I've outlawed guilty pleasures in my life. As I believe honesty is the best policy, why not apply that rationale to my musical tastes? Consider that your warning for what you're about to read...
There's something special about pop concerts—and though I'm the oldest non-parent in the audience, that doesn't bother me. Because not only do I get all the infectious songs from the radio, but pop shows tend to have a lot more money in them so there are the ridiculous sets, props, lighting and costume changes—all putting the show more on par with a traveling Broadway production than a concert in a dank bar, even if a band on the big stage plays its own instruments. And there are pleasant surprises such as hearing the Flaming Lips and the Strokes playing overhead during the set change overs (at the Jonas Brother concert I caught earlier this year).
But the best part of a gargantuan pop show is that the level of excitement that is unmatched by any other shows. Catching a Blazers game in the Rose Garden comes close—with that many people cheering in anticipation and being so involved—but most of the attendees there are adults. Teens, on the other hand? They're so excited to almost
be grown up. They've got their whole lives ahead of them. Everything still is possible for everyone in the venue. The pressures of adult life—paying bills, fretting about insurance coverage and the daily grind of work—have yet to hit them, so the excitement is totally unencumbered. It can wear off on you a bit. For many at the Roseland on Friday night, the shared belief was that Metro Station's most popular member, Trace Cyrus, could somehow be theirs.
Unfortunately I was only able to catch the tail-end of opener Cash Cash's set, which began precisely at 6:30 pm. From where I stood I couldn't quite make out the age range of the group, only that the frontman strongly resembled Joe Jonas of the Jonas Brothers (who represents the pure end of the spectrum in terms of what's presently being peddled to teenage girls). Cash Cash constantly demanded further applause and cheers, a demand that was met every time. Then they'd say it wasn't loud enough, although the first time had seemed like the loudest mob I'd ever heard—a feat considering the number of pop concerts I've been to (including "No Strings Attached" era *NSYNC).
Decked out in athletic gear, the group closed its performance with the vocoder heavy tune, "Party in your Bedroom." Sample lyrics:
There's a party in your bedroom all night long
There's a lot of talk about you
Cause there's a party in your bedroom all night long
Pretty girl, it's your show, let it go, when you're alone
Lips sealed tight, don't say goodnight
Dancing with your hands turning strangers into friends
Touch the keys please, and unlock my heart
You're free to be a freak, change your picture every week
Show the camera, you're a superstar
Upstairs all alone, one click for a show
Your roof is on fire you're loosing control
There's a party in your bedroom all night long
Think T-Pain has overused autotune and that Kanye sounds just plain awful with it? Neither touch the appalling territory Cash Cash brought voice manipulation to—but in the latter's case, it didn't matter. It was all in good fun and at concerts like these, that's all that matters. For the final few choruses of the song, the members of Metro Station paraded out on stage to chime in on the mics, eliciting all the more deafening screams from the mostly female crowd. My ears loved me for not bringing earplugs.
So Cash Cash finish, leaving the stage and me confident enough to text a friend to tell her she's missing out. White Tie Affair, the next act to grace the stage, promptly brought an end to that clout. Prior to the show I'd gotten an email from Casey saying, "they sound like a cross between the Killers and Justin Timberlake. They are the it thing right now." However he was just repeating publicist-speak, so the blame for them not living up to that mythical description can't fall on him.
The quintet came onto stage swearing up a storm and referring to the assembled middle schoolers as "motherfuckers" who couldn't scream loud enough to its tastes. If the White Tie Affair resembles any pop act, Vanilla Ice seems like a more appropriate comparison for the group as its frontman was a spitting early '90s image of the "Ice Ice Baby" purveyor: horrible hair, parachute-like pants and angry posturing included. I was also disturbed by how out of tune his vocals were. His inability to carry a tune was less like Justin Timberlake and Brandon Flowers and more like American Idol reject William Hung
At that point I had to leave and didn't return until Metro Station took the stage at nine which meant I also completely skipped out on Tyga who performed at 8pm. I think it was the right choice though as later in the evening I overheard a girl saying Tyga was the "worst band ever." Worse than the White Tie Affair? Now that's
First thing's first: This debut headlining tour that Metro Station is currently on has perhaps the best (in terms of laughable-ness) name ever: The Disco Balls and Blow Up Dolls Tour. As for the stage set up? While low budget, it totally (and possibly inappropriately) embodied the tour's title with several blow-up dolls decorating the stage wrapped around stripper poles with black electrical tape strategically placed in Xs on their chests.
