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Monday, Aug. 12, 2013

Big Time Rush @ The Riverside Theater

Aug. 11, 2013

big time rush
Photo credit: Erik Ljung
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On the surface, there is nothing particularly striking or obnoxious about Big Time Rush, a four-member boy band initially assembled by the Nickelodeon network for a children’s television series. Like New Kids on the Block and The Backstreet Boys before them, they seemingly embrace the standard roles that go along with the genre.  At the band’s Sunday night concert at the Riverside Theater, the near-capacity, predominantly under-15 female crowd screamed at an ear-piercing volume for bad-boy Kendall, with his wife beater and visible tattoos; jockish Logan, sporting baggy athletic shorts and a backwards baseball cap; sexually ambiguous James; and Carlos (the ethnic one).

Yet the fact that the members of Big Time Rush fit so easily into these standard boy-band tropes does not mean the group’s songs are inherently bad. Numbers such as “24/seven,” “Get Up” and “Confetti Falling,” all from the band’s latest album, 24/seven, are infectiously catchy dance songs. At the same time, the band was able to successfully slow things down with a series of mid-show acoustic songs. Numbers such as “Crazy for You” and the endearing “Worldwide” highlighted that the four members of Big Time Rush can actually sing. But as the group harmonized the lyrics to their “Song for You”—“I can be your bad boy, or baby I could be nice”—it became clear that no member of the band really had any sort of distinguishable personality. One never got the sense that, for all their talent, these four young men on the stage were really feeling the music. They were acting out preordained roles.

This notion that the young men of Big Time Rush were engaging in a form of self-conscious acting was brought to a new level at various moments throughout the show, when each band member would take the time to document the performance, in real time, with their smart phones. For an audience raised on such technologies and the social media platforms that they feed, such a move undoubtedly made sense. Yet it also made the band seem too self-aware. Perhaps the members of Big Time Rush need such constant documentation of their fame, for while the boy-band formula itself remains timeless, the products (and they are products) that it creates usually have a short shelf life. Big Time Rush, in other words, might not be so big next year.