Aaron Carter has finesse and a cheap trick

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
February 11, 2002

Aaron Carter is 14 years old, looks like a carbon copy of his big brother Nick of the Backstreet Boys and works the crowd with the savvy and finesse of a Vegas showman. That’s a dangerous combination when you’ve got an arena full of young girls who are hopped up on sugar and adrenaline.

But guess what? This kid delivers. Give him a couple more years to pick better songs that cater to his rock ‘n’ roll sensibilities and there’s the potential for a career beyond the kid-pop phase.

At his Friday night concert at the Allstate Arena, li’l Aaron showed he’s growing up to be quite the performer. Puberty hasn’t taken its full toll on his voice yet, so we don’t know what he’ll sound like when he has matured.

But this is a cool kid. Think I’m kidding? How many boy bands, much less boys , would dare bring out Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick to play lead guitar on “I Want Candy”? Aaron didn’t miss a beat as Nielsen–who was a source of curiosity to the youngsters in attendance–added his nimble-fingered flare to the pop confection.

Foregoing his usual casual gear and mop of blond locks, Aaron was pimped out to the max in a white, floor-length, faux fur vest (the first of six costume changes) and the spikiest hair this side of Johnny Rotten. But proving that there was still a little boy inside all the glitz, he played around his arctic-inspired set, which also included a Candyland-like giant slide and a fireman’s pole. An agile athlete, he executed back somersaults and one-armed cartwheels with the same ease he did his liquid dance steps.

The one-two punch of the delirious, throbbing “Get Wild” and “Bounce” set the stage for the best elements of the 90-minute show. Think ‘N Sync’s “Pop,” only three times faster and with a sexier groove. This definitely is not the same kid I saw four years ago when he opened for his brother’s group.

Backed by five dancers, a four-piece band and three back-up vocalists, Aaron performed favorites such as the jaunty “That’s How I Beat Shaq.” Unfortunately, about half the set was littered with bland material that was indistinguishable. And though well intentioned, he doesn’t yet have the chops to tackle a classic such as John Lennon’s “Imagine,” which he dedicated to all the young people of the world “because we are the future.” But he’s on the right track.

As for the fans, who ranged in age from 2 to mid-teens (and, of course, the parents), their scream capacity would’ve made the monsters in “Monsters, Inc.” very happy.

“He’s definitely better than ‘N Sync,” concluded my 13-year-old niece Tabitha, who won Aaron’s attention and handshake several times throughout the concert. “He dances better than Nick and, since he’s a little younger, he’s also cuter. He has a strong career ahead of him.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

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