DARIEN CENTER -- Where was the only place that you could watch LL Cool J perform an intense version of "Paradise" while at the peak of the Superman rollercoaster ride?
No other than KISS 98.5's annual KISS the Summer Hello concert, celebrating its 15th anniversary at a new venue, Six Flags Darien Lake. A heavy turnout (including the top 10 schools in KISS' High School Spirit contest) welcomed the sun's rays as well as up-and-coming artists.
Fun-loving Texas boys Bowling for Soup opened the show with current single singalong, "Girl All the Bad Guys Want." With lyrics drooling over a girl they could never have, "Cause she's watching wrestling/... listening to rap metal/turntables in her eyes/It's like a bad movie/She's lookin' through me/If you were me, then you'd be screamin 'Someone shoot me!," Bowling for Soup seems to playfully address a situation everyone has encountered: boy meets girl, boy attempts to get girl, boy fails. Sparing their audience the dramatic self-pitying, self-absorbed lyrics many punk bands favor nowadays, BFS instead seemed to have fun poking fun at the trivial problems teens face. The KISS crowd appeared to be more than ready to attack these problems along with them, mouthing the words while soaking up the sun's rays.
Frankie J slowed things down a bit with his harmonious ballad "Don't Wanna Try." He serenaded the audience softly, crooning about a broken heart and a broken relationship: "Don't wanna try don't wanna try don't wanna try no more/You keep on insisting when you know our love is out the door."
When actress-turned-singer Jennifer Love Hewitt took the stage, I wasn't expecting much. Yet she proved me wrong. Although her songs are laden with corporate sugary pop beats, and her lyrics aren't very deep, she impressed me and other listeners with her powerful voice and her enthusiasm onstage. Brightening the sky just a little more with "Barenaked" and "Can I Go Yet?," Love-Hewitt was one of the few acts who seemed to be happy to be at Darien Lake and happy to sing her heart out for her fans.
Hometown boys and veterans of KISS the Summer Hello, Seven Day Faith took the stage next to heavy applause. The band opened with current single, "Forever and A Day," from March release "Somebody Save Me." Currently at No. 24 on the station's playlist, this track has been in heavy rotation on KISS 98.5, which could explain why it was readily accepted by a cheering crowd. Blu Cantrell followed Faith with only two songs, ending with hit single "Hit 'Em Up Style (Oops!)." Next was Daniel Bedingfield (see accompanying interview), who showed through his onstage performance the same talent displayed on his records.
One act clearly blew all the others away: LL Cool J. With his charismatic stage presence, LL Cool J immediately captured the crowd's attention, garnering several rounds of applause, screams and catcalls. Taking the stage for almost a full hour, he played everything imaginable, including his older '80s material as well as more recent singles. Bringing back memories with "I'm Gonna Knock You Out (Mama Said Knock You Out)" and "Going Back To Cali," LL also catered to the younger generation by rapping his latest duets, "All I Have" and "Paradise."
To top off an already energetic performance, Cool J threw in a few extras for Buffalo fans. Halfway through his set, Cool J surprised the audience by uncovering a dozen red roses and handing them out individually to front-row fans. He then produced a second dozen roses and finished by tossing a handful of dollar bills into the crowd.
To finish off an already fun-filled day, Tyrese ended his set with the romantic ballad "How You Gonna Act Like That," followed by last act Sean Paul's rousing versions of hits "Gimme the Light" and "Get Busy."
Walking back to my car, I overheard a young girl exclaim, "This was the best day of my life!" I think it's more realistic to say that KISS the Summer Hello will be remembered by most as just another day of fun under the sun.
Molly Hirschbeck is a junior at Kenmore West.