Mayor Byron Brown declared Sunday “Kissmas Bash Day.” Sunday night’s holiday pop concert in First Niagara Center, sponsored by radio station Kiss 98.5, now holds the record for most tickets sold in the annual show’s history, which is now older than most of its attendees. This is a quantifiable big deal.
Scheduled to appear – take a deep breath, now: Robin Thicke, Shawn Mendes, Adam Lambert, Silentó, Omi, Charlie Puth, Becky G, Nathan Sykes, Allessia Cara and Jocelyn Alice.
A few stars, a few more stars-in-the-making. Some we’ll never hear from again. That it’s popular, for now, is the point. Who knows who will be around next year? Who remembers who played last year? Doesn’t matter.
Let it be known, for the record, that a recording of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” a song 21 years young, garnered more excitement and singalong than some live songs. Go figure.
This teenage ritual is important, no matter who you cheer for, a point triple-underlined this year with the jackpot visits of Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones and Stevie Wonder. I suggest that you scream along to your 14-year-old self’s favorite song sometime soon; it’s still exhilarating. And this Bash created such memories for a few thousand young dreamers.
Sykes set the tone succinctly from a small satellite stage: “Who doesn’t like Christmas?” The crowd goes wild. “If you don’t like Christmas,” he said, “get out.”
His acoustic “White Christmas” made that impossible. This small British lad has a strong, serious voice in his 22 years. Irving Berlin would approve. Singing “Over and Over Again,” he continued to impress sitting at a keyboard.
Thicke lays it on thick, without an “e,” and does a fair job impersonating an R&B singer. He has the full package, just no tact for an audience like this.
“Don’t give up on your dreams. Don’t give up on yourself,” he implored while wiping his brow, seated at a baby grand, knowing his room. “Anything is possible.” His song “Magic” is probably not about getting into college, but his point was made. “We got that magic,” he repeated, hip-thrusting on top of the piano, forgetting his room.
“Oh Shooter” had a nice groove going, thanks to a bona fide big band, until Thicke led a call-and-response of “Say, ‘No more guns!’ ” before a gospel-rock finale. I gave up figuring that out.
Super hit “Blurred Lines” is like a scientific certainty. No one sits still during this song, especially when asked to jump en masse.
Puth’s act was wholesome and appealing, “Some Type of Love” recalling Bruce Hornsby, of all singers. His piano playing occasionally broke free from his formulaic chords to riff quite nicely.
Puth’s “Marvin Gaye,” which invites one to “get it on,” is a catchy throwback, and super fun here. A duet version with Meghan Trainor is a perfect pairing. His ballad “See You Again,” written for “Furious 7,” earned him a Golden Globe nomination and three Grammy nominations, including Song of the Year. It plays like an anthem.
So does Silentó’s “Watch Me” – as in “Whip,” and as in “Nae Nae.” It’s a thing, I guess. The rapper didn’t appear to be performing live, which is also a thing. Whatever.
The reaction was catastrophic, but not as much as for Shawn Mendes and his acoustic guitar. The 17-year-old Toronto native is having a big year, after opening for Taylor Swift on her “1989 World Tour,” stealing many young hearts along the way. A girl near me screamed so loud I didn’t hear it.
Headliner Adam Lambert closed the show with a set of forgotten hits that did little to convince the crowd of their own excitement. Many walked out midset, before 10 p.m., which even on a school night is early.
I guess not even at a teen pop concert is every thrill cheap. Happy holidays.