Jingle Ball 2016 at Xcel Energy Center
Featuring: Backstreet Boys, Fifth Harmony, G-Eazy, Diplo, Alessia Cara, Hailee Steinfeld,
Tove Lo, Lukas Graham, Gnash, Jon Bellion
December 5, 2016
Review written by: Caleb Baumgartner
Photos by: Patrick Dunn
Once again, St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center provided a perfect venue for a fantastic concert, this time the overwhelmingly well organized event that is KDWB’s annual Jingle Ball. From the fun holiday swag at the door (hello, elf hats and little reindeer antlers) to the excellent performances on the stage, this event felt fun, it felt big, it felt exciting, and delivered on multiple levels.
This year’s event featured a stacked bill of artists, headlined by the likes of Diplo, The Backstreet Boys, G-Eazy and Fifth Harmony, accompanied by a slew of wonderful performers such as Jon Bellion, Gnash, Hailee Steinfeld, Tove Lo, Alessia Cara, and Lukas Graham. In the midst of such an extensive lineup, one might expect at least one or two of the acts to drag or perhaps not appeal so well to the crowd, but the reality was that in spite of the genre differences from one act to the next, every act killed on stage, and the downtime between acts allowed those gathered on a Monday night the time for a breather to bring an incredible amount of energy to every set and every performer.
While every act brought an incredible performance to the stage, the surprising standout of the evening had to be the performance of Lukas Graham, whose unique sound and energy stood out amongst even the headline performers. Encouraging fans to live in the moment by telling them “if you’re filming it, you won’t remember it,” Graham seemed to be able to break some of the ingrained habits that modern concert goers have developed, diminishing, if just for a time, the need for people to capture a moment and giving them an opportunity to actually experience it, something of a lost art in an era where everyone has cameras that they use all the time. It was remarkably refreshing to see people put their phones down for a moment and sing and dance with one another without concern for their social media presence, and Graham’s music was the perfect soundtrack for that sort of experience.
Perhaps the most surprising moment of the show was the massive reception for The Backstreet Boys. In an audience that was dominated by youth, the Backstreet Boys received one of the loudest and longest ovations of the night, and the crowd sang along to hits like “Larger than Life” and “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)”, a fact made all the more amazing when one considers that those singles are likely older than most of the people in attendance at the event. It is absolutely remarkable to consider that The Backstreet Boys continue to have such a broad appeal, though given the catchiness of the tunes, it is maybe not all that surprising. The Backstreet Boys’ set, which, like most of the sets of the evening, consisted of only a few songs, but served as something of a teaser to plug their upcoming Las Vegas residency and an assurance that all these hits, and more, can be had at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in 2017.
From a technical standpoint, this event went off with virtually no issues and it was clear that those behind this event spared no expense to make sure it went smoothly. This was an efficient, well-organized production from top to bottom, with excellent transitions between artists which, as noted before, allowed the crowd a bit of rest to maintain a constant high energy level, while also serving as sly commercial breaks for event sponsors. The video and audio production was top notch, with the only complaint being that it was maybe on the bassy side, but given the genre and audience, that complaint is probably without much merit. Diplo’s set in particular benefited from the excellent execution of a light and pyrotechnic show which, while blinding on occasion, perfectly complimented the music and gave the entire venue a nightclub feel.
Given the quality of the event, KDWB’s Jingle Ball created, perhaps for the first time in history, a Monday that even Garfield could love. The crowd was loud and enthusiastic for the whole show, singing along to what songs they knew, dancing along to the ones they didn’t, and showing appreciation for the artists between every song and at the end of every set. The quality, positivity, and enthusiasm of the artists blended perfectly with the youth and energy of the crowd to create the perfect environment to counter this already dreary winter and to truly kickoff the holiday season with more than a bit of good cheer. There likely wasn’t a person in attendance who didn’t feel as though they got their money’s worth, and hopefully more than a few people were introduced to an artist they were unfamiliar with and can go home with a hunger to seek out even more music. Both a great show in and of itself and an excellent platform for young artists, the Jingle Ball succeeded on multiple levels to deliver a wonderful experience to the Twin Cities.