Bow Wow and Brown, Playing to All Ages

By Sarah Godfrey
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, December 24, 2007

America's two biggest teen heartthrobs, rapper Bow Wow and singer Chris Brown, are both now over 18 and have fans who've grown up with them, which forced them to design their "Up Close and Personal" tour with both minors and 20-somethings in mind. There were wholesome moments during Saturday's four-hour concert at Verizon Center, but also stage grinding, the odd curse word and a headliner who didn't emerge until the very adult hour of 10 p.m. If there'd been fewer 6-year-olds present and songs more complex than bubblegum urban pop, one almost could've mistaken it for a real live grown-up concert.

The artists managed to engage the children without boring the grown women and titillate the adults without scandalizing the kids. They also deftly handled some growing pains of a different sort: After Sean Kingston sang "Beautiful Girls," Hurricane Chris mumbled "A Bay Bay" and Soulja Boy screeched "Crank Dat Soulja Boy," Bow Wow gave his first non-headlining set ever at Verizon Center.

"Lemme see if they ready for a real rap show!" Chad Morris bellowed, seeming excited rather than disappointed to be the penultimate act. The crowd, of course, was not ready for a real rap show but turned out to be amazingly receptive to a Bow Wow set.

Bow Wow performed archival material such as "Bow Wow (That's My Name)" and "Bounce With Me," both first recorded when his voice was about three octaves higher. But he seemed more comfortable with current tracks. He was most engaging when joined by BFF Omarion for "Girlfriend" from their new joint project, "Face Off," currently Billboard's No. 2 R&B/hip-hop album.

The break between sets was roughly 10 minutes, but in kid time it seemed an eternity. Chris Brown, the Tappahannock, Va.-bred pop star, emerged dramatically, rappelling down from the rafters, dressed in black and dodging laser security beams, "Mission: Impossible" style.

From his latest album, the flirty, confident "Exclusive," Brown performed "Wall to Wall," "Help Me" and "I'll Call Ya," during which he was much more focused on executing his intricate dance moves than in showing off his less impressive voice.

Brown didn't truly hit his stride until he left the main stage for a tilted circular platform and performed "Lottery" and "Take You Down," two of the more husky, sexed-up tracks from "Exclusive." The balancing act was made all the more interesting when he took off his shirt, revealing a chest with enough muscle tone to make the grown women whistle, but not so much as to frighten small girls.

After Brown performed his signature song, "Run It," from his 2005 debut, and current chart-topping smash "Kiss, Kiss," he and Bow Wow -- the current and former holders of the cutest-guy-in-the-whole-wide-world title -- closed the show with their sweet, crowd-pleasing duet "Shortie Like Mine." And all the shorties in the house -- even those no longer so small in stature -- seemed completely satisfied.

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