iHeartRadio Music Festival Off To Big Start in Las Vegas
September 19, 2014 at 9:29 PM (PT)
Seems like just yesterday CLEAR CHANNEL launched the first iHEART RADIO MUSIC FESTIVAL in LAS VEGAS, but this year's edition is the fourth annual such affair, and it is proving a huge success. On the very week in which the radio giant changed its name to iHEARTMEDIA, its namesake concert is drawing huge crowds to the MGM GRAND both TONIGHT (9/19) and TOMORROW night (9/20), with tickets going for upwards of $750 on the secondary market.
The show got underway with a short video depicting TAYLOR SWIFT emerging in front of the MGM GRAND in a black Cadillac with the license plate "1986," promoting her upcoming album, sashaying through the casino, then dodging laser security in a JAMES BOND type spoof to grab a crystal microphone from RYAN SEACREST and hitting the stage, in studded pink halter top and cheerleader skirt for a five-song medley that starts with an energetic "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," then segues into "22," puncutated with a four-piece horn section, and "I Knew You Were Trouble." "We're here because we all love listening to the radio," she says, before introducing "Love Story," a song "I wrote when I was 17, but I changed the ending," performing it on keyboard. "We listen to the radio to escape or dance," she proclaims, then launches into "Shake It Off," complete with honking sax, a suitably breathless finale.
COLDPLAY is up next, CHRIS MARTIN and company casual in T-shirts and jeans. "This is a well-dressed crowd," muses MARTIN. "Better dressed than we are." What follows is a four-song mini-greatest hits set of "Clocks," "Viva La Vida" and "Paradise," before tackling a pair of songs from the recent "Ghost Stories," in "Ink" and a "Sky Full of Stars" which is the show's first big moment, the traditional confetti showering the audience. "Don't spend all your money," says MARTIN before the group bow.
NICKI MINAJ is next, resplendent in studded black bra, and patterned tights that bring out her best "ass-ets" for a spirited set that starts off with "Super Bass," then "PIlls N Potions" and "Moment 4 Life" before she poses the question, "Can a Trinidaddian girl from Jamacia, Queens, get hood for about six minutes," going into "Beez in the Trap" and a snippet from her remix of BEYONCE's "Flawless." ARIANA GRANDE joins her for their current smash, "Bang Bang" and then it's a slithering, bumping 'Anaconda" which brings the desert to a feverish boil.
A very pregnant ALICIA KEYS made a surprise appearance, sitting down at the piano for a set that included her newest single, "We Are Here" and some anniversary shout-outs to her husband, producer SWIZZ BEATZ.
BASTILLE were up next with a four-song set that climaxed with the smash, "Pompeii." EDM star STEVE AOKI proved a DJ could fill a large arena, pulling out all the stops, including bringing on WILL.I.AM, hitting someone in the crowd with a cake and having FALL OUT BOY's PETE WENTZ surf the crowd in a lifeboat as he played their collaboration, "Back To Earth." AOKI worked the crowd into a frenzy with remixes of LINKIN PARK's "A Light That Never Comes" and KID CUDI's "Pursuit of Happiness,"proving electronic music is right in the mix when it comes to pop crossover.
In his dashing red and white cardigan sweater and matching boots, JASON DERULO made the most of his five minutes, dazzling with "Trumpets" and "Talk Dirty," an astonishing musical display that even included a few dashes of -- wait for it -- klezmer. MOTLEY CRUE brought some old-fashioned hard rock pyrotechnics to the floor, starting off with TOMMY LEE on piano and a leggy four-piece string section for the power ballad, "Home Sweet Home," before reverting to form, and turning the large arena into a strip club for a raucous "Girls Girls Girls" which came complete with motorcycles and pole dancers. The smoke-and-fire-filled "Kickstart My Heart" brought out the flames, leaving the crowd in stunned silence as MICK MARS almost tripped on his high-heeled boots while playing a scorching solo at the lip of the stage. Country-rockers ZAC BROWN BAND blew a few more minds with a full-fledged, faithful cover of "Bohemian Rhapsody" as a set finale.
The kittenish ARIANA GRANDE may well be the new ANN-MARGRET in thigh-high boots and ubiquitous cat ears, as she continued her scorched earth campaign to conquer the world with a confident performance that began with her smash, "Problem" (without IGGY AZALEA -- is there a chill between the two from the MTV VIDEO MUSIC AWARDS?). For " Break Your Heart Right Back," she brings on CHILDISH "GAMBINA" (sic) in shorts and no socks for the hip-hop refrain. "Be My Baby" proves she is adept at a straight-ahead pop song, before she dips into her debut for "The Way," a duet with MAC MILLER, visible on the video screens behind her. ARIANA closes with the current hit, the EDM-flavored ZEDD collaboration, "Break Free," hitting the high notes and looking preternaturally composed for her age.
USHER seemed to take his finale spot seriously, intent on proving he is still this generation's answer to JAMES BROWN and MICHAEL JACKSON with a high-energy set that included "OMG," "You Make Me Wanna" and, taking out his falsetto, the playful "Good Kisser." He pulled out all his dance movdes for "She Came To Give It To You," the big band stopping on a dime like the FAMOUS FLAMES. He promised something "to remember" for the VEGAS crowd, bringing on surprise guest CHRIS BROWN, who recently told MTV he could beat USHER in a dance contest, for their latest collaboration, "New Flame." The discofied "U-Turn" got everybody up on their feet and involved as USHER posed for selfies and directed the crowd in a sing-along before the show closer, his tribute to his fans, "Without You," a direct acknowledgement of this populist event in a too-fragmented world, leaving the stage at a quarter past midnight to a sea of red and white confetti.
It was the first of two evenings that showcased the breadth of today's pop music -- from heavy metal to country, electronic to R&B, folk to pop -- and at the same time, paid tribute to the ever-melting Top 40 radio pot as music and information travel through the Interweb on its way to multiple end points, from car radios to iPhones to webcasts. In other words, iHEARTMEDIA.