmly received, and he thanked the crowd with a “Yo Boston, you guys rock.”

Next up, in a burlesque holiday-themed outfit, was Katy Perry. After seeing her short fur-trimmed one-piece there was no mystery why Winkler had joked that Hinder was pretty excited about seeing her. She explained the ensemble: “I’m like Mrs. Clause, but younger and sluttier.” Watching Perry run across the stage, her legs kicking high up behind her, during “Hot N Cold” off of her ’08 album One of the Boys felt like watching an aerobics video, especially when she asked the audience to jump with her. She was pouring energy into the crowd, though, and they loved it. For the slower “Thinking of You” Perry played an acoustic guitar and sang rather impressively. It’s nice to see there’s some talent behind all of her gimmicks. Although the economy probably wasn’t foremost on most of the young crowd-members’ minds, Perry nonetheless paid them the complement, “Boston knows how to represent in a time of recession.” She finished her set with the much-anticipated “I Kissed a Girl” and the audience went wild.

Perry would have been a hard act for anyone to follow, but Kevin Rudolf apparently had some additional sound problems throughout his set. His voice was buried under the bass and there wasn’t a lot of unity between him, the drummer and his deejay. Worried about the sound issues, he seemed to have a hard time concentrating on playing the guitar he was holding and singing at the same time. However, the audience cheered, jumped up-and-down and sang the chorus strongly for his pop single “Let It Rock”.

Rivaling the screams Archuleta received earlier in the night were those given to the next artist on stage, Jesse McCartney. One of the most solid performances of the night, McCartney danced some coordinated steps along with a couple backup dancer/singers as he sang his hits. “What’s going on Boston? I’m gonna take you back to 2004 and show you how this started,” he said before singing “Beautiful Soul”. Next, he performed “Relapse” from his ’08 Departure album with huge energy, just like the funk-styled song deserves. Before he sang “Leavin”, he explained its importance, “As an artist, I don’t think there’s a better feeling than having your first number one. It took me three albums, but I did it.” As he belted out the lyrics for this guilty pleasure it was hard not to fall into his voice. He had no problem hitting the high notes on the tail of the song, so maybe he deserves a hit.

The gorgeous Natasha Bedingfield followed with an uplifting arrangement of songs. “Nobody told me that in Boston they love to sing” she quipped between songs. Accompanied on the stage by two backup vocalists, a keyboardist and guitarist, her singing and movements were very free and joyful. Much to the audience’s delight during “Pocketful of Sunshine” she ad-libbed “Boston’s my pocketful of sunshine.” With all of her cheery music, the place felt a little like a church during her performance. The groovy tune “Love Like This” gave her the opportunity to showcase her vocal ability, which, in an entire evening of singing, really stood out. Being as it was getting late, however, some of the audience began filtering out during her performance.

Closing the show& was R&B singer-songwriter Ne-Yo, who had back-up dancers, a band and even a horn section helping him out. The choreography throughout Ne-Yo’s set was entertaining, and his singing was tight, however it was difficult to hear the band and horns over the backing tracks. Before he sang “So Sick” he called it the song that started it off for him. Plugging his new Grammy-nominated album Year of the Gentleman, he told anyone who hasn’t bought it already to, “Go get it. Go get it. Go get it.” He performed both Grammy-nominated songs from the album, including “Miss Independent” and ending with “Closer”. Had Tsongas arena been a club, it would have been poppin’ during this addictive dance number. Unfortunately, by this time, much of the audience had already gone home.

It was, after all, a school night.

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