The 172nd annual Erie County Fair got off to a big start Wednesday night, serving up Nickelodeon boy band Big Time Rush to a sold-out crowd of more than 8,000 mostly screaming teens in the Buffalo.com Grandstand.
The four actor-turned-singers are the stars of a show that premiered in January 2010 with the largest audience for a live-action series debut in the 30-plus-year history of the kids television network. Beyond that, there's nothing historic about Big Time Rush's act -- but nothing threatening, either. The most suggestive moment in the presentation -- certified safe for kids -- was WKBW Channel 7 Joanna Pasceri introduction remark that she saw one of the performers backstage with his shirt off. The only sign of any danger: a "Punk is Not Dead" T-shirt worn by the group's James Maslow.
Following a well-received half-hour set of made-for-TV sugar pop from Virginia-based quartet Days Difference, who played their own instruments, Big Time Rush emerged as Queen's "We Will Rock You" played over the house speakers. The group's four-piece band took to the back of the stage, opening with "Famous," and the lyrics that form the premise of the show, which pits four best friends on a quest from Minnesota to Hollywood: "Do you want to ride in a big limousine?/Tell me, do you want to take a little bite of the fame machine?/If you wanna be discovered, and end up on the cover/Of every star-studded supermarket magazine."
From the start, the quartet proved in the pantheon of boy bands to be more O-Town than 'N Sync, relying on pedestrian group dance moves and not much vocal harmony, and revealing little personality beyond basic banter between songs. The theme song that bears their name appeared to include some prerecorded harmonies during choruses, courtesy of the keyboard player, who led the band throughout the night with various synthesized lines. While Big Time Rush did sing live, harmonized moments were few among the four, all greater than the sum of their parts -- to put it in 21st-century pop context. It's tough to imagine either Maslow, Kendall Schmidt, Carlos Pena or Logan Henderson claiming an American Idol crown on his own. However, they win when together as harmlessly, charming kids who smile while singing fun and -- in the long run -- likely forgettable songs.
Even the drummer sang along while driving a pseudo-disco beat in "Big Night," before taking a break. Group members then sat down, with Schmidt donning an acoustic guitar to lead the four in a glance of real harmony, in "Stuck," followed up with a sparse take on "I Want to Hold Your Hand" -- a number that originated from the greatest boy band ever, the Beatles. With a full band returned, they brought a blushing girl up from the crowd for "Worldwide."
After singing "Any Kind of Guy," the group members announced they would return to Buffalo on Dec. 6 for the annual Kissmas Bash in HSBC Arena.
Brace yourselves, parents. Those screams become so much louder indoors.
Big Time Rush
Sold-out concert Wednesday night at the Erie County Fair, Hamburg.