Armed with an arsenal of hits and a winning personality, Jordin Sparks brought her Battlefield tour to New York City's Nokia Theatre on Thursday night (June 10), and dang, that girl slayed. (Okay, no more "Battlefield" wordplay. Promise.)
Throughout the brief hour-long set, the former Jersey Girl made a strong case for the material on her sophomore album, ferociously laying into singles "Battlefield," the Shannon cover "S.O.S. (Let The Music Play)" and the recent "Don't Let It Go to Your Head."
Oddly enough, the Battlefield deep cuts were just as rewarding as her more familiar music, even if Sparks sounded somewhat apologetic when she told the crowd, "I'll also play the songs you know and love, so don't worry." "Emergency (911)" showed off the 20-year old's sassy side, the live arrangement of "Watch You Go" included (what sounded like) an unexpected Spandau Ballet sample, and ballad "No Parade" was a touching highlight. (Seriously Jive, get this beautiful song on the radio at once!)
While someone with Jordin's vocal chops needn't rely on the typical smoke and mirrors most pop stars employ, I can't help but feel that the tour might benefit with just a touch more razzle-dazzle. Gladiator helmets and glow-stick canes do not make for a memorable stage show. (Can she compete in a pop landscape when fans might expect dancing TV sets and day-glo makeup thank$ to Ke$ha?)
But don't get me wrong. When it came to performing killer live music, Sparks and her energetic band delivered. I was most impressed with how Jordin went for — and hit — nearly every single high note in her repertoire (especially on "It Takes More"). Most pop singers let their backup singers do the heavy lifting live, but Jordin truly used them as support, as if she was saying, "I got this note guys, you can just do the lower harmonies."
All the years Sparks has spent touring with music's biggest acts (JoBros, Britney, Alicia Keys) have paid off. Not only is Jordin more dynamic than ever, but she has cultivated an audience that reaches far beyond the "Idol" bubble. These weren't "Idol" fans cheering on the champ from season six. These were pop music fans supporting one of their favorite radio artists.
That's not to say Jordin didn't acknowledge her reality TV past. Coming off a sincere "Thank you for voting" speech that simultaneously welcomed newer fans to the party, the chorus of early hit "Tattoo" played like a tribute to the show that launched her. "Don't look back, got a new direction/ I loved you once and I needed protection/ You're still a part of everything I do/ You're on my heart just like a tattoo/ I'll always have you." Hear that, Cowell?
Not surprisingly, Jordin's radio smashes received the biggest reaction from the diverse crowd, particularly show-closer "No Air" (now with less Chris Brown and more audience participation). Incidentally, her wildly popular tunes (including the feel-good stomper "One Step at a Time") sounded almost quaint when surrounded by her newer, more mature Battlefield material.
Whether waving like a madwoman to fans in the pit, doling out life advice to the young'ins in the crowd or signing an autograph in the middle of her set (!!!), Sparks' energy was electric, all the more impressive when you consider she was feeling under the weather. (Wednesday morning Sparks tweeted that she woke up majorly congested.)
If Jordin had that much charisma and sounded that spot-on while drowning in mucus, contemporary divas Leona Lewis and Mariah Carey better watch their backs. Get your armor indeed!