‘Tis the season… for radio station holiday concerts! And the biggest is the iHeart Radio Jingle Ball series of shows taking place throughout the country. The 2018 tour kicked off with 106.1 KISS FM at the American Airlines Arena in Dallas, TX on November 27 and featured performances from some of the biggest names on the radio pop charts, along with some of the brightest up and coming stars.
The show was a three-hour cavalcade of bass heavy music punctuated with multicolored lights, plumes of fog, lasers, and fireballs. Two video screens flanked the stage on each side showing the artists performing close-up, while a central screen was used for visual effect. The audience was on their feet, dancing and singing at the top of their lungs throughout the night, erupting with an extra reserve of energy when their favorites took to the stage.
For the most part, the show was continuous, with short pauses between sets while the stage was prepared for the next act. Although some artists obviously enhanced their sets with tracked recordings, most of the music was played live. A rotating stage setup allowed for quick transitions between bands.
Although this show wasn’t televised, it played like one, with video iHeart Jingle Ball bumpers playing between each set giving way to a block of TV commercials. Each act was introduced by one or more of the 106.1 KISS FM personalities, with an occasional contest winner or future pop star joining them to do the honors.
Three-quarters of the crowd was made up of young adults, teenagers, and young girls and all were, at one point or another, totally carefree and lost in the performances. Animated singing and dancing, accompanied by finger-pointing and simulated mic holding, could be seen in all directions.
At the other end of the spectrum was the remaining quarter of the audience. This rather prevalent group was made up of parents who, for the most part, sat back stoically and watched, content in knowing that they were giving their kids an experience. – even if the music was not really their preference.
The show began rather unceremoniously with a one-song performance by Dallas-native singer-songwriter Caroline Kraddick. Caroline is the daughter of the late DFW 106.1 KISS radio icon Kidd Kraddick and was a recent American Idol contestant. She also happens to be the CEO and “Chief Happiness Officer” of the Kraddick Foundation and Kidd’s Kids, a charity that her father founded for terminally and chronically ill children. Craddick performed her brand-new single. “This Love” to an appreciative, if unsettled, crowd, joined on guitar by her producer and co-writer Ryan Cabrera,
As she left the stage, the show “officially” started with an on-screen introduction and countdown leading up to the first full set.
Grammy-winning artist Alessia Cara brought her chill vibe to a very loving crowd. Cara has no interest in playing the flashy pop-diva or dancing around clad in outrageous, sexy outfits. Instead, she is content with letting her dynamic voice and natural confidence take center stage. Dressed in a baggy suit jacket and pants, Cara traversed the stage from side to side engaging with the audience as she sang and played a selection of her best-known songs. During her empowering single “Scars to Your Beautiful,” a video montage played showing people of all ages, sizes, colors, and looks as she encouraged everyone just to be themselves. A very strong message and refreshing set.
Setlist: 1. Here, 2. Growing Pains, 3. Trust My Lonely, 4. A Little More, 5. Not Today, 6. Scars to Your Beautiful, 7. Stay
Sabrina Carpenter comes from the Disney Channel school of pop stars, having starred on the show “Girl Meets World.” As can be expected, she put on a strong, polished performance. She has a very likable quality about her and performed songs off of her new album “Singular Act 1.” Flanked by two backup dancers, she struck a healthy balance between wholesome and sexy.
Setlist: 1. Almost Love, 2. Mona Lisa, 3. Why, 4. Sue Me
The shrieking hit another level when boy band Why Don’t We took the stage. Daniel, Corbyn, Jack, Zack, and Jonah appeared one by one on-stage, illuminated by two pinpoint spotlights. Their style was casual and their choreography relaxed. They never really strayed much from the boy-band genre, but the energy and excitement in the arena showed that these kids have tapped into the magic mined by their predecessors.
Setlist: 1. Trust Fund Baby, 2. Something Different, 3. 8 Letters, 4. These Girls, 5. Hooked, 6. Talk
Decked out in bright red PVC boots and jacket, Bebe Rexha took the stage to a sound that was had a much harder rock edge. She has a great stage presence and easy-going banter with the audience. Halfway through her set, Rexha experienced a wardrobe malfunction and had to zip up her jacket to contain herself. “I’m so sorry, Dallas!” she explained. “My top almost came off.” This did not seem to hamper her performance in any way, as she spent her set whipping her hair around, dancing, strutting, and gyrating to the bass-heavy beats. She has a very affable personality, singing “Happy Birthday” to an audience member “with the yellow sign” and borrowing a pair of light-up antlers to wear for a song from another.
Setlist: 1. Me, Myself & I, 2. Hey Mama, 3. I’m a Mess, 4. In the Name of Love, 5. Meant to Be
Shawn Mendes was obviously the act that most in the crowd came to see. The screams were deafening. As he strummed his guitar and ran through his hits, I noticed many of the moms in the audience – who were pretty quiet for the other performers – on their feet and singing along. They, too, raised their cell phones in the air alongside their kids to capture and remember the moment. Mendes has a very likable quality about him with an infectious smile and natural stage presence that suggests this guy is the real deal.
Setlist: 1. There’s Nothing Holding Me Back, 2. Lost in Japan, 3. Stitches, 4. Use Somebody / Treat You Better, 5. In My Blood
Things got a little weird for the next performer, rapper NF. Whereas the first half of the evening was laden with shiny, happy pop energy, NF took the stage to stark black and white lighting that barely illuminated him, giving him a sinister aura. You could only see the outline of his hoodie and could hardly see his face or his trademark black Joker-like makeup that surrounds his mouth. He came out in a cage and at one point climbed atop it, spitting out his rapid-fire lines. The audience wanted to continue in the fun but seemed confused. As his set progressed, he played more familiar hits and was able to pull the audience back in. Most happily sang along to the hooks but all but the hardcore fans stared bewilderingly during the machine-gun rapped verses.
Setlist: 1. Outcast, 2. Why, 3. Green Lights, 4. Lie, 5. Let You Down
Singer/songwriter Bazzi recently hit it big on ”Beautiful,” a Camilla Cabello collaboration. The crowd definitely approved of his styling, eliciting similar responses to those shown Mendes and Why Don’t We.
Setlist: 1. Myself, 2. Dreams, 3. Why, 4. Beautiful, 5. 3:15, 6. Mine
After a short delay, the night’s last act took the stage. Opening with his 2012 hit “Feel So Close,” The DJ immediately turned the arena into a rave, with an amazing laser show, fog, pyrotechnics and deep, pulsating rhythms. The entire arena bounced incessantly as he played through his catalog of hits. Funny though . . .Although I heard someone speak, I cannot confirm that Harris was actually on stage. No one could be seen through the smoke and lights! A fun and powerful ending to a night filled with many highlights.