Dec 17

Star 94's Jingle Jam brings 90s love with Backstreet Boys, Goo Goo Dolls

By: Rodney Ho

Published: December 17, 2013

Last year, Star 94's Jingle Jam focused mostly on up-and-coming acts with the likes ofPhillip Phillips, Alex Clareand Ed Sheeran.

This year, they've opted for five acts that duly encapsulate the sound of Star over the past 18 years, highlighted by two that broke it big in the mid-1990s: the Backstreet Boys and the Goo Goo Dolls.

Combined, the two bands have more than 20 top 10 hits and gazillions of screaming lady fans. But based on the reaction of the crowd last night at Gwinnett Arena packed with soccer moms and their kids, the Backstreet Boys are back and still the kings of boy band pop.

Sure, the crowd was polite and stood for the Goo Goo Dolls' brief seven song set. Johnny Rzeznik showed plenty of verve and didn't appear remotely bored by the fact he was singing "Slide" for the 2,000th time. But given their radio-friendly but ultimately toothless pop songs, I was befuddled that they even have a song called "Rebel Beat." The Goo Goo Dolls and "rebel" are mutually exclusive. Their best hit song, the sad "Iris" brought out Avril Lavigne, who did her best to duet the song off the cuff.

Avril doesn't always stay in key or even gets the words right but I get a sense this was done on the fly, not rehearsed. Watch here.

A couple of years ago, when Daughtry performed, half the audience had left by the time he arrived on stage. This year, virtually the entire audience stuck around to the very end, even if it meant the kids were going to sleep well past bed time. The 30something moms were going to have to deal with the consequences later so they could swoon over Nick, A.J, Howie, Kevin and Brian and party like it was 1999 all over again.

The boys - or what we would now phrase middle-aged men - did not disappoint. They sang most of their major hits, goofed around and threw in a few jokes. ("Where's Justin Timberlake?" Nick Carter asked, tongue firmly planted in cheek at one point.)  Brian Littrell, who lives in town, said with sincerity how great it was to be home and remembered how exciting it was to perform in the 1990s first at the Fox Theatre, then Philips Arena, then the Georgia Dome. A.J. McLeaninexplicably wore a Duck Dynasty beard. Was it real? I couldn't tell.

At one point, they went acoustic and brought out guitars and an organ. "A boy band playing instruments?" A.J. cracked. "What has the world come to?" Nick called it "our insurance policy."  And since you are here more to see what they looked like more than read my copy, here are some photos: Check out a photo gallery here.

The group also  did a bit of "It's Christmas" to embrace the season: Watch here.

I missed Colbie Caillat, who opened with a brief set but her happy, bubbly, brighter than the sun pop confections are not my jam. Avril Lavigne brought her faux punk-pop pretenses to the arena with a smile and not a whit of punk attitude. Her long blonde hair makes her look more likeGwyneth Paltrow than Shirley Manson (whose face was embossed on her guitarist's T-shirt). Still, she sounded great, bounding around, punching her arm in the air a lot.

The Fray, the piano-driven Denver band, brought high doses of sincerity and longing, courtesy ofIsaac Slade, the bald lead singer with the emotive voice. Despite a short set, he did an extended eight-minute version of "How to Save a Life" that somehow worked.