The annual KIIS-FM Jingle Ball concert treated pop fans to some of 2002's bigger hit-makers on Thursday at the Arrowhead Pond. Yet the assortment of divas, crooners and sassy teens amounted to little more than a few trinkets (and a lump of coal or two) wrapped up in a giant, flashy package topped with cascades of glittery fake snow.
Almost everyone mined '80s music in some way, from pop to new wave to rock. But the more distressing commonality among these disparate acts was a general inability to take their slick favorites to the stage.
Still, fans at the sold-out show squealed with delight throughout the four-plus hours, which featured brief sets by Mariah Carey, Australian disco dolly Kylie Minogue, R&B trio Destiny's Child, Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys, Justin Timberlake of 'N Sync, "SK8TR" girl Avril Lavigne, Ozzy offspring Kelly Osbourne, DJ-with-a-band Paul Oakenfold and token rock group the Goo Goo Dolls.
All offered brief performances on a brightly decorated revolving stage dominated by a Times Square-like cluster of giant video screens, an electronic ticker and a half-dozen or so smaller, ornament-shaped monitors that ceaselessly played loud radio-station promos, videos by the featured artists, DJ shtick and sponsor advertising.
This setup made the actual-size artists seem somewhat ... er, smaller than life, if you will. Probably the only act to live up to its videos was Minogue, whose show-closing presentation recalled '80s-era Madonna with the pumping hit "Can't Get You Out of My Head" and bunches of campy, "Rocky Horror"-esque dancer shtick, including bare-chested men in stockings, high heels and flirty can-can skirts.
Troubled songbird Carey couldn't compete with that, and she didn't even try. After whipping up the crowd by entering from the back of the arena, she spent barely 10 minutes on stage, singing her new ballad "Through the Rain" and a Phil Spector-esque holiday song (the evening's sole seasonal offering) gamely but with little of her vaunted power and range.
At least the Goo Goo Dolls had genuine heartland, sensitive-rebel appeal. But most artists proved more charismatic in two-dimensional form, whether it was the this-is-the-live-remix hits regurgitation of Destiny's Child or Lavigne's Alanis-lite fusion of glossy folk-pop and gritty punk-metal. Although "Complicated" and other tunes from Lavigne's debut album, "Let Go," demonstrated the promising Canadian's real facility for tapping the alienation, frustration and neediness of youth, she will have to log more stage time to achieve the oomph and spark of the song's video.
Osbourne (a last-minute substitution for the apparently so-over "American Idol" stars Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini) seized the moment with more verve. In gothic ballerina garb, she proved Daddy's little provocateur, asking the crowd to make gender-specific gestures during a song about masturbation. But while the title track from her punk-pop debut album, "Shut Up," had a goofy rebelliousness, she was hardly the Ricky Nelson of "The Osbournes" and would be much better off taking after her mum.
As for the dueling boy-band crooners, well, it wasn't much of a contest.
Neither had memorable material, but Timberlake displayed oodles more charisma than Carter, who favored Journey-esque anthems and a sugary take on the Cars' deadpan love song "Just What I Needed."
Both had live bands, and Timberlake brought out a gaggle of dancers to execute steps that were so lame he had no trouble doing them even with a broken foot. His hip-hop-flavored "Cry Me a River" and other songs may have been sanctioned by production wizards the Neptunes, whose Pharrell Williams made a guest appearance with Timberlake, but the 'N Syncer was content to plunder history with the Jacksons-esque hit "Like I Love You."