Welcome to Consumption, U.S.A.
Aaron Carter, Jump5
Sept. 22, 7:00 pm
Aaron Carter heated up the FleetBoston Pavilion Saturday night with a spectacle that felt more like a three-hour Nickelodeon commercial than a concert. The fourteen-year-old rising star, younger brother of Backstreet Boy Nick Carter, provided a well-contrived setup for promoting his latest album “Another Earthquake” and a host of other pre-teen consumer goods.
Aaron’s opening acts, Triple Image, Jump5, and No Secrets, are variations on the bubbly pop theme that seems incapable of fizzling. “No Secrets” consists of five Mandy Moore clones with identical outfits and simultaneously gyrating hips. At least one parent found a mid-song striptease costume change too provocative, taking her son for an emergency bathroom break. As each group took its turn persuading the audience that it is the next big thing, I wished I had brought some homework with me. Finishing a problem set would have been less painful and perhaps more entertaining than differentiating between the manufactured groups.
In an unprecedented display of concert advertising, the main act began with a Steve Madden fashion show. Aaron Carter, hidden backstage, provided the background vocals as hip youngsters wearing the shoe designer’s latest looks strutted beneath a giant logo. On a different day or with another designer, the commercial interlude would have been a mere annoyance. The fact that Steve Madden entered prison on Friday to begin a sentence for money laundering and securities fraud made the segment humorously inappropriate. Nevertheless, many members of the fashion-conscious audience proudly flaunted their Steve Madden platform sandals, oblivious to the designer’s hard times.
Aaron brought the segment to a screaming halt when he finally emerged, clad in white from head to toe. His superstar-length topcoat was soon thrown aside, revealing more of Aaron’s boyish physique and generating deafening wails of approval from the female concertgoers. Seductively dressed buxom dancers provided an awkward backdrop for songs like “That’s How I Beat Shaq,” a single relating Aaron’s fantasy basketball conquest. Other songs centered on similar issues of concern for pre-pubescent males. Thankfully, the song “My First Ride” does not allude to an act of sexual intimacy. For this popular number, Aaron rolled onstage in a red convertible and sang of his first experience driving a car.
The least innocent of all the songs, “I Want Candy” carries multiple levels of meaning. The message of “Not Too Young, Not Too Old” echoed suspiciously of the single “Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman” by Britney Spears, with whom Aaron shares the Jive record label. Oh, well -- the rule in pop music is to stick with what works, and Aaron is no exception. A few beats into a cover of Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger,” Aaron forgot his lines, proving that, unlike Ms. Spears in her concerts, he was not lip-syncing. Whether he was actually singing is open to interpretation. Aaron even played the piano for part of two songs, including the somewhat inspirational “Keep Believing.” He dedicated this song “to America,” and by the end of the performance the oh-so-moving lyrics, with all their adolescent emotion, had compelled Aaron to remove his shirt yet again.
If any doubt exists that patriotism is profitable among this country’s youth, this show put it to rest. In a conspicuous display of nationalism, the young quintet Jump5 performed a hyper rendition of “Proud to be an American,” foreshadowing an even more dazzlingly patriotic Aaron Carter hit. Throughout “America A O” the little singer ran up and down the stage’s two levels waving an American flag three times his size. The banner grazed the ground as Aaron spun it out of control, but the fans didn’t notice -- they were too busy chanting “U-S-A” along with the video screens.
The biggest theatrical feat of the night, Aaron’s new single “Another Earthquake” featured a shaking, fiery set and flashing red lights. The budding seismologist proclaimed the song “a twenty on the Richter scale,” corresponding roughly to complete global annihilation. Even if the tune was buried somewhere among the rubble, kids and parents alike found themselves bopping to the addictive beat.
In the second of two premeditated encores Aaron, attached to bungee cords, flipped and soared through the air. The scene easily symbolized today’s pop music industry: marketing executives dangling an image in front of impressionable young consumers. A few blasts of confetti, puffs of smoke, and flashes of light later, the show was over, and thousands of satisfied kids had had the best night of their little lives. One five-year-old fan, $5 glowstick in hand, enthused, “I want to be Aaron when I grow up!”
Although “Another Earthquake” might not go down in record books, Aaron’s tour could cause consumption aftershocks for the next generation.