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MUSIC REVIEW

Left is right at KISS 108 Jingle Ball

Justin Bieber proved that there is a wealth of talent behind his teen idol image at last night’s KISS 108 Jingle Ball in Lowell. Justin Bieber proved that there is a wealth of talent behind his teen idol image at last night’s KISS 108 Jingle Ball in Lowell. (Marc Andrew Deley/Crammed Media)
By Marc Hirsh
Globe Correspondent / December 11, 2009

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LOWELL - Last night’s KISS 108 Jingle Ball was officially sold out, as proclaimed on the sign outside Tsongas Arena and on a notice at the box office where tickets were actually being sold. It was a fitting welcome to a show at which everyone was pretending in one way or another.

Some took the form of good old-fashioned stage lies, like radio personality Billy Costa’s claims to have just happened to bump into each act backstage. Owl City frontman Adam Young, polite and sweater-wearing with angst-free earnestness as his small group made like a candy Postal Service, followed suit by claiming that he was thinking about moving here from Minnesota.

Justin Bieber came next, proving that there was a solid foundation of talent behind the teen idol façade, even as it was clear that he is content to ride the teen-idol thing out for a while. That led him to pretend that the audience member given roses onstage during “One Less Lonely Girl’’ wasn’t clearly unenthusiastic about the whole thing. Perhaps that was why he then ignored her, singing to the crowd instead.

Armed with only a hype man and a DJ providing a skeletal but effectively propulsive beat, R&B crooner Jay Sean delivered an excellent, no-frills “Down.’’ Unfortunately, he got sidetracked in aping the other acts and showing his sound-effect skills, and he never got back on track.

Coming off like Sum 41 without the snottiness, Boys Like Girls pretended that asking the audience to hold up their cellphones and light sticks for power ballad “Thunder’’ was the same as earning the moment for real. They drafted audience member Rachel to sing Taylor Swift’s part on “Two Is Better Than One,’’ but a roadie took her microphone and unceremoniously escorted her offstage before she was finished.

Sean Kingston followed with booming, clothes-rattling beats and hubris mixed with humility. With “Walking On Snow’’ and “S.O.S. (Let The Music Play),’’ Jordin Sparks pretended to be an electroclash queen, and it was convincing. Bieber joined her on “No Air’’ and showed his limitations next to her.

The hard-working, soft-rocking Fray closed the night by pretending to be the stars of the show, when the loudest screams were reserved for Bieber. If it bothered them, they didn’t let on. Neither did the audience.

KISS 108 JINGLE BALL 2009 At: Tsongas Arena, last night

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