Live Review: KISS 108’s Jingle Ball hones in on the year’s heavy hitters of pop

KISS FM’s annual iHeartRadio Jingle Ball Tour has always maintained a significant history of not only giving parents a foolproof Christmas gift idea for teenage girls, but also recapping the year in Top 40 music with roughly a dozen different holiday pop concerts in major cities across the country. Naturally, Boston’s portion of the pie usually garners the best performers of the lot, because hey, it’s what we deserve.

The 2017 lineup at TD Garden in Boston last night (December 10) satiated every out-on-a-school-night 15-year-old, even though the show presented what felt like a half-accurate portrayal of popular music from the past year — especially considering the fact that Fall Out Boy headlined the show.

Maybe beefing up the target audience demographic in an attempt to rake in all those 20-somethings who had an angsty emo phase a decade ago, Fall Out Boy lured older (“older” here meaning not a teenager) fans into the event with the promise of excerpts of 2005’s From Under the Cork Tree, which they ironically delivered alongside the youthful glimmer of performers like Camila Cabello (20), Sabrina Carpenter (18), and Halsey (22).

Even looking across the board at national Jingle Ball dates, some key 2017 players seemed to be missing from KISS’ selections; While Kesha, T. Swift, Ed Sheeran, and Demi Lovato were slated to perform in other cities, some current Top 40 champions were excluded, such as Imagine Dragons, Selena Gomez, and Khalid. But what the Boston lineup got right, it absolutely aced, showing off the killer year shared by the likes of Charlie Puth and Halsey.

Breakout artists of the year Why Don’t We, Sabrina Carpenter, and MAX offered fans a glimpse beyond their hot singles of 2017. While Carpenter brought the glitz of an NYC Christmas to Boston with “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “Why” partnered 
back-to-back, MAX demonstrated a departure from his clean-cut Disney and Nickelodeon rise to stardom with the more mature and club-ready track “Savage.”

The teenybopper screams reached a new high (literally, the pitch was deafening) when bearer of the heat of 1000 fires Cabello stepped onstage, bringing the lust of “Havana” with her. Looking like she just walked off the set for Chicago in a blouse, corset, and black short-shorts, Cabello’s mini-set offered up the first smash hit of the night while simultaneously putting former bandmates Fifth Harmony to shame. The now four-person girl group may have performed second-to-last on Sunday, but their lackluster and mismatched choreography made even the booty-popping anthems “Worth It” and “Work From Home” feel stale. Cabello’s glow-up seemed to be the ultimate revenge (and we can only imagine if she and Fifth Harmony had any sort of exchange backstage).

Kelly Clarkson’s new album Meaning of Life slipped under the radar in the midst of other mega fall releases like MASSEDUCTION and reputation, but last night she gave guests the chance to catch up on any missed material. In between performing Meaning of Life tracks “Medicine” and “Love So Soft,” the American Idol vet unpacked “Since U Been Gone,” “My Life Would Suck Without You,” and “Miss Independent,” putting the highlights of her catalogue on full display.

Halsey followed up on Clarkson’s soulful vigor with a set that mimicked her last headlining show at TD Garden, which took place just two months ago in October. Basking in the holiday glow of her old Quincy Christmas memories, the alt-pop starlet performed her most recent singles “Bad At Love,” “Now Or Never,” and a stripped version of “Closer,” her overplayed collab with The Chainsmokers. Later bringing out Fifth Harmony’s Lauren Jauregui to perform the duet “Strangers” with her, Jauregui’s guest spot in Halsey’s performance was the best thing to happen to the Miami girl group all night.

But if there was a winner to be crowned that evening, it was Charlie Puth in all his unassuming white T-short glory. Without any of the glamour of a pimped-out outfit or massive stage setup, the Berklee College of Music alum cranked out five songs, all of which had rocketed on the charts within the past two years. Guests could take their pick of piano ballads and sadboy dance jams as Puth plowed through “One Call Away,” “See You Again,” “We Don’t Talk Anymore,” and “Attention,” all of which have been obnoxiously ubiquitous, to the point where anyone who listens to FM radio can recite each sappy chorus. Even new track “How Long” earned its share of high-pitched singalongs from steadfast teenage admirers.

“I’m still getting used to this live stuff,” he said, innocently fumbling over a song-to-song transition. The bashful moment was authentic and honest as Top 40 radio gets.

Photos by Victoria Wasylak; follow her @VickiWasylak.