Yes He Kanye!: West Steals The Show At iHeartRadio Music Festival's First Night
September 19, 2015 at 12:10 AM (PT)
There was a little something for everyone at tonight's iHEARTRADIO MUSIC FESTIVAL, a veritable Top 40 mash-up worthy of the Golden Age of '60s AM radio, with KENNY CHESNEY and DEMI LOVATO rocking hardest, SAM SMITH, COLDPLAY and DURAN DURAN crowd-pleasing, LIL WAYNE outraging, JASON DERULO working up a sweat, in himself and the audience, DAVID GUETTA getting the crowd grooving in the aisles... there was even a cover of "Viva Las Vegas" by hometown band THE KILLERS.
But it was KANYE WEST who took the crowd into the palm of his hand, with a deadline-racing, 40-minute, 17-song career retrospective that started with "Stronger" and ended with his PAUL McCARTNEY collaboration for daughter NORTH, "Only One." In between, WEST, who was introduced by a pink-haired JARED LETO as "just possibly the future President Of The United States," took immediate command -- except for a brief technical glitch which caused several minutes of silence -- stalking before a blinding bank of lights, pressing his way through a song cycle whose titles told the story -- "Power" ("I need you right now"), the propulsive tribal stomp of "Black Skinhead," a virtual medley of "All Day," "Mercy" and "Clique," the crowd joining in for the autotuned "Heartless" and responding to the single piano notes signaling "Runaway," a tuneful solo turn on "Four Five Seconds" into a testifying "Jesus Walks," a gospel-inflected "All Falls Down," "Can't Tell Me Nothing," a spirited "Gold Digger," followed by a soaring "Touch The Sky," "All the Lights" and a celebratory "Good Life," the audience at his mercy. Say what you want about the man... he knows how to work a room, and he managed to seize the moment.
Going back to the beginning of the night, SAM SMITH, apparently completely recovered from his recent throat surgery earlier this year, hit the stage to open the fifth annual iHEARTRADIO MUSIC FESTIVAL at the MGM GRAND GARDEN ARENA in LAS VEGAS, the brainchild of BOB PITTMAN, TOM POLEMAN and JOHN SYKES, which has served to successfully rebrand the former CLEAR CHANNEL as players in not only the broadcast business, but in putting on a helluva show every year to launch the FALL season.
On-air stars ELVIS DURAN, BIG BOY, NATALIA, LOUIS G, BETHANY & DANIELLE, ELLEN K and BOBBY BONES & AMY anchored the pre-show coverage on YAHOO LIVE here. To follow the FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM, TWITTER, SNAPSHOT, PERISCOPE, et al, activity, go to #iHeartRadio.
CHRISTINE GRIMME, winner of the MACY'S IHEARTRADIO RISING STAR competition, received a warm reception from the sold-out crowd before the main event.
After being introduced by TAYLOR LAUTNER, the newly slim, lightly bearded SMITH, resplendent in a waist-length, buttoned-up jacket and tie, seemed to be delighted to be there, revealing it was his first time performing in LAS VEGAS. He opened up with "I'm Not the Only One," leading the crowd in a singalong, then segued into "Like I Can," marked by a mid-song tribal percussive break. His falsetto showing no signs of disrepair after his recent medical problems, SAM then brought on his old pals from DISCLOURE -- HOWARD and GUY LAWRENCE -- for a pair of their hits, including "Omen," from the latter's recent "Caracal" album, and "Latch," the song that first introduced SMITH to the public. He closes with a rousing "Stay With Me," the crowd joining in on the chorus a rousing gospel finale.
RYAN SEACREST then brought on COLDPLAY, as CHRIS MARTIN sat down at the piano for a mini-set opening with a stunning "Paradise," moving right into a spirited "Viva La Vida," urging the crowd to chant along with the wordless chorus, before leaning into a propulsive "Clocks." The pace slowed somewhat for the yearning "Fix You," but the performance ended strong with the EDM thump-and-grind of "Sky Full of Stars," punctuated by MARTIN's goofy spin moves and a confetti-filled finale.
The night's first (and basically only) country act, KENNY CHESNEY was introduced by BOBBY BONES and ASHLEY TISDALE. Offering yet one more sign today's country is yesterday's AOR, the cowboy-hatted superstar -- with its low-lying brim hiding his eyes -- leaned into "Beer In Mexico" and "Till It's Gone," providing the night's first big rock 'n' roll moment. "Light up the night and let it burn," roared KENNY as he and his crack band did just that in the bluesy HAMMOND organ riffs and searing CLAYTON MITCHELL leads of "Summertime." The band closes with the country-blues rhythmic skiffle nod to "American Kids" and "teenage dreaming," followed by "Living In Fast Forward," his swaggering, STONESy, CHUCK BERRYesque tongue in cheek ode to rock stardom. "I need to rewind real slow," he sings. "I've still got some miles to go." He proves it by ambling out on the lip of the stage and urging the crowd on for "Young," proving he may well be country music's answer to BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN as a front man.
