Big names, local acts shine at KISS concert

, Contributing Writer

Artists came from all over the country to perform at Kiss 108’s annual Kiss Concert Saturday at the Comcast Center but some of the best acts of the day were from right here in Massachusetts. The all-day event featured a total of 18 artists and bands performing at the amphitheater and the back-to-back format made it painfully clear who surpassed expectations and who fell flat.

When it comes to the local groups and artists, Massachusetts shined. The day began with One Step Away, a quartet of young men breaking with the recent boy band trend (ala Hot Chelle Rae, who was also at the show, they play their own instruments). While they lacked the experience and training it takes to fill a (albeit fairly empty) venue of that size, they held their own admirably throughout their four-song set. As the day continued on, local “The Voice” finalist James Massone made a surprise appearance with a last-minute Drake cover, his smooth vocals a testament to Cee Lo Green’s keen ear in choosing him for his team during the blind auditions.

But Boston really started to heat up as JoJo took the stage. Mixing old favorites such as her mega-hit “Leave (Get Out)” in with new material, the Foxboro native had the crowd going with her experienced voice and palpable energy. The solo artist admitted that the Kiss Concert was one of her first back in elementary school and got a cheer as she stated that she’s “pretty hardcore” (with a Boston accent), touting her Massachusetts and Shamrock tattoos. She was immediately followed by the dynamic duo Karmin, who went from one year ago performing in the Meet & Greet area backstage at the show to center stage with their Top 40 hit “Brokenhearted”, which Amy Heidemann performed with her spitfire vocal skills. Fame, however, has not caused them to forget their roots, noting “We still have our Boston phone numbers” while pointing to Nick Noonan’s  “617” t-shirt. No one, however, received a warmer Boston welcome than rapper Sammy Adams. As he speedily paced from one side of the stage to the other, many members of the audience seem to rap along to every word of hits such as “Driving Me Crazy” and “Blow Up”.

There were, of course, non-Boston stars at the Kiss Concert. Boy band The Wanted had the first really successful performance of the day, polished in a way that was still entertaining and exciting, unlike Adam Lambert, who despite having an extraordinary amount of fans in the audience (including a pair who made the unfortunate choice to separate the phrase “Blow Me A Kiss” on two signs) lacked a stand-out moment. Carly Rae Jepsen aka the “Call Me Maybe” girl fell flat as her band overpowered her and Andy Grammer one over the hearts of audience members with a simple, personable set featuring only an acoustic guitar and his voice. But of course the real highlights of the day were the headliners, Enrique Igelsias, Flo Rida, and Gym Class Heroes. From Enrique showering the crowd with confetti and giant “ei” balloons to Flo Rida riding through the crowd on the shoulders of his security to Gym Class Heroes inviting fellow Kiss Concert performer Neon Hitch on stage to perform their hit “Ass Back Home” together, the professionals easily wooed the so-called “late night” crowd with the talent that comes with the years of experience it takes to not only make it to the top but to stay there.

In the end, the Kiss Concert, like many festivals, is a special thing. People of all ages came from all over the state to see some of the biggest names in pop music today perform on one stage. Maybe they saw their favorite band or singer perform; maybe they left with a new one. But the opportunity for so many fresh faces from right in our own backyard excel on a major stage like that is invaluable and really is a testament to the radio station’s loyalty to local artists, and for that, Kiss 108 should be commended.

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