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Review: Fifth Harmony brings joy, empowerment to Tampa's MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre

26

August

Two-fifths of Fifth Harmony hail from Florida, making Thursday’s concert at Tampa’s MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre something of a homecoming show.

“You guys know Lauren and I are proud Floridians, right?” shouted Camila Cabello, her fellow Miamian Lauren Jauregui looking on behind her. “We’re so happy to be home!”

An army of pre-teen Harmonizers (and slightly older Harmonizers at heart) was beyond thrilled to have them.

With a huge summer hit (Work From Home) in their pocket, Fifth Harmony has an honest argument for the title of World’s Biggest Girl Group – and, with the dissolution of One Direction, you might as well just toss out gender. True, only 6,000 fans piled into the Amp on Thursday – school nights are tough – but that’s not too bad in the era of the solo pop superstar, when grinding it out as a vocal group isn’t such an easy path.

It’s taken four years and plenty of discipline for Fifth Harmony to get from their reality-show roots on the American X Factor to the top of an American pop chart. And in that time, they’ve had to press and claw in ways that might sound familiar to other women, from skeptics questioning their talent to vultures pitting them against one another. Just this month, Normani Kordei quit Twitter after facing the same kind of racist, sexist cyberbullying endured lately by Saturday Night Live star Leslie Jones.

But Kordai, Cabello, Jauregui, Ally Brooke Hernandez and Dinah Jane Hansen have never presented themselves as anything other than a team – in fact, the title of their new album 7/27 refers to the date the group formed.

That’s all the more evident watching Fifth Harmony in concert, where they execute flawless five-woman weaves up and down staircases and across a wide stage, trading bar after bar like warbling Beastie Girls. Everyone gets mostly equal mic time, with no one member hogging the spotlight – whenever one wraps half a verse, another slinks in behind hind her to take over. This impressive vocal choreography gives the show a fluid, natural flow, and as a bonus largely eliminates the need for a backing track, as the band becomes its own backing track.

Amid all this collaboration and movement, each member had several opportunities to lead the way.

Performing two nights after chipping a tooth in Atlanta, Cabello – the closest thing the group has to a breakout member – dropped the hammer near the end of the electro-house-tinged This Is How We Roll. Jauregui’s deeper, breathier voice took over on I Lied and No Way, and Kordei kicked off a group-wide umbrella dance on Squeeze. Hernandez’s voice floated in and out of a falsetto on Gonna Get Better, and Hansen’s vulnerability shone through on Brave, Honest, Beautiful and We Know, which also offered an all-too brief snippet of stripped-down five-part harmony.

But it was when the members weren’t singing lead that their connection to one another felt most palpable. They marched in formation, whipped their hair in perfect pinwheels, swiveled on chairs and steps, engaged in a little mild twerking – and, most importantly, danced like they were genuinely happy to be there.

Throw in Fifth Harmony’s all-female backing band, and Thursday’s show was nearly an XX-chromosome sweep, with only Miami rapper Jake Miller interrupting the lady-centric flow. Victoria Monet kicked things off before sunset. And onetime tween idol JoJo, resurrected at 25 after years of label uncertainty, set the stage for Fifth Harmony with a short set of sultry yet emphatic bedroom grooves, interspersed with inspirational banter about loving and staying true to oneself.

"I like your shirt: 'Wild Feminist," JoJo said to a fan near the front. "That's what's up."

Fifth Harmony offered a bit of that, too, amid flirty, crowd-pleasing singles Worth It, Work From Home and Write On Me. And wouldn’t you know it, their girl-positive songs struck just as much of a chord as the hits.

It started with empowering fists flailing through the air on opener That’s My Girl, and came to a head on BO$$, a song about making bank instead of boyfriends, which earned howls of recognition from all the young hustlers in the house.

“I pledge allegiance to my independent girls in here,” all five members chanted, saluting the screaming crowd before them.

Not for the first time in their brief reign as pop stars, they deserved a salute right back.

-- Jay Cridlin

[Last modified: Friday, August 26, 2016 3:26pm]

    

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