Where can you find music’s most popular artists of the year performing their songs together on one stage? The answer: iHeartRadio’s annual Jingle Ball concert series.
On Dec. 18, artists like Charlie Puth, Big Time Rush, The Backstreet Boys and special guest Flo Rida, graced the stage at FLA Live Arena.
The well-known holiday concert started over 20 years ago with New York’s Z100 pop radio network and has quickly become the multi-city national tour it is today. Fans of pop music come annually to see their most-listened-to artists perform live.
Doors opened at 6 p.m. for a concert start time of 7 p.m. Arriving no later than 6:15 p.m., I found plenty to do before the start of the show. When walking into the arena, sweatshirts, t-shirts and beanies lined the merchandise stands for those who wanted physical proof of their night.
While making my way through the arena toward my seat, I was given a pair of light-up reindeer antlers, a festive accessory that most ticket holders wore throughout the night.
After grabbing hot chocolate from a food stand, I made it to my seat by 6:45 p.m., excitedly anticipating the start of the show. I sat in a box on the suite level, a great view to see both the stage and the audience’s reaction to the show.
The stage was decorated with LED Christmas trees and two massive ornaments showing off the iHeartRadio logo. One large screen at center stage and two smaller ones on either side of it allowed for easy viewing by all audience members, regardless of their seats.
The show started promptly at 7 p.m. with an anticipatory minute-long countdown that got the entire crowd excited. Red spotlights circled the arena adding to the hype atmosphere.
At the end of the countdown, newcomer Lauren Spencer Smith took the stage, delivering a simple performance full of emotional songs. Though people were still trickling in, that did not diminish Smith’s beautiful voice and natural crowd engagement.
Singer-songwriter Jax followed Smith, engaging the crowd in an energetic 90’s themed performance, with songs of her own, including an altered version of “Teenage Dirtbag” by Wheatus. Her performance brought the energy for the night, creating anticipation for the next act, Big Time Rush.
For late 90’s and early 2000’s kids like myself, the once-Nickelodeon band Big Time Rush brought nostalgia to the night. While they weren’t dancing in sync, the four boyband members went off the stage into the crowd, interacting with fans more than any other performer, save for Flo Rida.
Flo Rida’s special guest appearance took me back to this year’s homecoming concert at Watsco Center. From throwing money, giving away his own signed shoes to riding on his security guard’s shoulders through the entire arena floor, his performance culminated in typical Flo-fashion.
Performers like Tate McRae, Anitta and Ava Max engaged the audience in a very theatrical performance with choreographed dances, back-up dancers and props. Compared to the calmer performances such as those from Charlie Puth and Lauren Spencer Smith, these over-the-top acts added a great sense of diversity to the concert.
Charlie Puth — maybe the most advertised act of the night — seemed comfortable on stage as he sang his most popular songs “We Don’t Talk Anymore,” “One Call Away,” “Attention” and a very emotional rendition of “See You Again.”
The concert ended with the infamous Backstreet Boys, the act my mom was most looking forward to. The band performed well-known songs that even I knew, along with their version of Christmas tunes like “Last Christmas” that ended the night in a festive mood.
I left FLA Live Arena at 11 p.m. that night with ringing ears, the satisfaction of a great concert and the privilege of hearing so many popular songs from 2022 live.