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Aaron Carter brings old and new hits to Northampton

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Aaron Carter brought fans back to the new millennium when “The After Party” tour stopped at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton last Tuesday. It was a mash-up of past and present, with Carter singing and dancing along to his old music, some new tunes and other artists’ recent hits.

The night began with a short set from tour opener Petrel, three sisters from New York who sounded like a trio of mature Taylor Swifts. The mostly female audience bounced along to the set, which featured a cover of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and “Loser,” an energetic song telling off an ex-boyfriend.

After a quick mix of songs from DJ D-Nyce, Carter entered the stage with two back-up dancers and danced to “Mercy” by Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music crew and then segued into “Work Hard, Play Hard” by Wiz Khalifa.

Carter’s set then turned to his all-American teen star days. The choreography, which featured the singer and his two dancers holding American flags over their shoulders, seemed a bit goofy and 2002’s “When It Comes to You” felt dated as soon as he mentioned contacting a love interest through email.

On the other hand, the show’s goofier moments were also some of its best. When Carter left the stage for the first time to change, DJ D-Nyce told the crowd, “We need to find Aaron Carter a girlfriend tonight!” and girls throughout the venue screamed as the “Jeopardy” theme played. The star returned to sing a ballad to the chosen girl, Katie, and finished the song with a kiss, to the apparent envy of many ladies in the audience.

Carter’s child star sound returned with “Leave It Up to Me,” a song from 2001’s “Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius” that was inescapable on Nickelodeon that year.  He then took a photo with his crew and the audience before singing a few forgettable songs from his new album “The After Party,” due later this year.

While DJ D-Nyce did most of the talking throughout the night, Carter seized the moment to graciously tell fans, “It’s been 10 years since I’ve been on tour … I’ve never left, and you’ve never left me.”

The singer finished his performance by bringing the audience back to the best days of their childhoods – and in the case of one elementary school girl in the audience, perhaps making it the best day of hers so far.  The crowd roared as Carter changed into Shaquille O’Neal’s No. 34 Lakers jersey and rocked “That’s How I Beat Shaq” with dance moves straight out of the early 2000s bubblegum pop era.

“I Want Candy,” one of his most memorable hits, was next. The singer poked fun at his former child star image by pretending to call Justin Bieber to talk about this cute girl named Candy before diving into the song. Despite the odd effect of Carter singing along with his pre-puberty vocals from the original recording, it was a hit with the audience, who knew every word to the Strangeloves cover.

The grand finale was “Aaron’s Party (Come Get It),” which reached  No. 35 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2000. Fans rejoiced when they heard the opening synth line and instantly began singing along to every word.

Overall, the night was a success, because unlike other former child sensations, Carter didn’t spend the entire night removing himself from the image that he will always be known for. While odes to modern rap hits showed a new side of the 25-year-old’s personality, it was respectable that he didn’t shy away from singing and dancing like he was 12 years old again.

For fans that missed Carter the first time around, he will swing back into Massachusetts at Bay Path College on April 19 and the Hard Rock Café in Boston on April 28. Photos from the show’s subsequent meet-and-greet can be seen on Carter’s Facebook page.

Jake Reed can be reached at jaker@student.umass.edu.

 

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