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Review: Pepsi Super Bowl Fan Jam brings out the stars

Posted 11:28pm on Thursday, Feb. 03, 2011

Frigid temps and slick roads couldn't keep the crowds away from Verizon Theatre Thursday night, as the Pepsi Super Bowl Fan Jam concert series kicked off with a partially live broadcast on VH1. (The series continues through Saturday.)

It was "partially live" in that Duran Duran kicked things off a little before 7 p.m., pre-taping much of its performance that would air later, during the broadcast at 8 p.m. The British synth-poppers were followed by Jason Derulo, who wasted little time stripping out of his shirt, before the "real" show got going, with Derulo returning to the stage after a brief break. Kid Rock brought up the rear, closing out the final half hour of the live broadcast, which was hosted by supermodel Marissa Miller and a parade of NFL players (none from the Packers or Steelers, though).

Pop sensation Jason Derulo, elder statesmen Duran Duran and raucous rocker Kid Rock were all on hand, although, as noted above, only Derulo and Rock were truly "live." (And even then, Derulo lip-synced much of his two-song set.) Duran Duran acquitted themselves well, showcasing a few so-so tunes from their forthcoming album, All You Need Is Now. It goes without saying that no one took much notice until Hungry Like the Wolf or Girls on Film. The '80s staples still sparkle, although the band has played them so often that, despite how well the songs hold up, they still felt like the obligations they really were.

Derulo, shamelessly aping the fluid dance mannerisms of vintage Michael Jackson, also came off as third-rate Usher during his bifurcated appearance. His songs -- Riding Solo, Whatcha Say -- have earned heavy rotation, but beyond a bevy of back-up dancers and a startling lack of charisma, the Miami native did little to differentiate himself from contemporaries like Bruno Mars.

Kid Rock, the evening's nominal headliner, could knock out this sort of event in his sleep; until the cameras shut off, he did seem oddly restrained. Immediately after the broadcast ended, he asked "No more TV, right? Right?" before ripping into a song whose name isn't suited for a family publication. It was just the sort of raucous spark you expect from the musician whose songs slop indifferently over the boundaries of rap, rock and country.

The theatre, which was a little over half full by the time the main event got underway, was dressed to the nines. A lavish set adorned with the Pepsi logo and two large high-def screens made the usually austere space seem like, well, a TV studio. The easygoing crowd was well-lubricated and gladly indulged the disembodied voice of the show's director asking everyone to "get crazy."

The stop-start nature of the evening made it hard to get any real momentum going -- not that the performers didn't attempt to whip the room into a frenzy. Sunglasses-clad Kid Rock kicked off his succinct broadcast set with fireballs and followed that spectacle by trotting out acclaimed singer-songwriter Jamey Johnson for a dazzling rendition of Only God Knows Why. It was a stirring, altogether poignant moment -- Kid Rock nodded to the tune's Nashville roots by liberally applying pedal steel beneath Johnson's grizzled growl -- and one which momentarily made an evening built to shill spring to life.

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