Before the quartet took to the stage, a DJ from Z100 graced the stage to lead the crowd in Metro Station chants and state the obvious: that everyone there was there for tattoo-sleeved Trace Cyrus. Why so hot? Well aside from being the adopted son of country crooner Billy Ray Cyrus, Trace finds himself in the even more ideal position of being half-brother to Disney's Hannah Montana
star Miley Cyrus. Standing in the audience that night I came to quickly realize that she was more than half responsible for interest in Metro Station, if only subconsciously. The desire to be her sister-in-law permeated the air and eventually led me to up to the desolate 21 and over balcony to escape it. But—lest I have led you astray—Miley Cyrus isn't the only thing propping up Metro Station's popularity. Just listen to its track "Shake It." Whether you like pop-rock or not, you cannot dismiss the song's hooks. The synth-heavy platinum gem is pretty powerful stuff when it comes to catchy radio bait.
When Metro Station made it onto the stage, it was clear eyeliner-loving Trace didn't shy away from the attention being squarely focused on him. His lapping it up was borderline absurd and at the same time wholly compelling. Let's establish a few things up front—the boy can't sing to save his life, but at least he isn't trying to. The 19-year-old's vocals were always delivered spoken word style except at one point towards the end when he took it upon himself to indulge in a few rap verses. Ixnay on the rapping, honey. Do. Not. Want.
Trace completely overshadowed his co-frontman Mason Musso throughout the show, jumping at every possible interval, trading his guitar for another for every single song by throwing it casually, yet dramatically in the direction of his awaiting guitar tech. He constantly made his way around the stage, to the risers and to interact more closely with the fans while not a single one of the other members took similar tours. He continually raised his mic-holding hand in the air to encourage more screams, but at weird times completely out of sync with whatever song Metro Station was playing. Even with that lack of rhythm though, he made for an excellent leader, albeit one worryingly skinny, though frighteningly ripped too.
Rather early in the show he dedicated a song to all those in attendance who liked MS before "Shake It" was released. This would be an appropriate statement if the band had toiled for three or four un-commercial albums before having a mainstream breakthrough, gaining legions of new fans in the process and wanting to thank those fans who'd been there from its unpopular start. Only this is the band's first album. Metro Station has only existed since 2006 after Cyrus' and Musso's respective moms introduced the pair on the set of Hannah Montana
which stars a sibling of not only of Trace's, but Mason's too. A better shout-out could have been: "This is for all of you who heard of us a whole two singles ago" or "to those of you who initially heard of us by way of Miley wearing our T-shirt."
As I mentioned earlier, I made my way up to the balcony, which was about as empty as a ghost town, but at least besting said ghost town's population of tumbleweed. There were a couple screaming fans up there, but for the most part it was people over 30. When Metro Station finally played "Shake It," as a part of its two-song encore (performed shirtless by Trace), I couldn't help but sing along. A guy sitting in front of me turned to look at me at which point I settled my bounce and wiped the miming off my lips. The second his head was back to face the band though, I was back to singing along and decided if he turned around again, I wouldn't stop. Maybe going to these shows is also like therapy, a step towards self-acceptance. Rather than hiding plausibly embarrassing anecdotes of one's personality, they're an act of embracing yourself for who you are and the fact that part of that equation is being someone who unequivocally loves "Shake It."
When it came time for the band to leave the stage for good, its departure was a drawn-out, theatrical affair. Trace wiped himself down inch by inch, arm-pit by arm-pit with a white towel before throwing it into a rabid audience. Then Mason upped the antics by bringing back out the chocolate cake he'd been holding earlier in the set when celebrating keyboardist Blake Healy's 27th birthday onstage. Mason stood front and center for quite a while exaggerating his decision over which patch of the crowd to throw it into to. Would he or wouldn't he? He did. One girl caught it and the second she raised her arms in triumph by holding her prize up in the air, all the other girls surrounding her just dove onto her. Sitting in the balcony provided a great view of the incident and the guy who'd caught me singing along earlier turned around and we shared a laugh. At that moment I realized I wasn't the only non-teen who gets a kick out of coming to Top 40 shows. Here he was, sitting with his friends, all of whom inhabited the late-30s, early 40s age bracket, all having such a fun time. The next night it was pointed out to me that they were probably parents. Fine.
But, I'm telling you, you haven't lived until you experience of the unadulterated fun of shows from bands like Metro Station, Jonas Brothers, Fall Out Boy—or anything else on Z100's rotation. Jesse McCartney is here on December 4th and Katy Perry comes through in late January. Tickets available now. If you're not brave enough for either of those outings, at least import the songs into your iTunes. I dare you.
Metro Station on Wikipedia
Photos by Nilina Mason-Campbell