Friday night’s concert at the Uptown Theater was a holiday show presented by one of the corporate radio stations in Kansas City.
“Elfmas 2016,” sponsored by 95.7 FM, the station that has nicknamed itself the Vibe, comprised Tove Lo, a Swedish electro-pop star; Mackenzie Nicole, a teenage pop/hip-hop upstart from Kansas City; and Zara Larsson, a teen pop star also from Sweden. They would deliver to an audience of about 1,400 fans a show that lasted nearly three hours, including a couple of DJ sets between performers.
Tove Lo (born Ebba Tove Elsa Nilsson) was the headliner and veteran of the lineup. Her discography comprises only two albums, including “Lady Wood,” released in October, but she has been a songwriter for years, co-writing songs for acts like Larsson and Icona Pop.
Her lyrics can get pretty PG-18, addressing with uncommon candidness, (and sometimes profanity) romance, sex, drugs and moments of darkness and dysfunction in her life. “Talking Body,” one of her Top 20 hits in the U.S., includes the verse: “Now if we’re talking body / You got a perfect one / So put it on me / Swear it won’t take you long / If you love me right / We (bleep) for life / On and on and on.”
She opened her one-hour set with a song from her debut album, “Queen of the Clouds,” released in 2014: “Not On Drugs,” which declares that love is the most powerful, organic drug: “I’m up with the kites in a dream so blue / I’m not on drugs / I’m just in love.” Like much of what followed, it was a throbbing, catchy electro-pop tune, heavy on percussion, melody and grooves.
The only thing lacking was a wider breadth of variety: A sameness began to settle into the set about halfway through. That didn’t bother the crowd much, however. There was plenty of dancing and other movement all night, and a few sing-alongs, too.
She was backed by a three-piece band: a drummer and two guys manning keyboards and synths, one of whom played guitar occasionally. She spent much of the show in motion, gliding and dancing from one side of the stage to the other, stopping now and then to strike pop star poses.
The set list included five “Lady Wood” songs, including “True Disaster,” “Cool Girl,” “Keep It Simple” and “Don’t Talk About It.” She would close with three from “Clouds”: “Thousand Miles,” “Run on Love,” and her biggest hit, “Habits,” another electro-pop/disco anthem with a heavy beat and a bright melody that aroused a sea of waving arms across the theater.
Mackenzie Nicole: She’s a high-schooler from Kansas City and on the Strange Music label, home to Tech N9ne. Her brief set showcased her affinity for fusing R&B, pop, soul and hip-hop into something fresh and appealing if not unique. Backed by three singers and as many as four dancers, she opened with “Deleted,” which showed off her strong, agile voice and her polished stage personae. She was joined by label mate and producer Krizz Kaliko on one number. On the rousing “Actin’ Like You Know,” she was joined by Tech N9ne, whose appearance set off a roaring ovation and a tide of smart phones taking photos and videos. Tech and Kaliko closed the set with the jubilant “Erbody But Me,” a track off his “The Storm” album, which was released Friday.
Zara Larsson: Her only album, “1,” was released in 2014, but she has released a few EPs and singles since, including “Permission” and “Ain’t My Fault,” two of several poppy dance tunes that filled her set.