KIIS Lady Gaga, David Guetta, Gym Class Heroes, Flo Rida, Nick Canon, Karmin and others
KIIS Jingle Ball
At Nokia Theatre
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, but the annual blizzard of branded radio station holiday concerts somehow brings in the season like nothing else: big production, bold names, glitzy amusements and assorted musical gifts.
Of course, the biggest gift is always the headliner at these things, and at this year's KIIS FM Jingle Ball Lady Gaga was the main event. While she didn't wear a Santa suit, she treated the crowd to a "KIISmas" themed set, complete with bizarre holiday props, costume changes and requisite childhood anecdotes. If you saw that weird Thanksgiving special she did on ABC a few weeks ago, just image it Yuletide-themed and you'll get the idea.
Before jolly Saint Gaga took the stage, outside of the Nokia Theatre a winter carnival and stage featured a host of up and comers, including Justin Bieber wannabees, who took the stage for free shows.
We actually quite enjoyed the final act on that stage, a group of young-uns called Mindless Behavior, who offered impressively choreographed hip-hop pop conjuring Chris Brown and New Edition.
Inside, a duo called Karmin performed in an area in the middle of the theatre, like MTV's VMA side show acts do during commercials. Singer Amy Heidemann has great pipes and she can rap too. Like speedy spit style. We were impressed.
TV stars from tween shows like Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars also hung out and chatted in the center area, keeping the young crowd's attention during stage changes.
In fact, this show was shamelessly tailored for the ADD-generation. There was not a moment where there wasn't something to look at or groove to. Giant screens projected reporters from the backstage red carpet area, skits featuring KIIS personalities and commercials. Yes, we were subjected to real TV commercials from sponsors including McDonalds, Guess, and some college we can't remember.
We hung out there and in the gifting lounge for the first part of the show, watching Taio Cruz and Sean Paul's set from monitors. We generally don't do carpets, but for big shows like this they are always a hoot to observe.
Discovering Bieber Fever at KIIS's Wango Tango last year was particularly memorable. Willow Smith -- who flipped her hand/hair at us (not in a nice way) when we snapped a picture -- had on some crazy outfit that made up for the lack of Gaga close-up.
While the comforts of watching the show with celebs in swagville while sipping candy cocktails and eating Chick-Fil-A sandwiches was kind of awesome, it was time to get "party rocking in the house," as LMFAO would say.
Indeed, we walked in the theatre during Nick Canon's DJ set, while he played the obligatory party anthem, and a bit of his wifey's Christmas music too. Flo Rida followed, offering an interactive set that saw him take a "rida"-around the venue atop a minion's shoulders while he sung the rap-infused rips on Dead or Alive ("Right Round") and the Echo & the Bunnymen ("Sugar"). The guy gives it his all, but we'd still rather hear the original tunes un-tweaked.
Gym Class Heroes also do the classic-cut rework thing. They opened with "Cupid's Chokehold," featuring the chorus from Supertramp's "Breakfast In America." The guy singing the live chroruses for all their songs was good, and front man Travie McCoy is a deft rapper, but his chill demeanor is sort of a bore in a big venue.
David Guetta was just what the place needed to get the crowd going. The producer/DJ has, for better or worse, helped bring electronic music into the mainstream pop realm, mostly due to his work with The Black Eyed Peas.
On the red carpet and on stage he talked about this and pretty much took credit for it too, but he's so kid-like and enthused he never comes off douchey. (Maybe it's the accent?). When he's at the decks, he's actually quite dorky. He does know what he's doing though, expertly fusing infectious pop choruses and slowly building them until they reach an all-out techno crescendo that get his crowds quaking, perfect for the kiddies who have lots of "H" (hyperactivity) in their ADD.
Gaga kept the crowd waiting for quite a bit, but she didn't disapoint, emering atop a mangled motorcycle Christmas tree contraption in a red bedazzled get-up. Three costume changes followed, during which we had to watch more videos.
Gaga review below.
We find her a bit corny when she speaks, but at least she does seem earnest. She spoke about her love of pop music and how she was proud to have spread it to the masses via stations like KIIS, and she talked about being a kid and going to concerts such as the one she was playing. She also spoke of Christmas and offered a rendition of "White Christmas" (changed to White KIISmas) that was pretty stellar.
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There was tons of choreography and lights and drama during her Born This Way-heavy set, especially at the end when she mimicked the gurney and hospital robe seen in her latest video "Marry The Night," and during our least favorite song, "Judas."
Our favorite part was probably one of the most pared down, when she stood near the front of the stage solo and performed new wavey versions of "Just Dance" and "Poker Face" on a red keytar that looked like a Lego christmas tree.
The Crowd: White tweens and their parents.
Critical Bias: We really liked hanging out in that Gifting Lounge.