Review: Justin Bieber leads a night of pop pomp at the Jingle Ball at the Tampa Bay Times Forum
The 2012 93.3-FLZ Jingle Ball shuffled into the Tampa Bay Times Forum Sunday night with its biggest name ever -- Justin Bieber -- in tow, and 13,886 fans were there to greet him.
All around, it was a night full of pop of all flavors: The hedonistic Ke$ha, the multitalented Ed Sheeran, the fun-loving Sean Kingston, the anthemic OneRepublic, the rambunctious Walk the Moon and the party-starting Zedd. But of course, Bieber was the star of the show, and as Sean Daly writes:
He's a pretty big act to be doing a radio-show bill, but this was an easy paycheck, as he (and his dancers, singers, full band, confetti specialists, fireworks igniters) opened a 10-song, 40-minute set with All Around the World. With hair high and white sneakers blinding, he kicked into current, if totally forgettable, hit Beauty and a Beat.
Now, it would be unwise to start this review by admonishing non-Beliebers, and then question the kid's durability. So I won't — for the most part. But the Biebs proved he can sing soft acoustic ballads (Be Alright, Fall), and he was even cool enough to be the only Jingle Ball act to actually do holiday songs, including Christmas Love and Mistletoe.
Click here for Sean's full Jingle Ball review. After the jump, get more of Luis Santana's photos, as well as our own report from backstage at the Jingle Ball.
Before the show, a huge crowd gathered on the Forum plaza for a free, mostly acoustic pre-show by The Ready Set, Disney princess Bridgit Mendler, Cleveland EDM prodigy DJ BeatBoy, and especially Bieber 2.0 Austin Mahone, who must've sent hundreds of teenage girls through a life change when he picked up an acoustic guitar to strum through 11:11 and a cover of Jesse McCartney's Beautiful Soul.
Tampa's a special place for Mahone; 93.3-FLZ gave him his first radio interview, and he said his aunt and grandfather live here, making this a special night.
"It's special, because they get to see me, they watched me grow up," Mahone later said. "Being able to be onstage in front of 15,000 people is just breathtaking when you're onstage, with so many people and you."
A number of fans in the VIP-only MetroPCS Celebrity Club got in early for an intimate acoustic set by Sheeran, including a rendition of his Song of the Year Grammy-nominated ballad The A Team. If you've ever wanted to see all of America's iPhones at once, this is a great way to do it:
There were a handful of behind-the-scenes zones at the Jingle Ball, including the Celeb Club, where most artists (aside from Bieber) held quick photo meet-and-greets with fans; private party areas for contest winners and sponsors; and a press area with a makeshift red carpet. Artists were all required to pass through the red carpet for the more than two dozen journalists in attendance, and some gave interviews, too.
For example, when Colorado's OneRepublic passed through, someone asked singer Ryan Tedder what he thought of the state's new pro-marijuana law. He said he saw both sides of the issue, thought it could be a good revenue stream for the state, but admitted he didn't quite know all the ins and outs of the law. And then he said: "I don't want to see people outside Starbucks smoking a bowl."
Without question, the artist that seemed to have the most fun on the red carpet (and beyond) was Ohio's Walk the Moon, a bit of an outlier on the bill (they'd seem like a better fit for 97X Next Big Thing), but it seemed like they couldn't have had a better time, getting goofy up for photos and hanging out long after putting in their requisite appearance.
"We're just hams," said guitarist Eli Maiman.
"To be invited to come to something like this is just a huge opportunity," said bassist Kevin Ray. "You're not going to pass up something like this."
The group arrived in Tampa fresh from the far more rock-oriented KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas in Los Angeles, alongside acts like Linkin Park, Rise Against and Garbage.
"To be able to play yesterday on a different coast with the caliber of aritsts from one side of the spectrum," said Maiman, "then fly overnight to the east coast and be able to play with artists of this caliber, which are at the top of their game -- I was sending out a tweet this morning saying we're playing with Ke$ha and Ed Sheeran and Bieber, and it's like, who are we? What are we doing here? Who mistakenly sent us an invitation?"
Walk the Moon's red carpet appearance was immediately followed by Ke$ha's, and the trash-pop hitmaker walked the red carpet for about 30 seconds before clearing out the interview room for a quick confab with Walk the Moon and a one-on-one with 93.3. This wasn't her only divatastic turn on the night -- when it came time for her meet-and-greet in the Celeb Club, she turned the backdrop away from the crowd, so no one could see her.
But that was nothing compared to Bieber. At about 8:35 p.m., the press got word that Bieber wouldn't be coming to the press area at all. Instead some 25 journalists and staffers were to be escorted down through the bowels of the Forum to a second, even more private photo-op area. We waited for a while, and eventually, after Ke$ha's performance began with We R Who We R and Blow, here came the Biebz, posing, not removing his sunglasses and generally looking like he wasn't having a good time, all for about 20 seconds.
Can you blame him?
At least, as Sean wrote in his review, Bieber seems to be evolving onstage.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*. Photos (except for Mahone and Ed Sheeran's acoustic set): Luis Santana, tbt*