If you ever wanted to see the Backstreet Boys without enduring a full two hours of boy-band hijinx, or thought Avril Lavigne wasn't substantial enough for a full night out, O Starry Night appeared to be the right opportunity to see them.
Tuesday's show at the Petersen Events Center, presented by STAR 100.7 FM, was a holiday six-pack of pop acts that don't often cross paths.
Who ever heard of the Backstreet Boys with Avril Lavigne? Or Gavin DeGraw with the Fray? OK, the second one doesn't seem that odd.
What the mostly female crowd that filled the bottom tiers of the Petersen got was a lot of hits with precious little production values: minimal lighting, no screens, and a blank, drab canvas for a backdrop, not to mention short sets, long set changes and below-par sound.
Getting 15 minutes each to start the show were Plain White T's doing their sweet, folk-pop hits "Hey There Delilah" and "Rhythm of Love" and pop-rocker Five For Fighting (John Ondrasik) who wavered in and out of falsetto on "100 Years" and "Superman."
Mr. DeGraw brought the brawny rock-guy energy to the affair and some musical muscle behind him. Too much, in fact, as the drums and bass were so cranked, his set became something of a sonic train wreck.
He counteracted that with an extended trip into the middle of the crowd for the Pearl Jammy rocker "I Don't Wanna Be" while also previewing Saturday's Justin Timberlake concert with a cover of "Mirrors." He's had a good chart run lately, so he was able to get the fans up and excited for noisy versions of "Best I Ever Had" (one of those name-drop city songs) and piano banger "Not Over You."
Ms. Lavigne had similar sonic challenges but her siren voice shot through it on her too-brief set of cheerleader rock. She bounced out in a short black dress and leopard tights, jumping right into her hit "Here's to Never Growing Up." Having been on the scene for a dozen years now, she's done an admirable job of that -- at least musically. She mixes in more power ballads ("I'm With You," Let Me Go") but she can still sell the girlish power-pop of "Sk8er Boi" and "Girlfriend."
The Fray, a band from Denver that clearly has a few U2 albums between them, represents rock on stations like STAR. The five-piece band was a fine addition to a show like this, actually using the backdrop for projections and bringing such hits as "You Found Me," "How to Save a Life" and "Over My Head (Cable Car)," which sent singer Isaac Slade clear to the back of the venue. They created a spark with a rocking "White Christmas" and a hard finale of "Love Don't Die."
After a booming intro from the STAR morning team and a round of screams from fans, the Backstreet Boys were nowhere to be found. Or something wasn't ready. After about 10 minutes, the One Direction of the mid-'90s came out, bandless, and went about electrifying the Pete with synchronized dance moves and soaring harmonies.
It was a condensed trip down memory lane with wacky banter, vintage hits like "As Long As You Love Me" "Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)" (unplugged) and "I Want it That Way," songs from "In a World Like This" and a peppy "Christmas Time."
Except for that last one, it was like a commercial to see them -- or not -- on the next summer tour.