Highs and lows at Kiss Concert 2008

A review of Kiss Concert featuring New Kids On The Block, Maroon 5, and more on May 18, 2008

, Contributing Writer

Kiss Concert 2008 hit Mansfield this past Sunday as a fundraiser for the Genesis Fund. Featuring an eclectic mix of artists spanning generations and musical genres, the eight-plus hour show seemed to follow the pattern of the weather that day: isolated sunny highs, intermittent clouds, and sporadic storms.

One of the early performers on Sunday was Ray J, who garnered a more impressive crowd reaction than expected as girls screamed feverishly and thousands of arms pumped along with the beat. His short set list featuring “If I Had One Wish” ended with “Sexy Can I?”, during which he spent time in the audience and pulled a boy up on stage to dance next to him.&

Gavin DeGraw followed Ray J and was the first act to perform on the entire stage rather than just in front of the Kiss 108 red curtain. DeGraw opened his set with a rendition of his commercial success “I Don’t Want To Be”, allowing the audience to sing the final chorus as he watched in approval. He then slowed things down with “Follow Through” which featured very little energy and felt as if DeGraw was simply going through the motions, then segued into his new release “In Love With A Girl”, which was a bit better, and closed out his set with “Chariot.”

The main highlight of the daytime performances came on stage after Baby Bash in the form of Sara Bareilles. As the red curtain rose once again, Bareilles began her set with the newly released single “Bottle It Up” followed by “Morningside”. The crowd was a bit more subdued during Bareilles’ performance but this proved to be an asset. With previous performers there was so much crowd noise that the vocal sound was often compromised. The sharp vocal clarity and power of a Sara Bareilles performance was able to take center stage due to the crowd settling down a bit. She closed out her set with “Love Song” which got the crowd on its feet to sing every word (obviously) and moved into a solo piano cover of Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle” featuring a jazz inspired freestyle at the end.

The surprise great performance of the day went to Leona Lewis, who stateside is pretty much only known for her single “Bleeding Love”, but was able to deliver a performance that proves she has a lot to offer beyond winning “X Factor”. The soft-spoken Lewis began her set with a vocally powerful ballad “Better in Time” which quickly immediately won over the crowd. She then took the audience down a little by performing “Homeless”, further showcasing her vocal strength as she consistently reached one high note after another. Lewis closed out her set with “Bleeding Love”, thanking the audience for their continued support.

If there was any doubt that tweens are setting the course of popular music these days, the Jonas Brothers’ performance solidified that fact. Following Leona Lewis the anticipation in the audience mounted as the stage was prepared, with girls frantically jumping and screaming in response to photos of the boys being displayed on the screens throughout Tweeter Center. The calm before the storm didn’t last very long. The crowd began chanting “Jonas” as the Mansfield High marching band paraded through the audience and onto the stage. Next thing you know the curtain opened, the boys ran onstage, and the ground began to shake. Pre-teen girls and loyal Disney channel fans have turned the Jonas Brothers into the modern day New Kids on the Block (more on them later). While I would like to comment on the musical talent of the Jonas Brothers, the insane screaming of the crowd and too loud background band made much of the set indecipherable. I will say that their unparalleled energy and upbeat, poppy beats kept the crowd dancing and jumping throughout all eight songs. They even appear to hold their own instrumentally with two playing guitar throughout. Their cover of “Take On Me” wasn’t half bad, although, surprisingly even at their young ages they aren’t able to hit the high notes.& The set wrapped up with “When You Look Me In The Eyes” and “S.O.S.” before the brothers high-fived with fans on their way off the stage.

Keeping the tween excitement at its peak was Cascada, who was introduced as the “Queen of Dance” and had the tough job of following Jonasmania. It is hard to tell if she is a singer or a dancer. She does pretty well with both, but neither would draw me to see her for longer than the twenty minute set showcased on Sunday. Most people are familiar with “Every Time We Touch” and her latest U.S. single, the cover of Rascal Flatts “What Hurts the Most” is getting a lot of radio play, but there was little past that to keep the crowd interested.

The Maroon 5 set proved why it is difficult to have an outdoor show in New England in May. After two solid hours of rain and a drastically dropping temperature the crowd was noticeably melancholy by the time Adam Levine and company took the stage. Throughout the set Levine kept trying to engage the audience and was rarely successful, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. During their second song “Don’t Believe in You” the crowd clapped and cheered, with everyone getting warmer during “Harder to Breathe” as the audience singing became audible. Unfortunately, everything halted again during “Sunday Morning” as the band did the best they could to get through some pronounced feedback issues. Playing to his audience, Levine dedicated “She Will Be Loved” to all the “fine young women in the house” which caught the audience’s attention before the band closed out the set with “This Love”.

Natasha Bedingfield was up next and did nothing to break the audience out of their weather induced stupor. Her vocals were shaky at best on “Pocketful of Sunshine” and during “These Words”, and while she tried to increase the crowd energy by walking around on stage, she was not exactly inspiring enough to get people out of their seats. “Love Like This” proved to be the highlight of the set and was followed by new single “Angel”, which performed live for the first time (not very well). Bedingfield finished her appropriately short set with “Unwritten”, which thankfully sounded like the radio edit, and was able to get some vocal support from the audience.

Next up was New Kids on The Block, the hometown boys all grown up. The enthusiasm for NKOTB matched, if not beat that of the frenzy stirred by the Jonas Brothers which I was happily surprised to see. The New Kids were able to relate to the entire audience, parents and children alike, and the excitement of seeing them in their first Massachusetts performance in fifteen years kept even the soaking lawn filled to capacity. The boys from Boston took the stage to the delight of an uproarious crowd and immediately began a medley of “Step By Step”, “Hanging Tough”, “Please Don’t Go Girl”, and “You Got It (The Right Stuff)” with choreography that brought the audience right back to 1990. The dancing, aided by six Celtics dancers, was fast paced and full of energy.

After the opening medley, the New Kids took a break to express their enthusiasm for being back at the Kiss Concert and Donnie Wahlberg explained that being there made everything “official.” While it was great to have them interact with the audience it raises an interesting question of how they will fill a full show in September. Clearly fatigued after the opening number, it seems the banter with the crowd wasn’t only about expressing gratitude but also a clever way for them to catch their breath. The twenty minute set also featured the new single “Summertime”, which isn’t as synth-heavy when performed live, and had a shout-out from Joey McIntyre to “Nantasket Beach, 1989.” Taking another quick break to change into authentic Celtics jerseys (Donnie and Danny were at game seven before the concert) the New Kids returned to the stage to perform “Tonight” with so much youthful enthusiasm that they may give the Jonas Brothers a fight for tween hearts everywhere.
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