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Flo Rida, Selena Gomez, Gym Class Heroes shine at Phooson

Playing to the back rows of a room the size of US Airways Center takes a special kind of talent. Playing in the back rows? CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS OF THE EVENT

That takes guts, a willingness to please and, in Flo Rida’s case, a bodyguard to cart the shirtless rapper through the crowd to the opposite end of the venue, where he proceeded to hoist himself into the seats, all while performing “Club Can’t Handle Me.”

Which it probably couldn’t.

He stopped off at various points in the crowd on his way back to the stage to do the same thing and then gave away whatever he was wearing on his feet to cap the most outrageous, energetic, no-holds-barred performance of the night at Johnjay and Rich’s Phooson concert Friday night, Dec. 2.

He’d already established himself as a crowd-pleasing man of the people after giving his necklace and leather jacket to the loudest fans and then inviting several dozen female concertgoers up on stage to bump and grind their way through “Low,” a snatch of DJ Laz’s “Move Shake Drop” and “Right Round.”

OneRepublic couldn’t help but seem anticlimactic after that, closing the night as the crowd trickled out with a hit-filled set of well-sung pop songs. They started off strong and dramatic with a cello-driven “Secrets” and made their way through “Stop and Stare,” an energetic performance of “All the Right Moves,” “Apologize” and a brand new Christmas song, “Christmas Without You,” that felt every bit as timeless as the show’s best singer, Ryan Tedder, hoped it would.

Selena Gomez went on right before Flo Rida, leading the Scene through a crowd-pleasing set that put the focus squarely on the dance side of her catalog, from “A Year Without Rain” to “Hit the Lights,” “Round & Round,” “Bang Bang Bang,” “Naturally” and “Love You Like a Love Song” (one of this year’s most infectious Hot 100 entries).

Gomez wore a sparkling silver minidress and knee-high boots but worked the stage more like the singer in a rock and roll band than a disco diva, which was kind of cool.

She stripped things down to cover Katy Perry’s latest hit, “The One That Got Away,” after telling the crowd it was one of her favorite songs on the radio right now, and let her rock side show on a spirited version of her first hit, “Tell Me Something I Don’t Know.”

A 19-year-old Disney Channel icon, Gomez clearly understands the challenge of transitioning from family-friendly teen sensation to the kind of star more often found in Rolling Stone than Tiger Beat or Pixie. And the Artist Formerly Known as Hannah Montana should be taking notes. She’s growing up with dignity and made sure to acknowledge those young fans in their Selena Gomez T-shirts clutching handmade signs. Before “Naturally,” she told them “Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do something or that you’re not capable.” And she closed with a heartfelt peformance of “Who Says,” a sweet self-empowerment anthem that she introduced as being “really, really important for me because of what it stands for.”

It was sweet.

At the opposite end of the innocence spectrum, Phooson started with a 15-minute set by Pussycat Doll-turned-reality judge, Nicole Scherzinger, who brought six dancers she probably paid for with “X Factor” money and sang three songs to prerecorded tracks while showing off her favorite stripper moves with a leggy performance of “Right There.” She ended with a plea to vote for the singer she mentors on “The X Factor.”

Karmin, a duo whose hip-hop covers seem like something dreamed up for an “SNL” skit, followed Scherzinger and popped up several times before the night was through, covering Nicki Minaj, Chris Brown and Katy Perry.

Teen star Cody Simpson sang to prerecorded tapes for most of his short set, which featured female dancers but peaked when he brought an acoustic guitar out for a heartfelt “Angel.”

If Gym Class Heroes seemed like Warped Tour veterans after Scherzinger and Simpson with their energetic brand of hip-hop-flavored reggae-rock, that’s because they are. They set the tone with “Cupid’s Chokehold,” Disashi Lumumba-Kasongo’s vocals soaring on the chorus they snagged from a Supertramp classic ,”Breakfast in America.” Their sound was massive as they crammed as many highlights as they could into 25 minutes, from “Cookie Jar” to “Ass Back Home” and “Billionaire,” a chart-rocking solo hit from their group leader, Travie McCoy, which also made the most of guitarist Lumumba-Kasongo’s upper register. They closed with a spirited audience singalong of their latest smash, “Stereo Hearts,” and could have played another 20 minutes without wearing out their welcome.

Taio Cruz followed the Heroes with 25 minutes of throbbing electro. Dressed in black with dark sunglasses, he opened strong with “Hangover,” a recent single that features Flo Rida, who stayed backstage and let Cruz work his own damn crowd. That crowd went wild when “Hangover” was followed by his first chart-topping U.S. single, “Break Your Heart,” and sexting anthem, “Dirty Picture.” But the man knows how to build a set, which finished big with “Higher” and the throbbing beats of “Dynamite,” his other No. 1.

And then, it was on to Gomez, Flo Rida and OneRepublic. By the final notes of OneRepublic’s “Good Life,” it felt like a pretty good snapshot of pop radio in 2011. Not the kind of snapshot Cruz would have you text, but as an overview of what a kid who listens to Top 40 radio might want to hear? It definitely got the job done.

Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/thingstodo/music/articles/2011/12/03/20111203phooson-review-flo-rida-selena-gomez-gym-class-heroes-one-republic-phoenix.html#ixzz1fanbvfhF

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