Review: 106.1 KISS FM Jingle Ball at American Airlines Center

Posted 4:21pm on Tuesday, Dec. 03, 2013

The screams were like snowflakes, billowing and filling the air.

The intensity of the flurries depended upon who materialized on the American Airlines Center stage Monday, but from the first act until the last, the ecstatic shouts rarely abated.

‘Tis the season, after all, and this nearly four-hour marathon was the opening night of the awkwardly titled iHeartRadio Jingle Ball Tour 2013 (it will stop in 11 other markets). A seasonal celebration in corporate-sponsored signage only (hardly anyone acknowledged the impending holiday from the stage), the 106.1 KISS FM Jingle Ball itself felt, intermittently, a lot like Christmas.

There were presents (presence?), blinding light displays, a frantic sense of forward motion and an undercurrent of melancholy, which occasionally bubbled up from under all those screams and surface flash.

Kidd Kraddick, the face and voice of KISS FM who died suddenly in July, was absent this night, although the remaining members of his “Kidd Kraddick in the Morning” crew were on hand at various points, including just prior to the final performer of the night, Pitbull, when they brought out Kraddick’s daughter, Caroline, shoeless and beaming from dancing backstage.

A dollar from each ticket sold benefited the Kidd’s Kids program of the Kraddick Foundation, and even if it wasn’t explicitly mentioned throughout the evening ( “I want you loud enough for Kidd to hear up there,” Jose “J-Si” Chavez exhorted the audience at one point), the late radio personality’s absence was felt. (Rapper Flo Rida even went so far as to say “Without people like Kidd Kraddick, I wouldn’t be here tonight.”)

But those moments of reflection were few — the emphasis Monday was upon having a ball. The roster of performers was a fairly accurate snapshot of modern pop music, with rising stars and starlets mixed in with more veteran performers, all of whom were given tight windows of time in which to dole out the hits and nothing but.

From Jason Derulo’s forgettable R&B-laced dance routines to Ariana Grande’s letter jacket-clad dancers to Selena Gomez’s own, strenuous exertions, the presentation — doubtless hampered by the wham-bam set-up on a turntable that kept the evening running fairly close to schedule — felt retro, despite the splashy stage design, with staggered screens scrolling tweets and displaying the performers to those seated higher and farther away.

Robin Thicke’s three-song set — which, yes, featured Blurred Lines — was over before it began, as was the surprisingly enthusiastic turn by Enrique Iglesias, but for some acts, 20 minutes felt like an eternity. OneRepublic’s mewling pop-rock couldn’t end quickly enough, just as native Texan Austin Mahone (the year’s new model of Bieber), Fifth Harmony and SoMo each worked hard for no discernible benefit (unless, of course, we’re counting the volume, in every sense of the word, of screams).

The stop-start nature of these radio station shows makes it tough to suss out much of how one particular artist fared over another, and leaves, instead, ample time to ponder the state and trajectory of pop music as one year wraps up and another prepares to unfold.

Monday night, there wasn’t a sharp, clear sense of pop’s dominant narrative in 2013 — the battle between airless, soulless EDM, hip-hop swagger and pre-packaged groups ideal for adolescent swooning — and often, squinting into the dazzling lights and peering up at the screens, it was possible to feel something resembling a chill.

Or perhaps that was just those ceaseless screams, frosting the spine like drops from a melting icicle.

Those flurries and bursts and ankle-deep drifts of screams, bringing with them the sad recognition that another year has passed, and this Jingle Ball providing ample proof — in crystalline clarity, like a blanket of freshly fallen snow — that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Preston Jones, 817-390-7713 Twitter: @prestonjones

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