It’s 2005 and I am in high school during the golden years of club rap, pop punk, and jam bands as a kid who thinks they’ve found new kinds of music no human has ever known the likes of. And in this same time as the last embers of the boy band madness are dying and even my younger self would think such music is about to go into hibernation a few male pop singers appear. One of those came out of nowhere and got my attention with his hit Beautiful Soul. A song girls at the time swooned for and as the wanna be Casanovas we were, thought could emulate and get said girls attention. I’d say most of the guys I knew failed in that attempt, but we can all still agree the song stuck with us. And at the Varsity Theater this weekend I had the chance to finally, 10 years later, see Jesse McCartney perform live. To me, 5 other guys my age, and a few hundred dedicate female fans in the packed theater high temps and all.
Now for those who looked at the lineup for the show like myself and saw nothing listed for openers you were probably just as confused. I was stumped why Jesse had no openers too until I called the venue while battling traffic to get set times. There was in fact two. The first was a group was Just Seconds Apart. I’m not sure if that is meant to be a huge pun but I am a fan of puns so kudos to them if so. After some technical difficulties with my camera I got to photographing and listening. Not gonna lie, I usually think pop bands are sort of dime a dozen. But these openers were both solid. Just Seconds Apart was a great kick-off to the show and props to their energy, particularly their drummer, they were excited to entertain and you could see it. Actually come to think of it all the drummers this show were noticeably pumped up, something in the Dinkytown water maybe.
The second opener, Public. At this point I was thinking ok these bands are all jokers because the amount of confusing statements their names could make is endless. “we’re going to see public tonight… wait what”. But I digress!. Public(the band) did a great job taking things onto the next stages of warming the crowd and getting them energized. They had a solid mix of covers and band written singles as well as a new song they shared with the crowd. They have a vibe that I would only be able to describe as 80’s pop band to the likes of Franz Ferdinand. It’s a unique sound that few bands like Franz have been able to do and not seem redundant but Public carries the sound well and their huge personalities bring it home.
After the openers I finally had the realization that Jesse was gonna be there. Yea, I knew that before the show. But it sunk in and then I realized I had heard this guy 13 years prior for the first time. A time in which I can say many of the fans in this all ages crowd were probably graduating kindergarten. I didn’t even feel weird about that, I was impressed. Pop is a dog eat dog genre at time more than all others I feel. A genre where you can have a hit on week and within a week be forgotten by the next name on your local hit radios station. Yet after over a decade Jesse is still managing to keep his sound, evolve his lyrics to reflect himself but not seem like a facade, and gain new fans.
His set was energetic, bright, and a solid tag team of his old classic we “older” fans knew and his new album the younger crowd loved. Leaving nobody feeling left out as he went through his set. I think the moment I most recall was song two, Leavin’. The instant that the signature beeper sound started the crowd blew up. The lights came on and you could tell that Jesse still loves seeing the crowd reaction as they waited for him to hit the first lines. The expected songs got similar reactions from the crowd such as Body Language, Better with You, and How Do You Sleep. But Beautiful Soul was the moment that I was looking forward to. It was his big smash hit and one that the entire crowd knew well.
But more importantly for me it’s the kind of song I always wait to see because when you’re an artist and people still remember that ONE big song of yours how do you react when you are putting out new music still? Is it bittersweet because you appreciate it but you want them to like your new stuff?. I may never know how he feels but I can say the instant the popular track began and you heard the first notes you can once again see Jesse is loving that years later new and old fans are digging the same songs and he stills loves seeing their enjoyment. I hope that doesn’t ever fade for him because I am pleasantly surprised at how well the show went and glad I decided to make July the month of pop concerts.