Big Time Rush at Target Center, 8/10/13
|Photo by Tony Nelson|
|Big Time Rush. Left to right: Logan Henderson, Carlos Pena Jr., James Maslow, Kendall Schmidt|
Big Time Rush
Target Center, Minneapolis
Saturday, August 10, 2013
Big Time Rush are local boys made good. Sort of. After they told not quite a packed house, but still several thousand -- mostly Rushers under the age of 12 and their parents with a few teens mixed in -- that they'd "fallen in love with y'all once more," the band gave Logan "Mitchell" the honor of picking the lucky lady they'll serenade with an acoustic version of "Worldwide."
This is their signature ballad about that very special girl they're missin' while on tour. He finds a sign that reads "Logan, pick this Jersey Girl." Ashley, a 20-something super-fan who has seen their Summer Break tour 12 times, is brought onstage. After joking around with her about her lack of shoes, they all sit down, and the band thanks their fans for a laundry list of their successes -- three albums and a soundtrack, 61 songs, 74 TV episodes, four tours. Before heading into the song, one of the boys sums it all up: "For four boys from Minnesota, this is something special." None of them are actually from Minnesota, but the crowd still goes wild, again.
Big Time Rush is both a boy band and a Nickelodeon sitcom once described by the Boston Globe as a G-rated Entourage. They're a group of four hockey-playing friends from the North Star State who made it big in Hollywood, according to their back story on TV. In reality, the four members of BTR were brought together by a nationwide casting call. Kendall Schmidt, the leader of the group, hails from Kansas; James Maslow, the dreamy one, from California; Logan Henderson, the brainy one, from Texas; and Carlos Pena Jr., the goofy one, from Florida. All except for Logan had a long line of acting credits to their name, including Frasier, ER and Les Miserables on Broadway.
This isn't exactly a new model. The Monkees were created in almost exactly the same way, and show creator Scott Fellows names them as a major inspiration. Their two biggest contemporaries in the current crop of boy bands, the Wanted and One Direction, may not have their own shows, but they too were brought together by design: the Wanted by a casting call, One Direction by Simon Cowell.
There are two ways of looking at this. The first is cynical -- the show was created to sell records that wouldn't otherwise have existed to kids who wouldn't otherwise have heard them, bypassing the radio. Chart figures bear this out: while their highest charting radio single barely cracked the 70s, two of their albums, including this year's 24/Seven, debuted in the top five.
|Photo by Tony Nelson|
|Photo by Tony Nelson|
|Rushers enjoying the show|
At the same time, the idea of a band having a zany sitcom all their own is an oddly innocent throwback, and it's fun for the kids. Besides, seeing Nickelodeon bands through an especially critical lens may be a case of having our blinders on to the realities of commercial pop music. Stadium shows don't spring up out of the ground, and as a general rule Top 40 artists come from the coordinated efforts of huge media conglomerates as much as any particular individual talent.
Though there was some faltering along the way, at its best Big Time Rush can hang with their more traditional pop contemporaries. They entered at the drop of a massive Big Time Rush banner shielding their set, which was fairly sparse, including a riser, five light screens, and a DJ booth. Oh, and trampolines. Their opening song was the dubstep-infused summer jam "Windows Down," which led to a rare imagery of clean-cut kids jumping around on trampolines to wobbling bass throbs. More of their movement focused on working the crowd -- pointing out fans, shouting out specific sections -- than on coordinated dancing. This diminished their stage presence at times, though their pop-locking during the main drop approached Backstreet Boys levels.
Their sound was much less polished than it is on record at the start of the night. The harmonies were often a note or two off, and several lines got lost in the shuffle or weren't fully enunciated. Most of the first part of the set was like this: high energy, but showing a lack of tightness. Still, the boys know how to work a room, so if this slowed down the show's momentum in any real way with their fans it was lost on me.