Aaron Carter Sings For Real, Plays Clean Cowboy, Winter Wonderboy At Tour Opener

Nick's younger brother bounds through his hits, covers 'Imagine' at Jacksonville, Florida, show.

JACKSONVILLE, Florida — The set for Aaron Carter's 24-date U.S. tour is a glacier amusement park — an icy mock-up featuring two trampolines, a slide, a fireman's pole, scaffolding, a conveyor belt and a trapdoor. The tour's theme: Aaron's

Winter Party, where dancers turn backflips and 14-year-old Carter sings his

hits as images of wintry locales beam onto three overhead video screens.

Carter kicked off the Winter Party Tour Friday night in Jacksonville, and

bounded through his lighthearted material while introducing a new sight gag on almost every song during the 75-minute show.

Here was Carter, striding onto the stage in a full-length white coat. And

here flipping off of a trampoline, and here sliding down his slide and here on

camera, mugging with his Backstreet Boy brother, Nick. The Carters get to do

things the rest of their teen and pre-teen audience can't do — that's part of

the appeal — and young Aaron seems ever-more comfortable with his elevated

status among his peers. When fans handed him stuffed animals and flowers

Friday, for example, he grabbed them in his arms and dumped them in a

growing pile at center-stage. When he serenaded a fan during "I'm All About

You," he led her around the stage by the hand and then allowed a security guy

to pretend to forcibly remove her.

Carter kept in close contact with his backup dancers, leaving them for a

song or two, then returning for dance routines. At one point the team

got up on a swinging scaffold and danced side-by-side in tight quarters,

really flaunting their choreography. When Carter was alone at center stage,

the backup dancers appeared free to move about the glacier, doing

cheerleader-style tumbling routines and testing the various props.

Carter's opening-night vocals wavered between pubescent-crackly and

pop-phenom precise, a good sign that he was actually singing, not

lip-synching. Occasionally the audience could even hear his heavy breathing,

a rarity on those headset microphones. If there was little doubt that Carter

sang his songs, there was absolutely no doubt that he actually played his

own piano on the surprise tune of the night: a cover of John Lennon's

"Imagine." Carter dedicated the song to the young people of the world,

"because we are the future," then proceeded to play the song hesitantly but

competently. With more confidence, he delivered his own hits, such pop

ditties as "Get Wild," "That's How I Beat Shaq" and "Not Too Young, Not Too Old."

Over the course of the night, Carter changed from the white coat into a

silver suit, then a denim outfit, then into a different denim outfit. While he

was offstage, the video screens played advertisements for his forthcoming

pay-per-view special. As Carter prepared to leave the stage to make his

final costume change, he introduced Matt, "an award-winning bagpipe player,"

whom Carter had apparently just met. "You know what?" Carter said during the

introduction. "He told me his last name before we came onstage and I

already forgot ... give it up for MATT!" Matt's bagpipe turned out to be an

electronic, ruler-sized stick — a bagpipe with no bag — which he played to

some cheering and some bewilderment.

Carter eventually reemerged for "Cowgirl (Lil' Mama)," the upbeat song that

closely mirrors "Space Cowboy (Yippie-Yi-Yay)" by rival popsters 'NSYNC.

Carter goes "Yippie-yi-yo," 'NSYNC goes "Yippie-yi-yay," but both artists

have the same, campy fun playing cleaner versions of Kid Rock's cowboy/pimp

role. Carter donned a hat and chaps for the song, and so did his backup

dancers (though their outfits glowed in the dark and his did not). Shortly

after "Cowgirl," Carter bid the audience farewell and headed offstage, ready

to pack up the glacier and head to the next town.

Read about all of the shows we've recently covered in Tour Reports.