JASON DERULO -- who freely admitted in a pretaped YAHOO interview the influence of MICHAEL JACKSON on his music -- set up an interesting battle with tomorrow night's iHEARTRADIO MUSIC FESTIVAL performers THE WEEKND and PRINCE ROYCE to be the King of Pop's designated heir. Wearing shredded, tight blue jeans, DERULO's five-song performance spotlighted his incredible dance moves, which began with a "Talk Dirty" that interpolated an EASTERN EUROPEAN hora, included "Trumpets," a NEW ORLEANS-style swing tune with its lyrical nods to fellow acts COLDPLAY and KANYE WEST, a steamy "Wiggle," and finishing with two new songs, "Try Me" (a duet he recorded with J. LO) and "Want to Want Me," which left him barechested, sweaty and ready to break out like his idol.
Accompanied by just a DJ, LIL WAYNE crashed the stage with the kind of profanity-laced set that would never get played on any iHEARTRADIO station, but proved the hip-hop prankster still had what it takes to outrage. Bringing back the good old days of gangsta rap, with a mini-greatest hits set that included "John (If I Die Today)," "I'm Goin' In," the dance-hall toasting of :"A MIllie," "Rich As Fuck," "Bitches Love Me" and the explicit pleasures of "She Licks Me Like a Lollipop," with which WAYNE regaled the crowd. He signed off, thanking iHEARTRADIO -- and GOD bless 'em for shaking things up by booking him -- and offering two principles according to WEEZY: We all ain't shit without God; 2) I ain't shit without you," You gotta love 'em, but don't expect to see him on the upcoming network TV broadcast.
I hadn't realized until DEMI LOVATO came on-stage there had yet to be a female performer. From the ridiculous (WAYNE) to the sublime, the maturing teenpop star swept away all that testosterone by showing off her very grown-up ANN MARGRET image on the appropriate-for-the-occasion hit "Cool For The Summer" before the PAT BENATAR-meets-girl group bravado of "Really Don't Care" and "Heart Attack." In fact, next to CHESNEY, this is the second most rocking act of the night to this point. Her voice was both outsized and perfectly suited to this kind of radio-ready anthemic pop-rock, with "Give Your Heart A Break," its indelible radio chorus delivered with diva panache. She proceeded to bring out THIRD EYE BLIND's STEPHAN JENKINS for a duet on that band's '90s crossover Top 40 hit, "Jumper," then finished every bit the disco diva with the rhythmic dance-pulse of "Neon Lights." Lady's got pipes, hooks, looks and a new album coming out... You can't be more fierce than DEMI.
After getting introduced by COURTNEY LOVE, who claimed the city wasn't just about electronic music, hometown boys THE KILLERS took the stage with a rollicking version of "Viva LAS VEGAS." On "Human," they pondered the metaphysical question, "Are we human or are we dancers," while reminding us the underrated rockers were doing beats even before EDM was a blip on the radar. "Mr. Brightside" is their hit, a combination of BOWIE panache and '80s post-punk techno that draws a direct line to FESTIVAL billmates DURAN DURAN; the followoing "Shot At The Night" is even closer. The U2-like hymn, "All These Things That I've Done," has arena-rock anthem written all over it, but worked anyway, even sparking a chant-a-long. "I got soul/But I'm not a soldier." They closed with an upbeat "When You Were Young," with lead singer BRANDON FLOWERS even breaking a sweat.
Seems SHAGGY was added to the bill because he wasn't listed on the website, and who knows how he got there, though his greatest hits, "It Wasn't Me" and "Angel" set the Top 40 crossover standard for dance-hall toasting. Meanwhile, he introduced his two latest tracks, " Need Your Love" and "Only Love" (which he recorded with PITBULL) both of them sounding like they'd fit right in at today's rhythmn radio.
Introduced by an ebullient JAMES CORDEN as "The Wild Boys," DURAN DURAN promised "a trip through our history" by starting with that very song, and it sounded like they'd never left. Making good on their vow, the set proceeded with a swinging, sax (sex?)-driven "Hungry Like a Wolf," then dedicating a particularly funky version of "Notorious" to NILE RODGERS before playing their just-released album's first new single, "Pressure Off" which, to their credit, is both a nod to their past and an honest attempt to crack today's Top 40. "Everybody everwhere step out into the future." Even while luxuriating in their rich legacy, harking back to the hyper-romantic, epic "Ordinary World," followed by "Rio," written, according to a still-dapper SIMON LE BON, "about our first trip to AMERICA," which brings things to a fitting finale For someone who was initially skeptical about this much-ballyhooed reunion, I must say, it's a welcome return.
Then it was time for DAVID GUETTA to bring his ;larger-than-life DJ superstar self to the stage to perform some of his biggest hits, like "Dangerous" and "Titanium" (with SIA's vocals and the audience filling in the gaps), including tantalizing samples of tidbits like "Seven Nation Army," that had the bathed-in-blue audience gyrating past midnight amid dropping bass and spiralling flames. GUETTA probably had to take a massive pay cut just to do this gig. Who needs to play an instrument when you have them all at your fingertips?