With every new academic year comes a new artist to headline the University Program Council’s Welcome Week Concert. This year, Sean Kingston came to Charlottesville to delight students and rev up hype for the new year.
UPC first dropped hints about the artist coming to the John Paul Jones Arena Aug. 2. Hints included pictures of Lebron James on a throne, a heavenly Russian royal court and an electric dance floor — a clue to Kingston’s hit song “Fire Burning.” There were guesses for J. Cole, PitBull and Flo Rida. Some outrageous guesses included the Beatles and Beyonce herself.
UPC revealed Kingston as the artist about a week later on Aug. 5. Lucky winners of a UPC raffle got the chance to meet Kingston before the concert. For those who did not, the first 500 guests were given wristbands to watch the concert from floor seats.
Doors opened at 6:30 p.m. for a 7:45 p.m. opening performance by a local band, Bull Moose Party, which consists of community members and University students.
“I think it’s a really good opportunity for U.Va. to allow students to open for big names like Sean Kingston, especially those who want to pursue a career in music,” third-year College student Danait Haddish said.
As the last students filed into the arena, Bull Moose Party covered a multitude of crowd pleasers such as Outkast’s “Hey Ya” and an original song.
To start off the concert, the event director asked each section to make noise before Kingston’s appearance on stage. After going through each section and each row in a chosen section, the event director — in a surprise move — gave a meet and greet to the most hype audience member. The winner immediately went backstage to meet the performer.
The crowd suddenly exploded with cheering and noise as Kingston took to the stage and opened the concert with “Me Love.” He also performed songs that featured collaborations with other artists such as “Letting Go (Dutty Love) ft. Nicki Minaj” and “Eenie Meenie ft. Justin Bieber.”
Kingston even sang “Replay” by singer Iyaz, a track which he co-wrote with Iyaz and Jason Derulo in 2009. Many were not expecting to hear the song and did not know of Kingston’s involvement with the production of the 2000s hit.
“I was very surprised to hear that song,” second-year College student Brianna Seekford said. “I didn’t know that he wrote that song.”
The night eventually turned emotional, as Kingston turned off all the stage lights to have students raise their phone flashlights for the song “Beautiful Girls.” Kingston remarked how much the song meant to him and performed a touching rendition of one of his most recognizable tunes.
In a swift transition from the moving performance, Kingston sang “Fire Burning,” arguably his best song. Audience members in the floor seats were jumping up and down and the entire arena sang along. At points Kingston was drowned out by students singing his song. The singer encouraged the audience's engagement. Kingston and company threw water on audience members on the floor to presumably calm the fire. This excited the audience more as they sang along.
Some students filed out as Kingston sang “Beat It ft. Chris Brown.” Kingston collaborated with Brown in 2013, after Brown pleaded guilty of felony assault. In the song, Brown promises to the girl he is singing to that he would never hurt her — however, Brown has a well-documented history of abuse towards women.
Kingston ended his set with a performance of “Dumb Love.” Students promptly left the arena chatting about how much they liked the concert and discussing further plans for the night.
All in all, it was a packed house and enjoyable kick off to the new academic year.