News Column

Rising stars Mendler and Mahone bring out the kids, turn up the noise

August 30, 2013

YellowBrix

Aug. 30--The tandem of Mendler and Mahone may sound more like a law firm than a pair of budding pop music artists.

But a screaming crowd of 5,522 on Wednesday night at the Great Allentown Fair grandstand knew exactly who they were and let co-headliners Bridgit Mender and Austin Mahone know they were fans.

This was either the first week of school or the last fling of summer before classes begin for most of those fans, and Mendler and Mahone gave them a chance to let loose in a way that left them hoarse and perhaps a bit exhausted Thursday morning.

Mendler and Mahone co-headlined the show and each was on stage for about an hour, separated by a 15-minute intermission.

While some came to the show not knowing who the headliner was, the largely female and teenaged audience left no doubt who it considered the main attraction.

Chants of "Aus-tin! Aus-tin!" could be heard just seconds after Mendler left the stage and the screams began the minute the lights dimmed for Mahone's entrance.

It wasn't that the girls, and their parents, didn't enjoy Mendler.

If the girls wanted to be with Mahone, they wanted to be like Mendler, who showed that she's much more than just a baby-faced actress who plays Teddy Duncan on the Disney Channel sitcom "Good Luck Charlie."

And the parents, who could at least hear themselves think during her performance, probably liked her better than Mahone.

Mendler has a surprisingly good voice and demonstrated a fair amount of range during her 12-song set.

She has a breezy, jazzy tone to her voice that perfectly fits songs like "Ready or Not," "Hurricane" and "Love Will Tell Us Where To Go."

And she showed off some versatility with adept covers of Ellie Goulding's "Starry Eyed" and the Neon Trees' "Animal."

It would have been nice to see what she could do with a power ballad, but her set stayed light and carefree for the most part as did her between-song banter with the audience.

Comparisons to Miley Cyrus are a natural for Mendler since both are 20 and came to prominence via Disney sitcoms.

However, Mendler, who was backed by a four-piece band, has a much better voice, a more pleasing personality and a better idea of what her fans expect from her. At least, with the exception of removing her bright red jacket in the latter portion of her set, she didn't feel the need to take her clothes off.

The 17-year-old Mahone also knows what his fans -- -known as Mahomies -- -- want and that's a high-energy mix of singing and dancing with a heavy emphasis on playing to the camera.

Mahone, who has aptly been called "the baby Bieber," also filled an hour with 12 songs, except that he didn't always appear to be singing.

And, frankly, it probably isn't humanly possible to sing in full throat while bouncing around the stage as much as Mahone and his four dancers did throughout their high-volume performance.

Just a few nights after being voted "Artist to Watch" at the MTV Video Music Awards, Mahone showed why he's worth watching with some fancy, well-choreographed footwork. Somehow, the black ski hat he wore never left his head while his shimmering gold tank top never revealed any sweat.

Besides the four dancers who were given a chance to showcase their athleticism during a "dance off" segment, Mahone shared the stage and dialogue with DJ Rayvon.

Rayvon, whose recorded tracks provided the only musical accompaniment, put together a mix of recent hit songs during one late pause in the show.

But the No. 1 hit-maker was Mahone, who eventually showed off a better-than-average voice on songs like "Heart In My Hand" and on a cover of Mario's "Let Me Love You" during an acoustic set.

Earlier this summer, Mahone opened for his friend Berks native Taylor Swift and even showcased a red guitar that seemed to be a tribute to Swift.

On this night, however, Mahone was no opening act. Instead, he was a strong closer, keeping up the energy with his latest single "What About Love," before saying a quick good-bye and staging an abrupt exit.

Keith.groller@mcall.com

610-820-6740

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(c)2013 The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)

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