It was his party indeed as pop singer Aaron Carter took the stage Sept. 21 at The Haunt in Ithaca. Following the chants of “We want Aaron,” Carter began his show around 10 p.m., and his energetic stage presence had the sold-out crowd dancing along to every lyric. After an eight-year break from touring, Carter showed his fans he’s still got it.
Carter opened his first set with “I Want Candy,” bouncing around the small stage and smiling non-stop. Joined by his four band members on bass, guitar, keyboard and drums, the triple-platinum artist performed with enough energy to fill an arena. But this venue was much smaller, and Carter utilized every inch of it. Lit by about a dozen stage lights and surrounded by his band, Carter was overpowered by the size of the instruments, but seemed unfazed. The simple setup ensured he was the center of attention.
The last song of his first half-hour set was “Let Go.” Singing “I used to love a girl/ Sometimes I think I still do,” Carter performs one of his slowest songs. His voice is deep throughout the song except in the chorus, where he hits high notes on the most emotional lines, such as “From my mind/ My body/ My soul/ I gotta let go.”
Carter ran back on stage for his second set dressed in a white blazer and blue fedora. His band began to play the familiar beat of Robin Thicke’s smash hit, “Blurred Lines,” where he showed his growth from teen heartthrob to modern pop star. Carter sang in falsetto to rival Thicke’s and showcased his dance moves, never missing a beat. He did some break dancing, showing off his Michael Jackson–like footwork, and even a backflip.
“Blurred Lines” morphed seamlessly into Bruno Mars’ “Treasure,” a song where Carter really shined. Mars’ song allowed Carter to show a more bluesy side to his voice and prove to the audience he could sing more than cookie-cutter pop songs.
After singing Daft Punk’s hit “Get Lucky,” Carter returned to his own songs. Crooning with boyish charm even though he’s now a young man, the lyrics of “Not Too Young, Not Too Old” were a bit outdated — “Switch it off, yo/ Hit me on the pager.” But Carter performed with the same vigor as he did when he was 13. He strived for the highest notes even if he didn’t always hit them. Carter’s band constantly encouraged him in the form of thumbs-up and chants of “Go AC!” The band itself played quite well, especially the guitarist who kept up the crowd’s enthusiasm by urging audience members to dance and sing along. The band made Carter’s songs more instrumental by using guitar instead of pop backtracks.
Carter slipped on a Shaquille O’Neal Lakers jersey to raucous applause, an indication he was about to sing his platinum-selling single, “That’s How I Beat Shaq.” With lyrics like “It’s like boom/ I put it in the hoop like slam,” this quirky up-tempo song about a teenage Carter beating NBA star O’Neal was the climax of the show. While the song didn’t do much to display his vocal range, it was evident that he enjoyed performing it the most.
Carter ended his second set with a bang. The mass of people jumped and chanted as he belted his arguably most popular song “Aaron’s Party,” a jam about a house party gone awry with verses full of catchy “na na na’s.” Everyone let loose and sang louder than they had all night. After 13 years of waiting, Carter’s party finally arrived.
Carter dubbed Ithaca the “best crowd on tour” and “couldn’t wait to come back.” He came out for an encore with his new single, “Where Do We Begin,” which showcased a more mature sound. Unlike older hits, which overused sound effects and background vocals, this new song focused more on Carter’s soft, simple chords on a background guitar. The head-bobbing tune offers sweet lyrics describing a new relationship, “It starts with a hug/ It starts with a friend/ It starts with someone you can call,” showing a maturation not only in Carter’s voice but also his lyrics. He is no longer singing about wanting a girl named “Candy” who is “tough but sweet.” With its catchy beat and simple lyrics about love, “Where Do We Begin” has the stylistic makings of a summer anthem.
From Carter’s backflips to falsetto riffs, his return to the spotlight seems long overdue. As fantastic a time as the crowd might have had, it seemed like no one had more fun than Carter. It’s safe to say this could be the beginning of Carter’s comeback.