About to experience live performances by Big Time Rush and Victoria Justice, revered stars of music and cable, thousands of young fans bubbled with excitement as they made their way toward the Darien Lake Performing Arts Center for a quadruple bill Sunday night. Boundless anticipation was in the air.
A swarm around the merch stand was 20 deep, an informal poll revealing that canvas tote bags and wristbands were the hot favorites. Homemade T-shirts were everywhere, espousals of love for certain members of the lineup in big puffy paint messages.
Three girls from Hamburg, with one girl from Ohio (Paige, Lauren, Bella, with visitor Miranda) reported that this night was a summer highlight. Most of this nonchalant group of seasoned concertgoers had seen headliners Big Time Rush twice before.
Summer Break Tour 2013 features multitalented and cross-marketed recording artists BTR and Victoria Justice, stars of Nickelodeon series “Big Time Rush” and “Victorious,” respectively. Rounding out the roster of crush-worthy good looks and ultra-catchy pop tunes were opening acts Jackson Guthy and Olivia Somerlyn. Both with crisp sets of 20 minutes, Guthy and Somerlyn amped up excitement for the headliners by repeatedly asking “Who’s excited to see Victoria Justice?” and “Who’s excited to see Big Time Rush?” to unbridled screams.
Somerlyn, of lovely soprano voice and equal parts rising pop diva and self-help imparter, shared that “It’s OK to not fight back, sometimes it’s best to walk away,” before her “I’m Just Fine.” “Only in the Movies” began with the message that “we’re all the stars of our own movies.” Known as a pianist as well as a singer, Guthy sat at the upright for a few songs, including R&B “Brothers and Sisters, ” available for free download on his site, he mentioned, and his collage of dance hits by Calvin Harris and Daft Punk, “Feel So Lucky,” his closer.
Then it was time for Justice, and her biggest fan, Elizabeth, was sitting next to me. Is she also a Big Time Rush fan? “Not really,” she sniffed. Elizabeth, 11, of Orchard Park, was at the show with her younger sister, Gianna, 6. Gianna wasn’t sure which act was her favorite. Their dad, Chris, noted that you “do what you have to do for your kids.”
A video montage of Justice’s recent songs played before a bouncing “Freak the Freak Out,” her opener, a tune about being unheard, but not for long. The chorus, “I’m so sick of it, your attention deficit,” set the tone for her hourlong parade of songs about empowerment. Her younger sister, Madison (of matching voice and silky long brunette hair), joined her for a lovely duet on “Cheer Me Up.” The refrain “Get your hands off my hips, or I’ll punch you in the lips,” from “Take a Hint,” was yet another lesson in assertiveness.
Justice spoke about her advocacy of both Zumba fitness dancing, and the charity “Girl Up,” in the songs “Shake” (when she was joined on stage by two in Zumba wear) and “Girl Up.” A video about the nonprofit, which empowers girls globally, led into the song of same name. Justice then covered MGMT’s “We Don’t Care,” before a dedication to her mom, who was “out in the crowd.” Elizabeth at this point of Justice’s set was a high-voltage beam of adoration.
During her hit “Gold,” a bouncing pop-rock confection, oversized gold balloons were launched from the stage, augmenting the party atmosphere. It was then on to the ultra-direct “My Best Friend’s Brother,” perhaps slightly over the heads of the assembled, about realllllllly crushing on her BFB. During her encore Justice asked “can I take a picture with all of you” to an ovation maximus. She mentioned that the image would appear on her Instagram stream.
A chant emanated from the back of the amphitheater: “Big Time Rush! Big Time Rush! …” The livestock around Darien Lake may still be remarking on the decibels of the screams of the Rushers (technical term for BTR fans) that were unloosed when the band was first sighted. Elizabeth was jumping up and down, now, apparently, much more a fan than stated previously.
Emerging on a split staircase, Kendall, James, Carlos and Logan sang beautiful harmonies during the first of a long string of hits, “Windows Down.” The four bounced on a mid-stage trampoline to change positions on stage. It was spectacular, frenetic showmanship. Carlos soloed on “Music Sounds Better With You,” before being joined by the others. “Song for You” and “Crazy for You” were back-to-back classic love tunes about a beloved in the spotlight.
BTR turned up the house lights and selected a Rusher to join them on stage. After several minutes of girls standing on their seats and waving frantically, they chose Lily. Lily sat among the band on a stool, apparently nonplussed. Each guy took a turn hugging her and James held her hand for most of “Worldwide.”
There were more balloons, confetti and a moment of near-anarchy when James, Kendall, Carlos and Logan left the stage to roam the amphitheater and edge of the lawn area. James climbed halfway up the ladder to the spotlight operators, never missing a beat during the extended version of “Boyfriend.” Their set ended with “Elevate,” a striking visual of plumes of smoke around each dreamy guy.