By Kate Nalepinski
KTUphoria, the annual festival of dance and pop music, kicked off the Nikon at Jones Beach Theater 2016 summer concert calendar Saturday with a star-studded lineup of current acts and comeback kids.
This year, KTUphoria featured Pitbull, Enrique Iglesias, the Backstreet Boys, The Chainsmokers, Mike Posner, Nile Rodgers and Bebe Rexha. The concert was sponsored by WKTU 103.5 FM, the New York-based radio station known for its on-air play of rhythmic adult contemporary tracks and frequent artist interviews.
“Just in case you didn’t know…we’re the Backstreet Boys,” joked A.J. McClean, as the audience chuckled at the irony of the boy band announcing that they’re preparing to record their 10th album.
KTUphoria was the first of over 30 concerts at the Jones Beach amphitheater scheduled for this summer with concerts ranging from classic rock to hip hop and virtually everything in between. The concert more diverse than years prior, according to WKTU’s program director, Rob Miller, who said this year’s lineup better reflected music played on the radio station, including everything from disco-era hits, house music from the ‘80s and ‘90s as well as R&B.
With his full white suit, oversized glasses and long, dangling dreadlocks that sway as he walks, it’s hard not to notice Nile Rodgers—best known for his involvement with the band Chic and producing albums for Madonna, Duran Duran and Daft Punk, among others—as he hits a vocal crescendo in “Everybody Dance.” Saxophonists, trombonists and singers with insanely-alto vocal ranges surrounded Rodgers on center stage during Chic’s biggest hit, “Le Freak.” Though he may seem an out of place next to the current stars sharing the stage, Rodgers nestled into the festival perfectly, warmed up the young crowd with his ‘70s hits.
At another point, a thin layer of fog covered the stage as a fierce woman wearing high heels and glimmering black dress pants strutted on stage. The crowd went wild as she launched into “Take Me Home,” a tune she’s featured on, by pop artist Cash Cash. That diva was Staten-Islander Bebe Rexa, who concluded her performance with the single she wrote for Nicki Minaj, “No Broken Hearts,” a pop ballad that showed off Rexa’s vocal range as the sun set dreamily behind her.
In a dramatic change of pace, singer Mike Posner took a seat in front of a piano on stage for his recent single, “Buried in Detroit,” which consisted of surprisingly jazzy influences of a background saxophone. He paid special attention to his fellow bandmates, asking to put a spotlight on his drummer and repeatedly emphasizing the musical talent surrounding him. He also took the time to explain the inspiration for one of his latest hits.
“I was in a cab back in Detroit and the driver was talking to me about how he felt really accomplished because he got a new car…” Posner said, as he transitioned to his final song. “I kept thinking of all these materialistic things…in the cab, I heard a song on the radio, and it went something like this….”
Posner began his No. 1 Billboard hit single “I Took a Pill in Ibiza,” forcing audience members to consider the negative aspects of celebrity fame and materialistic desires. His overall attention to detail, combined with his jazz sound, impressed the audience.
At another point during the show, shimmering metallic flakes of silver shot from a cannon in the center of the stadium and inflated beach balls ricocheted into the audience as Enrique Inglesias danced across the stage, shaking his hips to his techno hit, “I Like It.” An ocean of 11,000 fans scream the lyrics so loud that Inglesias grinned from ear to ear and pointed his microphone toward the audience, allowing them to finish the chorus. The chorus echoed, spilling over the bay, touching the farthest corners of Jones Beach State Park and beyond.
“Anybody out here speak Spanish?” Inglesias yelled to the audience after performing “I Like How It Feels,” as the crowd screamed in return. After doing his signature grin, Inglesias continued with “Tonight I’m Loving You,” “Bailando,” Hero,” and “Duele El Corozon.”
His was a hard act to follow, but who better to try than the Backstreet Boys, the princes of pop that formed in ‘93. Twenty-three years later, the Boys proved that they still got it. Beginning with their coordinated dancing to “The Call,” the group—which includes Nick Carter, A.J. McLean, Howie D., Kevin Richardson and Brian Littrell—had fans swooning. Proving age is just a number, the audience enthusiastically heeded the band’s demands that the crowd get up and dance as The Boys did an encore of “Everybody.”
“Ready to turn this arena into a rave?” Andrew Taggart, one of the faces of The Chainsmokers, asked the crowd as they took the stage. His partner, Alex Pall, dimmed the lights and stood behind his DJ turntable as the audience roared with excitement. As soon as the bass dropped to their first remix, nearly the entire crowd was on their feet.
A stimulating screen of technicolor appeared behind the duo, who have several hits and remixed a variety of old and new radio singles, showcasing their capacity to rehash pop songs to create their own sound from others. The group concluded with their hit, “Don’t Let Me Down,” where artist Daya joined the stage, releasing pure joy into the crowd.
The most anticipated performance of the day was from Pitbull, who was headlined KTUphoria last year, but was unable to attend due to severe weather. He personally apologized on WKTU radio for his absence and this time, the audience was ready to be wowed by Mr. Worldwide.
Sporting a black button down and tight-fitting pants, Pitbull executed all his hits, including, “I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho),” “Fireball” and “El Taxi,” demanding the audience’s attention with explosive dance tunes and barely clothed backup dancers. The crowd went wild during his performance, as confetti and streamers coated the arena. What would a performance from Pitbull be without his recent chart-topping hit, “Messin’ Around”?
Enrique Iglesias returned to the stage to wrap up their recent release, concluding the show with passion and energy. All told, KTUphoria set the stage for an exciting Jones Beach summer concert series lineup and prepped antsy concert-goers for the upcoming season.