There were signs that boy band Big Time Rush's momentum was slowing just as it was about to embark on its biggest tour to date.
The Nickelodeon-manufactured foursome essentially launched the boy-band resurgence in late 2009. But One Direction's debut album has sold more than three times as many copies as BTR's sophomore album, "Elevate," while boy band The Wanted's single "Glad You Came" has eclipsed BTR's biggest single "Boyfriend" nearly sixfold in digital sales.
And at the Marcus Amphitheater on Friday night, for the second night on BTR's summer tour, one-third to one-half of the seats were empty.
But the earsplitting shrieks of BTR's primarily young female fans - many wearing official and handmade band shirts - were loud enough to fill at least two Marcus Amphitheaters. It's unlikely any band at Summerfest this year will get this loud and excitable a reaction.
BTR's early-twentysomething stars Logan Henderson, James Maslow, Carlos Pena Jr. and Kendall Schmidt sweat for their screams Friday night. Supported by a four-piece band, they ran through slick little dance routines that made good use of a trampoline in the middle of the stage, and smoothly belted out generic albeit crowd-pleasing pop songs including "Time of Our Life," "City Is Ours" and "Love Me Love Me" (plus a medley cover of the Beatles' "Help!" and "I Want to Hold Your Hand" for the paying parents) while the band's invincible young crowd relentlessly danced and jumped in the heat.
That energy rarely let up, even for scream-baiting love ballads such as "Cover Girl" (about inner beauty, natch). But the night's biggest moment came during "If I Ruled the World," when BTR ran through the aisles, led by posses of seriously freaked-out security guards, as girls rushed to touch their sweaty idols, shrieking to the point of near-combustion.
The band then split up to perform "Halfway There" in different parts of the amphitheater, and, later in the set, serenaded some stunned girls on stage during the ballad "Worldwide," gripping the girls' hands as the crowd went wild.
BTR may not be the most popular boy band in the world, but the fans sure acted that way.
Fifteen-year-old Australian pop star Cody Simpson was the first to feel the fans' real aural power Friday, as he came out in shades and "Miami Vice" jacket. Even more than BTR, Simpson played the heartthrob card, running his hand through his impeccable wavy hair 100 times in a 30-minute set, teasingly taking off his jacket, and performing a dance routine with chairs that looked like a G-rated "Magic Mike" routine. That Simpson got this sort of reaction months ahead of his full-length album debut in October is impressive; the kid could be the next Justin Bieber. (He's definitely got the hair for it.)
Reality TV singing stars come and go, but 14-year-old Rachel Crow, a fifth-place finalist on the first season of "The X Factor," has the talent and personality to stick around for a while. She displayed a better vocal range than any of the boys, by far, coming off at times like a pipsqueak Aretha, and unlike the other ultracool performers, came off like a genuine kid.