NEW YORK Five acts played the LIFEbeat AIDS benefit Wednesday
night at the Beacon Theatre, but the shrieking girls in the capacity crowd
of 2,800 made it clear they were there for one reason: 'N Sync.
All emcee Joey McIntyre had to say was the boy band's name and they would
let out a deafening roar.
Former New Kids on the Block member McIntyre, rapper Wyclef Jean and R&B
singer Monica essentially were warm-up acts for 'N Sync's three-song set,
which was followed by a brief film about people with AIDS and a show-closing
set by the Texas cowgirl group Destiny's Child. By then, it being a school
night, half the crowd had left.
LIFEbeat raised $450,000 from gate receipts of $150,000, a $50,000 donation
from levi.com, which webcast the show, plus a $250,000 grant from the
Levi Strauss Foundation, according to publicist Buffy Davis. That money
will go toward educating teenagers about AIDS.
Wyclef's frenzied set went against the grain of most hip-hop shows by
using a real drummer, bassist and keyboard player. The only recorded music
was what his DJ played on vinyl, beginning with a bit of the Jackson 5's
"ABC." Then, clearly in showoff mode, the DJ swung into a few beats of
Naughty by Nature's "O.P.P." as he spun around, scratched his head and
the record simultaneously, twirled again and took off his shirt without
missing a beat.
Two MCs walked onstage for the warm-up, followed by the rest of Wyclef's
band and finally the rapper himself. Wyclef launched into Bob Marley's
"No Woman, No Cry," augmented with shout-outs to Brooklyn and New Jersey.
He then raced through a pile of snippets from "Guantanamera" and "Jailhouse
Rock," interspersed with taped vocals by fellow Fugee Lauryn Hill for "Ready or Not."
"What's the matter, you don't like rap?" Wyclef asked the teenage girls,
who seemed uninterested in his set as they continued to shriek for their
boys. But he won them over with his own "Gone Till November"
excerpt) and got them leaping and screaming to his closer, a
cover of House of Pain's "Jump Around." During the song, Wyclef strolled
down the center aisle to meet some of his apparent converts.
In preparation for 'N Sync, who performed to prerecorded music, roadies
cleared the stage of instruments. At first sight of Lance, Justin, Joey,
JC and Chris, the girls erupted into lascivious wails, held up signs
addressed to their favorite group members and threw roses onstage.
"Tearin' Up My Heart" (RealAudio
excerpt) tore the place up. The aisles down front should have
been designated a crumple zone, as a girl in the seventh row briefly
fainted. Flashcubes popped as hundreds of smuggled-in cameras caught the
boys' synchronized steps.
Things calmed down to mere hysteria for "God Must Have Spent a Little
More Time on You," and the girls in the audience actually stopped screaming
briefly to listen to 'N Sync's closing number, the new tune
"Bye Bye Bye." The boys James Lance "Lansten" Bass, Justin Timberlake,
Joey Fatone, JC Chasez and Chris Kirkpatrick waved and were gone.
"Oh my God! I touched Jason and Joey!" one girl gushed to her friend as
security herded everyone back to their seats.
Ida Lowen and Irene Perez Lopez, both 20 and from Sweden, rolled their
eyes and looked on in amazement. "It's not my kind of music," Lowen said,
"but everyone seemed to go crazy for it." As many of the girls, now calm,
headed for the exits, Lopez said she wasn't budging. "I'm here to see
After the AIDS documentary, Destiny's Child opened with "So Good"
excerpt), doing the girl band equivalent of 'N Sync's dance moves
on an otherwise empty stage (their music, too, was taped). In matching
white cowboy hats, white halters and white slacks with strategically
placed rips, they twirled, sashayed and mugged for the webcasting cameras.
The remaining audience members seemed to know all the words to the group's
hit "Bug a Boo" (RealAudio
excerpt), and if they didn't have the energy left to scream, they
still managed to wave and jump. "No, No, No" reeled into "Say My Name,"
then into a strange but fun cover of the Commodores' 1979 hit "Sail On."
After Destiny's Child made a quick change into black hip-huggers, also
with rips, one of the group's four male dancers threw gobs of play money
into the first five rows, as a signal of what was coming: their hit "Bills,
Bills, Bills." It was their best-known and best-sounding song of the night.