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Darren Criss concert review NYC

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Darren Criss
Lester Cohen/Getty Images

Tonight, Darren Criss will join his Glee cast members for a performance at the 20,000-seat Izod Center in East Rutherford, NJ for the latest stop on the group’s gigantic summer tour.

But last night, the singer took to a much smaller stage at Irving Plaza in New York City for a solo performance that was as charmingly aimless as it was enjoyable and star-filled. Among the cameos? Criss’ Warbler brothers, Naya Rivera, and Lauren Lopez from Team Starkid’s A Very Potter Musical.

Early on during the show, Criss told the audience to expect three things: a flexible set list (which he said he would make up as the show progressed), a few incidents  of forgotten lyrics, and big guests.

He made good on all of those promises, and the result was a show that felt more like a backyard jam session than a concert with one of the biggest teen stars and his friends—except this jam session had a guest list of about 1,500 screaming girls, all of whom wailed in approval as Criss performed a 90-minute set, including the soulful track “Human,” “Teenage Dream” (one of three songs he performed with the Warblers), and several songs from A Very Potter Musical (including one nearly 8-minute track), performed with Lopez.

The Potter material in particular went over well with the devout crowd, many of whom wore Criss’ signature pink shades, and knew essentially every word to every song—most of it technically unreleased material. When Criss sat down at the piano to play “The Coolest Girl,” premature screams of excitement from the crowd even caused him to pause. “Four notes? Really?” he said, laughing. The crowd’s response to that, however, paled in comparison to when Naya Rivera stepped on stage to accompany her co-star on “Valerie.”

Overall, the show largely featured fewer covers and Glee-centric tunes than one might expect, but if shrieks have an equal exchange rate with applause, I get the sense no one had a problem with that choice.

Related:

‘Glee Project’ post-mortem. Faves and hates?

‘Glee’ star Darren Criss calls his show ‘A magical marshmallow castle in the sky,’ admits you may have had enough of him, and more in new interview

‘Glee’: Darren Criss and the Warblers cover Keane’s ‘Somewhere Only We Know’: Hear it here

Follow MusicMix and Sandra on Twitter: @EWMusicMix and @EWSandraG