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American Idyll

Or, what would be the idyllic way to spend a Sunday according to most American teenagers, at the KISS-108 Concert 2008.

WXKS 107.9 in Boston is known as "KISS-108" and it's current format is top-40 music.  Every May they sponsor a megaconcert that happens very near to my daughter's birthday.  We first went as a special treat when she turned 13 and became an official teenager, but it's fun enough that we've been going back most years since.  So here's a review of this year's groups, from the 2 pm opener to the 11 pm closer.

Metro Station: New LA teen rock band trying to be "real" (i.e., grungy) despite being made by MySpace and the fact that two of them have younger siblings starring in  Hannah Montana.  Sing-along hit: "Shake It"   Most seemed to enjoy the music.

Chiki: Somerville trash princess trying to be a dancing queen, in black tights, silver hightops, and a bright aqua tutu.  Suffering from some mental impediment (stoned? stage fright?) since she opened with "Welcome to KISS Concert 2009!" and closed with "Thank you, KISS 101!"  The last is especially bad for a local since the station's been "KISS 108" for 30 years. The crowd wasn't sympathetic.

Jesse McCarney: The "pretty face" (actual title: "Beautiful Soul") singer, and he still is.  He also sang his new "Everytime I Leave" which seems to have Justin Timberlake overtones.. (On his bio, he claims to be moving to "a little more of mature sound."  Right.)   The new one was well received, but the known hits always get the most reaction at this concert and his were no exception.

Ferras: Not very impressive and no one was very impressed.  He sang "Aliens and Rainbows" which was nice instrumentally but the lyrics just seemed bizarre.  Sing-along hit: "Hollywood's Not America" which is the current exit song for American Idol.   But I don't watch.

Wyclef Jean: Everyone was VERY impressed.  Hip-hop artist and producer, he started the set with a bit of Brooklyn freestyle rap, moved into some known songs, moved into the audience, climbed up into a cameraman's perch and down, walked across a row of seats, and back to the stage, still singing.  Then brought out a guitar to play with another song, played while holding it upside down behind his head, brought it forward again and played it with his tongue, and yes, played it very damn well.  Two years ago he started a foundation that's given thousands of scholarships out to children in Haiti. "Dollar dollar bill y'all" in a very right way. (Song title: "Sweetest Girl")

Ray J: younger hip-hop artist with big sing-along hits "Sexy Can I" and "One Wish." Great songs for the genre, good energy level and crowd reaction but probably felt more mellow that it should have in comparison with Wyclef.

Gavin DeGraw: Hey, a person has to get up and move around sometime? I missed his set.

Baby Bash: More rap/hip-hop and a definite crowd pleaser, but the highlight was his older hit "Suga Suga."

Sara Bareilles: I need to hear more of this.  After the pop and hip-hop, suddenly we get a singer-pianist doing wonderfully rich voiced blues & jazz toned melodies.  Sing-alongs: "Love Song" and "Bottle it Up"   People liked. I liked.

Leona Lewis: First of two British female artists, and third season The X-Factor winner, she has a great voice and good moves but more in the mainstream pop line than Bareilles.  Sing-along hit: "Bleeding Love"

Jonas Brothers: Yes, them.  Loud screaming from the pre-teens.  If Metro Station looks like classic grungy teen rock, this is classic clean teen pop, successor to the Hansons.  Similarly to the Hansons, they do sound like they're trying to be serious musicians despite having to play the publicity game.  Lots of sing-along hits, none of which I knew.

Cascada:  A German singer/dancer, Natalie Horler, and "Cascada" refers to her collaboration with two DJ/producers. "The true queen of dance" according to the bombastic voice-over intro which included "O Fortuna" background music, so they get points for sense of humor.  Lots of current hits that all sound made for DDR.  Everyone danced.  Unexpected cover song: "Because the Night"

Maroon 5: Welcome change from the Jonas Brothers, they played many, many well-known songs tightly together in a great set.  Unfortunately after screaming for the Jonas Brothers and jumping frenetically to Cascada, the crowd had trouble giving a lot of energy back and I think the band felt it.  Maybe the songs were a little too close together, too, with not enough time for people to engage. Sing-along hit of note: the new "Wake Up Call."

Natasha Bedingfield: The other British star, I somehow got the feeling she was a brunette stuck in the role of a bland blonde top-40 pop star. There was a Paris Hilton put-down that seemed out of place with "These words are my words... IloveyouIloveyouIloveyou."  Turns out her parents are both charity workers and she started out studying psychology.  Other big sing-along hit: "Unwritten."

New Kids On the Block: The Reunion! Well... the crowd loves its locals (except Chiki).  They'd been switched to later in the lineup because they were late, they'd gone to the Celtics game 7 of the East Coast Conference championships.  But a Boston crowd is going to blame them?  Especially since the Celtics won, and the New Kids wore some of the game jerseys.  They only did 3 songs and I didn't know any but they got their sing-along from people who'd followed them back in the early 90's.  The dance moves look even more lame now, sorry, guys.

Boys Like Girls: Dear gods. If Maroon 5 had crowd energy problems and NKOTB were coasting on local goodwill, these Boston rockers didn't care.  Coast on connections?  Hell no, more like challenge!   Feeling tired?  You WILL rock!  I'd already been thinking of describing it as "guitar-smashing energy" when the song ended and the lead did just that, smashed his guitar on the stage, beat it into pieces. "Great Escape" 'natch.

Sean Kingston: Another latecomer, this time due to plane problems (and another star, Flo Rida, never made it to the concert at all for similar reasons). The crowd was tired by now and there'd been a hiatus waiting for his entourage to arrive, but his DJ and side-singers worked them back into an appreciative mood.  Major hit: "Beautiful Girls."

On the ride home, it's a tradition to play the classical music radio station to wind down and not compete against the concert memories.  Memo to self: need to get a recording of Erik Satie's Gymnopedie #1.  

EDIT: Corrected the Cascada singer's national origin.




( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 19th, 2008 09:14 pm (UTC)
Re Cascada
The singer from Cascada....Natalie Horler..is not British ! She was born, raised and lives in Germany ! Therefore she is German !!!!!
May. 19th, 2008 09:41 pm (UTC)
Re: Re Cascada
Thank you! She sang many more lines than she spoke, and, given the other two, I obviously serious mistook the accent. *corrects main entry*
May. 19th, 2008 09:57 pm (UTC)
Re: Re Cascada
Hmmm... or possibly I didn't mistake the accent. She was born in Germany, yes, and raised there, but as a British citizen with English parents, which would likely make her English more British-accented than German-accented. But still, I should have checked before making assumptions.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )