LOWELL, Massachusetts — A hot Destiny's Child ruled the concert stage for the first time in a year, and international pop princess Kylie Minogue debuted her live act for American fans at the Kiss 108 Jingle Ball, held Wednesday at the sold-out Tsongas Arena by WXKS-FM.
They were only two of the shiny presents unwrapped for 6,000 fans in a four-hour holiday show — Nelly (who is set to rejoin Minogue and Destiny's Child on Thursday for WHTZ-FM's Jingle Ball at Madison Square Garden in New York), Craig David, O-Town, Daniel Bedingfield and Kelly Osbourne also came out to help spread some yuletide cheer.
The slimmed-down Osbourne — who planned her next-night New York duties at Nassau Coliseum for WXRK-FM's Claus-Fest — appeared in "Santa" devil horns and candy-cane sleeves, looking lost at first with her sound monitors. However, she found the right key with a few tart howls, poured water over her dyed black hair and led her punk rock quartet through a batch of exuberant numbers capped by Madonna's "Papa Don't Preach," with six female fans providing vocal assistance.
In contrast, Craig David and New Zealand-born newcomer Daniel Bedingfield each took an over-the-top soul approach, the latter even dropping to his knees onstage. British star David sang and rapped with equal sizzle to sole accompaniment from an acoustic guitar on such favorites as "7 Days" and the playful "What's Your Flava?"
"I like kinda breaking it down," David explained backstage, "to show people that it is about the songs."
O-Town drew the loudest early response from the young crowd, however, shaking the boy-band stigma by playing guitars with grunge-like fervor, then milking their five-part harmonies on such emotive send-ups as "These Are the Days" and "Craving."
Minogue strode onstage like a holiday plaything in a white, break-away outfit that, she quipped backstage, made her feel like "Toy Story" astronaut Buzz Lightyear. "I'm really excited, but I guess I'm a little apprehensive as well," the Australian pop chanteuse said just before her set. "I'm not sure what the crowds expect."
People who have seen Minogue's videos got the expected. Yet the crowd seemed indeed more curious than excited as she cavorted with eight dancers who added to the strange Kraftwerk-goes-S&M moods of hits "Come Into My World," "Love at First Sight" and "Can't Get You Out of My Head."
Over a slow, electro-dance beat from her band, Minogue also recast her 1988 cover of "The Loco-Motion," bringing new meaning to the line in the chorus "You've got to swing your hips now" with plenty of grinding motions. To top it off, both her male and female dancers sported stilettos and hosiery.
Destiny's Child, on the other hand, proved pure dynamite with the crowd. To a round of fireworks, the R&B trio of Beyoncé Knowles, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams arrived via an upper hydraulic lift to snap the opening line of "Independent Women, Part I," freeze the pose for effect, then spread out with eight dancers for an aerobic workout.
Working the full stage, the group took more seductive dips into "Bootylicious" and "Say My Name" before solo turns by Rowland on a soulful "Stole" and Knowles on a soaring " '03 Bonnie & Clyde." Finally, a confetti cannon helped launch a powerhouse rendition of "Survivor."
Destiny's Child performed with instrumental and occasional vocal backing tracks, as did Nelly, whose DJ mostly pressed buttons. But the St. Louis rapper, decked out in a Boston Celtics jacket, and his three MCs from the St. Lunatics commanded with tight rhymes, bouncy beats and natural choreography on a crowd-pumping "Ride Wit Me" and "E.I."
Nelly's set peaked with "Hot in Herre" and the rapper's final "present" to the crowd, a warm duet with Rowland on their hit single, "Dilemma," that had fans waving along.
Both male and female fans gave Nelly the night's loudest kudos. "Nelly's the best: good music and a good body," said Kelly Sullivan, 15, of Bedford, New Hampshire, while offering of Minogue's set, "The dancers were really ... interesting."
Minogue fan Irina Grigoryan stood in Kylie's defense, however. "If people think she's weird, they should shut up," exclaimed the 16-year-old from Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. "She's unique."
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.