Cody Simpson concert in Pottsville shows he’s headed into Justin Bieber territory
February 4, 2012
If anything was apparent from 15-year-old Australian singer Cody Simpson’s show Friday at Goodfella’s night club in Pottsville, it’s that with every wave of new teen idols, the industry gets more polished at presenting them.
Simpson’s show was just the second in his first solo tour (it started Thursday in Boston and he had a sol-out show Sunday at Philadelphia’s Theatre of Living Arts), But before a sold-out crowd of 800 in the packed Goodfellas warehouse club, it had all the touchstones of arena shows by Justin Bieber or the Jonas Brothers or, before them, ‘NSync.
Simpson had an arena-ready loud backing band (drums, keyboards and guitar/sampler), choreographed dancing (sometimes with two dancers) and even a costume change (OK, just a shirt change). Some of the songs were even sung with taped backing vocals.
And Simpson had a nice, confident stage presence that also hit all the touchstones: He came out on stage in a black suit with dark sunglasses and spent a minute simply primping and posing for his young-girl fans before even singing. He even drew screams for taking off the glasses.
He interacted with the crowd, reading out loud signs the girls held up, shaking hands with the front row, reacting to a screamed marriage proposal by saying, “I’m a little young to get married. But maybe I’ll come back soon.” He even commanded screams and hushed quiet by raising and lowering his hand.
And he brought a girl on stage to serenade her with “Not Just You” – slow dancing with her, kneeling and kissing her hand, and walking hand-in-hand with her.
All of this is stuff of previous teen idols. Justin Bieber and Big Time Rush both used many of the same tricks at Allentown Fair in the past two years. But it works. And none of it would have been nearly as effective if Simpson weren’t talented.
He is — a sort of Justin Timberlake-light with an RB/pop sensibility. The first few songs in a 12-song show (including all six songs from his 2011 EP “Coast to Coast”) and lasted a blink under an hour captured that.
Opening with “As Good as it Gets” and “I Found You,” kneeling and leaning into the front row on the former and adding spin dance moves to the latter.
“Do you mind if I get comfortable with you all?” he asked, to more screams, as he took off his jacket and rolled up his sleeves. “Do you mind if I get my guitar?”
He strapped on an acoustic and played two slower songs: The laid back “Crazy But True,” with the crowd swaying upraised arms in unison, and the more touching “Don’t Cry Your Heart Out.” And he danced sexily with opening act Jessica Jerrell on the poppy “Ay Na Na,” a track on which they duet on Simpson’s upcoming debut album.
“Who wants to see me do my two-step,” he said – to more screams – introducing “All Day.”
That song was the most egregious use of backing vocals, as his voice continued to come out of the speakers as he spoke different words into his microphone. And there were other such uses – on “As Good As It Gets,” it sounded at least as if his voice was enhanced.
But after leaving stage to change his shirt, he came back to sing the slow “Evenings in London” with no backing vocals, and he was clear and good.
He sang a new song off his upcoming disc – in just his second headline show, he said he had never performed it live, and, “I promise you’ve never heard it before.” But he also didn’t reveal the name – likely it’s “Listen.”
Simpson closed the main part of his set with, without an introduction, with his Top 40 pop hit “On My Mind.” And the encore was his debut single , “iYiYi,” with synchronized dancing and fast rapping. Both had lots of backing vocals, but both also needed them: The crowd sang along loudly to both.
A point about that: If you don’t think Cody Simpson is headed into Justin Bieber territory, consider the fact that the crowd sang along to many of the songs that haven’t been released as singles – and knew the words. Simpson also had a reggae lilt to a couple of his songs, ala Bieber and Sean Kingston.
Simpson has grown dramatically since he made a promotional stop at Northampton Area Middle School just 15 months ago
Not only that, but Simpson’s career now is being guided by Bieber’s manager, Scooter Braun. And even Jarrell, the opening act, was an opening act for Bieber on his big tour a year ago.
As for Jerrell, who said she has an EP coming out in March, the future doesn’t seem so sure. Her 25-minute, five-song set was unspectacular, including an acoustic guitar version of Cat Stevens’ 1970s hit “Wild World” and the Natasha Bedingfield-penned “Shoot for the Stars.”
Opening the show was 19-year-old Sebastian Rivera of Macungie, who unsuccessfully auditioned for the first season of TV’s “X Factor” and played at Mayfair last year.
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