KISS Concert serves up mixed bag

A review of KISS 108's KISS Concert at the Xfinity Center on May 31, 2014

, Contributing Writer

KISS 108’s annual summer music fest returned to the Xfinity (formerly Comcast, Tweeter, and Great Woods) Center last Saturday with a line-up full of today’s pop radio darlings. But this year’s show fell flat, with the roster’s few seasoned professionals highlighting just how far some of the stage’s youngsters still have to come.

In a few of the earlier slots in the day were up-and-coming boy bands Rixton and R5. Both are projects of seasoned tween celebrity icon makers, with Rixton under the wing of Justin Bieber’s manager Scooter Braun and R5 a Disney project. Both groups are instrumental and vocal rather than the traditional boy band model, yet each are clearly vying for a piece of One Direction’s enormous pie. While each clearly have serious industry backing, it’s tough to tell if either will truly succeed or just become another The Wanted. Either way, the crowd certainly seemed happy to dance along to singles “Me and My Broken Heart” and “(I Can’t) Forget About You.”

Some of the best performances of the day came from acts with local ties. Karmin, a duo that has seen plenty of KISS 108 events, came out with a new, more pop-ready look, a full band, and an ability to work the stage in a way the newbies had not. From well-known singles like “Hello” and “Brokenhearted” to the newer “Pulses,” the male-female combo had enough energy to fill the arena.

Another pleasant local surprise was Timeflies. From an early opener at the 2012 Jingle Ball to one of the final acts at Saturday’s show, the two boys from Tufts have come a long way. “It’s a dream come true coming out on this stage,” said vocalist Cal Shapiro. Beginning with the older single “I Choose U,” things warmed up as the set moved along, with a killer Boston-focused freestyle combined with Miley Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop,” and the new track “Monsters,” which featured a violinist joining the duo on stage. But the crowd bumped it up to 11 when the boys revealed they would be taking film for a new “Timesflies Tuesdays” video, and grooved as hard as they possibly could for the current single “All The Way.”

The greenest performers were the most disappointing. Fifth Harmony, which performed second to last, felt like typo. A product of the now-defunct U.S. version of The X Factor, the quintet kicked things off with “Me and My Girls.” The entire bubblegum-pop performance oozed sugar; nay, not even sugar, something less, like Stevia. From poorly crafted choreography to badly chosen outfits, the only thing Fifth Harmony had going for them was their harmonies. Finally, after a semi-remixed version of their hit “Miss Movin’ On,” a clip of a new song to come blasted across the speakers, and the girls exited the stage.

Another act suffering from a lack of experience was Ariana Grande. A main draw for much of the crowd, the former Nickelodeon star is shedding her squeaky-clean image for an R&B-inspired career in pop. But despite a gaggle of backup dancers, neither Grande’s vocals nor her moves soared. With a short four-song set, the young singer struggled to keep up her breathing with even just minor dance moves, and she ran off stage prior to the final number while her dancers took several minutes to show off their moves. While she may have a hit on her hands with “One Less Problem,” Ariana Grande’s performance proved she still has a lot to learn.

And from whom can she learn it? The answer came in the form of an artist with the same exact hairstyle that night, Ms. Jennifer Lopez. The 44-year-old performer schooled the more youthful pop-stars, and did so while wearing a nude bodysuit covered only with strings of beads. She and her dancers ruled the stage, stomping out singles such as “Get Right” and “On The Floor.” Yet JLo too disappointed, opting to play a loop of a track from her upcoming single (the words “big booty” repeated over and over) rather than perform classics like “Jenny From the Block.”

Finally, the night ended with Calvin Harris. A world-class DJ with countless songs on the radio, Harris’s fame and radio play still didn’t make him the right fit for the annual summer concert. Young audience members streamed out of the venue as the Scottish producer took his spot behind a giant booth. Remaining in the dark for most of his set, an impressive array of lasers, fire, and graphics lit up the arena, but none of it seemed right for the event. However, popular singles such as “Feel So Close,” “I Need Your Love,” and “We Found Love” kept the remaining crowd members in dance mode.

Overall, KISS 108’s KISS Concert gave attendees what they were looking for – a day of today’s pop music hits – but unfortunately wasn’t a show to write home about.

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