If you were of a certain age during a certain recent era, then you remember the importance of going to the mall. It was everything. The stores you walked into cemented your class, the people you walked with cemented your status, and the things you purchased cemented your value. The mall was everything, or nothing; it was something.
Memories of these teenage investments flooded my brain as I spidered my way around the rink’s perimeter in First Niagara Center on Friday night, when Kiss 98.5’s Kissmas Bash cemented another preteen milestone.
Lap after lap, the same window-gazing took hold of these mini mall-walkers—in line for burgers, in text-lit huddles, in combustible scream-offs. It would appear the mall is not dead.
And what were they buying? They had plenty of fun, that’s for sure. They may have screamed like their wardrobes were being scalped, but, I mean, it sounded fun. And though they seemed to exit their bodies at the mercy of whoever was on stage, and though they sang along to every personalized lyric, and though they swooned at the mere mention of Nick Jonas’s abs – because, of course – their attention was nevertheless diluted of any loyalty. Ahh, to be young again.
The evening’s bill worked, too. Nico & Vinz, two black singers from Norway, delivered Police-inspired hip-pop, which rightfully appealed to parents who might have remembered the tribal beats of Paul Simon’s “Rhythm of the Saints.” They mentioned their race at one point, its perceived incongruity with their origin and music – their entire product – signaling one of many “be who you are” messages of the night. Then they launched into a Cajun bounce-along that was simultaneously wholesome and not lame. A group truly for all ages.
This pair feels as possible as Bruno Mars, even if their creative involvement in their music is unclear. One little man who danced his shoes off in the aisle near me proved their legitimacy. These guys are unique, be they from Norway, New Orleans, American suburbia or a combination of the above. It’s good to see difference for sale.
Leave the monotony for Echosmith, a punk-pop “indie” band that did nothing to help their plea for acceptance in “Cool Kids.” The song, favorable for its stance on individualism, didn’t register as resolutely as it wanted to. How do you preach to the choir when the choir is taking a selfie in the ice-cream line?
[See News photographer Sharon Cantillon's photo gallery from Kissmas Bash]
Jonas, however, who has spent most of 2014 curating his image as a serious adult celebrity actor and singer, did not disappoint. How could he? His aforementioned abdominals opened for him on an recent press tour and stole the show. But can he sing? Yes, of course he can, and dance, and he did well at both. And that’s cool, but not really the point. The line for hot dogs was empty for a solid 20 minutes, is all I’ll say.
The last time Jonas was supposed to have played Buffalo, he and his brothers pulled their bill from a torrentially rained out Darien Lake amphitheater. It appears to have been worth the two-year wait. He is slicker and smoother on his own, anyway. Nick’s eponymous second album is being called his “Justified,” and he has indeed arrived. He asked whether his fans felt “sexy tonight,” and by George, they might have. Regardless of their reaction’s tone-deafness for this mature material, they were buying.
If Jonas’ newfound maturity made for satisfying window shopping, Jake Miller, the self-proclaimed “22-year-old hip-hop artist from South Florida,” who sang of popularity’s woes and teenage kisses, gave them what they really came for: visibility, access, acceptance and empty calories.
Just another night at the mall.
Kissmas Bash featuring Nick Jonas, Charli XCX, Echosmith and Jake Miller
Friday in the First Niagara Center