The best thing about radio station “Jingle” shows is that they provide a sampler platter of pop.
Not an Owl City or Enrique Iglesias fan? Sit tight – in an hour or so you’ll get a few songs from Flo Rida and Kesha.
At Wednesday night’s inaugural Jingle Ball from new Top 40 station Power 96.1, the assortment of performers read like a who’s-who of the Billboard charts. Along with the aforementioned stars came newcomer Austin Mahone and headliner Justin Bieber, whom most in the ¾-full Philips Arena sounded obsessed with whenever his name flashed on the video screen during the four-hour show.
So how was the concert? Let’s get to it.
Justin Bieber: The king of the night didn’t take the stage until almost 10:30 – surely a challenge for those school-age kids with class in the morning – but if anyone was getting snoozy waiting for him, Bieber ignited the crowd the moment he rolled on stage on his skateboard.
“I’m Justin Bieber. You miss me?” he asked the hyperventilating throng.
Decked out in shades, red harem pants and a bandana around his neck, the squeal-inducer and his cadre of dancers romped through “All Around the World,” complete with pyro and confetti.
Though it was difficult to tell how much actual singing was happening during the quick-paced songs, the pop prince is a zippy little dancer and demonstrated some ace moves during his set, which included an appearance from old pal Ludacris during “Baby.”
But first, Bieber, who noted, “It’s been awhile since I’ve been in my second home,” plowed through “Beauty and a Beat” before pausing the tempo to catch his breath and segue into an acoustic set.
During “Be Alright” and “Where Are You Now,” on which he also played guitar, the 18-year-old demonstrated how nicely his voice is developing as he settles into his range.
If you missed Bieber at Wednesday’s show, no worries. He’ll be back at Philips Jan. 23 and just set another date, Aug. 10, with tickets going on sale Dec. 21. Hopefully his fans’ vocal cords will be rested by then and primed to scream some more.
Oh, Kesha, such a trip. From being carried out onstage by a troupe of men to her amusing commentary (“You guys are so attractive,” she told the crowd while sipping what looked like a beer) to perhaps the greatest request for crowd interaction ever (“When I say ‘blah,’ you say ‘blah,’” she instructed before “Blah Blah Blah”), she was everyone’s favorite kooky party girl.
In her black and silver sparkly leotard and black thigh-high boots, Kesha stalked the stage during “Blow,” strapped on a guitar during “We Are Who We Are” and thanked the crowd for supporting her new album, “Warrior” – “Whether you bought it or stole it,” she quipped.
She ended her 25-minute set with the first single from that album, “Die Young,” a pouncing pop song that sort of sounds like every other Kesha song but is still enjoyably catchy. She even included the tribal drum breakdown – similar to her performance on the “American Music Awards” last month – as a cue for a shower of confetti.
Flo Rida: The hip-hop-pop star from South Florida came primed to incite a party and he succeeded, with his band adding an impressive fullness to his songs, starting with “Good Feeling” into “Let it Roll,” which sounded as brawny as Flo’s physique looked.
Flo paused briefly to announce that his guest, “changed my life,” before sometime-Atlantan T-Pain bounded out to join him on the irresistible club banger “Low.”
Enrique Iglesias: Considering he was just here in August on his tour with Jennifer Lopez, it wasn’t too surprising that Iglesias performed so early in the show and for only 20 minutes.
But the scruffy Latin heartthrob packed a wallop of hits into his time onstage, wisely delivering the clean version of “Tonight I’m Loving You” with his band, including a percussionist who added an extra coat of rhythm to the stomp-n-clap “I Like How it Feels.”
Iglesias also traveled back about a decade for his cloying ballad “Hero,” a song released before a big chunk of this crowd was even born, before announcing, “Let’s get crazy” and diving into the effervescent, Lionel Richie-sampling “I Like It” as his specialized “ei” engraved balloons fell from the rafters.
Owl City: Adam Young and his cohorts opened with their first hit, the airy “Fireflies,” which was given a bit more weight thanks to the inclusion of electric guitar.
Young and the four musicians who tour with him as Owl City offered the new song, “Shooting Star,” which falls easily into his repertoire of catchy-chorus-synth-pop, as well as his frothy summer hit with Carly Rae Jepson, “Good Time,” her part handled by keyboardist Breanne Düren.
Austin Mahone: The 16-year-old from San Antonio is the latest on the list of lightweight teen stars aimed at the TeenNick crowd. And while his quick set, which included his new single “Say You’re Just a Friend” (which samples Biz Markie’s ‘80s hit), didn’t make any jaws drop, he’s cute, harmless and primed to be embraced by Top 40 radio.
For more photos from Jingle Ball, check out our gallery.
By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene