Calling Big Time Rush polished is a rush to judgment

If there’s a race to become the world’s biggest boy band in the year 2012, Big Time Rush has some work to do.

On Friday night the stars of the Nickelodeon show “Big Time Rush” headlined a show at the Sprint Center. Despite the popularity of the show and the hype and publicity it provides, the crowd barely half-filled the place. But the 7,000 or so who were there — primarily tweens and teens with parents — expressed plenty of nonstop enthusiasm: a torrent of screams and shrieks, the waving of glow sticks and high-pitched sing-alongs.

Big Time Rush, the band, isn’t really a band. It’s four young men who sing and dance, like so many of their predecessors in the world of teen-idol pop, groups like the Backstreet Boys, ’N Sync and New Kids on the Block. They are also part of a recent spate of teen-idol bands flooding the pop charts, starting with One Direction, whose July 19, 2013, show at the Sprint Center is already nearly sold out.

All four BTR members are in their early 20s. Two have regional ties: Kendall Schmidt is from Wichita and Carlos Pena Jr. is from Columbia. The four have been together since 2009, when the show “Big Time Rush” debuted on Nickelodeon. The show is a sitcom about four hockey players who leave Minnesota for Hollywood, where they try to catch on as a boy band. They have released two albums, “BTR” and “Elevate.” A third album is in the works.

Three years and two albums ought to provide enough time and work for four young guys to hone their act into something with a steady sheen and fluid energy. But BTR isn’t quite there yet. Its choreography is primitive and rough, its stage banter is a bit stiff, and the vocals all night could have used another coat or two of polish, despite evidence that not everything being heard was live. They look and sound like minor league versions of the Backstreet Boys and ’N Sync — there’s no Justin Timberlake in this bunch — and none of their songwriters has the pop knack or pizzazz of songwriter/producer Max Martin, the Cole Porter of the boy-band craze in the 1990s.

And absolutely none of that mattered to anyone in the Sprint Center on Friday. For more than 80 minutes, more like male cheerleaders than dancers, they bounced and bobbed and busted moves, not always in unison, as they delivered catchy pop tunes about puppy love and romance. The show was filled with the usual boy-band rituals. There were wardrobe changes. There were flash pots. There were confetti and streamers. There were trips into the audience to mingle and swap high-fives with their fawning fans. Before “Worldwide,” they pulled four girls out of the crowd and onto stools onstage, where they serenaded them: “Hello, tuck you in every night on the phone / Hello, tuck you in every night.”

That’s about as suggestive as the lyrics got all night. Mostly, BTR launch into pop/dance anthems about good times (“Time of Our Life”) and inspiration. From “Superstar”: “You’re shining bright in the dark, dark / You light up the light.” From “Music Sounds Better Without You”: “It feels like / The music sounds better with you It feels right / Everything is better with you.” They also delivered barely passable covers of the Beatles tunes “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” and “Help.”

They finished with a breakup song, “Till I Forget About You,” in which the spurned partner announces how he’ll get over his heartache: “Dance hard, laugh more, turn the music up more / Party like a rock star.”

If the sentiment was over the heads of the majority of the audience, it didn’t show in their response. Polished or not, this quartet appeared to give the half-filled arena a night it won’t forget, at least until next July.

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