U2, Expletive-Laced Drake, Twenty One Pilots, Sia, Idol/Cyrus Highlight iHeartRadio Music Festival First Night
September 23, 2016 at 7:26 PM (PT)
U2 held up the banner for rock 'n' roll for the finale at the sixth iteration of the sold-out iHEARTRADIO MUSIC FESTIVAL, which opened tonight at T-MOBILE ARENA in LAS VEGAS, the first of two evenings showcasing some of the biggest names in pop, hip-hop -- and, oh yeah, rock -- music. Check out the livestream tomorrow night on www.cwtv.com and follow the online discussion at #iheartfestival. Editred versions of the two shows will be televised on the CW TV network over two nights, OCTOBER 6th and 7th in primetime.
SEAN PENN did the honors for U2, bringing them on to the strains of the "2001: A Space Odyssey" "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" theme.as "four gangsters from IRELAND to crash a pop concert with rock 'n' roll." BONO, THE EDGE, LARRY MULLIN JR. and ADAM CLAYTON hit the stage with the tom-tom beat of a fevered "Desire," way back from the 1988 album, "Rattle and Hum." "LAS VEGAS, are you ready to gamble the American Dream?" asked BONO of the crowd. "What do you have to lose? Everything!" Then it was time for the "uno, dos, tres" intro to the soaring "Vertigo," the group with something to prove, coaxing yelps from the delirous crowd. A fuzz-toned punk rave-up of "Elevation" follows -- "We're going up," shouts BONO -- before the band locks into "Beautiful Day," basically performing three of their usual set-openers in a row. Quoting COLDPLAY's :Yellow," they segue into a pretty much definitive "Pride (In The Name Of Love)." "Sing for the peacemakers in CHARLOTTE, NC... Sing for TULSA, too. More than ever, we need the spirit of Dr. K. The spirit of non-violence. Not just in this land, but across the world. Peace is love. Organize. So get out and vote. Whoever you vote for." "One" brought a suitable global perspective, with BONO praising AMERICA "as the best idea the world has ever had... Thank you for listening to some Irish guys who may be testing your tolerance for freedom of speech." BONO then thanked "those brave DJs" for playing the plaintive, aching "Every Breaking Wave," which he called "a song for lovers," one he claims to have written for his wife. "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" was the perfect ending for an evening that proved the sheer diversity of today's contemporary music scene. "Take it to the church... LAS VEGAS, let's get married!" Rock might not rule the radio airwaves these days, but it certainly lit up the T-MOBILE arena tonight.
Flashback about five hours. Host RYAN SEACREST and KEVIN HART opened the livestream with a pre-filmed bit with the two forced to share a single hotel room in an overbooked LAS VEGAS which doubled as a promo for the latter's new movie, "What Now?" before the former introduced BILLY IDOL, carrying the banner for rock.
The sneering, ageless, peroxide-blonde, leather-clad pop-punk IDOL opened with -- what else -- "Dancing With Myself," which doubled as the title of his recent autobiography, as longtime sidekick STEVE STEVENS demonstrated some nifty behind-the-back guitar moves and BILLY added an unexpurgated obscenity. The set continued with STEVENS laying down the riffs for "White Wedding," while BILLY bared his still impressive chest, evoling JIM MORRISON for an extended bluesy jam on "Flesh For Fantasy." IDOL then revved up the crowd with a series of snarling chants before bringing on a belly-baring, BILLY IDOL sunglasses-wearing, motorcyle-jacketed MILEY CYRUS for a swaggering, scintillating give-and-take on "Rebel Yell" that set the bar pretty high for the night's festivities. "I'm singing with BILLY 'fucking' IDOL," she gushed.
Country made its presence known with former football hopeful-turned-NASHVILLE star SAM HUNT's rap-flavored 2014 crossover hit, "Leave the Night On." Low-key in a white T-shirt and baseball cap, the hunky, athletic-looking HUNT danced around the stage like Music City's answer to CHRIS MARTIN. He followed with the nostalgic coming-of-age "Raised on It," a song he introduced "about growing up in GEORGIA" before finishing the four-song stint with the romantic ballad "Take Your Time," followed by the aptly named "House Party," complete with some simulated OG turntable scratching and HUNT taking it into the audience for some celebratory fist-bumps. HUNT then sat behind the piano for his chart-topping country smash, "Make You Miss Me," before finishing with his epic, MELLENCAMP/SPRINGSTEEN-ish "Break Up in a Small Town" for a fireworks-blasing finale that connected the dots making country the new rock.
OLYMPIC gymnastics GOLD medial winner LAURIE HERNANDEZ introduced RYAN TEDDER and ONE REPUBLIC, who opened with the honky-tonk piano-pumping, gospel-flavored, high-energy "Love Runs Out" segueing into the sawing strings of the set piece "Secrets" (complete with audience sing-along and its jibe at "critics") and the dry-ice smoke-filled hit TIMBALAND collaboration, "Apologize." The new "Kids," the first single from their upcoming "Oh My My" album, was next with TEDDER admitting, "I hope you like it." After thanking iHEARTMEDIA's TOM POLEMAN and JOHN SYKES for putting them on the bill, TEDDER leaned into "Counting Stars," their 2013 hit which showed off RYAN and the band's way with a radio hook, buttressed by a sea of lighted cell phones.."Eerything that kills me makes me feel alive." They won this admitted skeptic over.
HAILEE STEINFELD and iHEARTRADIO on-air personality BIG BOY brought out the always-obscured SIA with a giant bow in her hair, accompanied by her conceptual dance troupe in white leotards and what looked like net pouches strapped to their waists. Baby talk and thumb-sucking led into "Elastic Heart," recreating live the video which starred SHIA LaBEOUF and mini-SIA MADDIE ZIEGLER in a pas de deux. The entire group returned for "The Greatest," her duet with KENDRICK LAMAR. "I got stamina," she insisted, which certainly applied to her lithe terpsichoreans. "Don't give up/I won't give up." The conceptual conceit continued with whisipered voices as SIA belts out her DAVID GUETTA collab, "Titanium," accompanied by dancers wearing oversized panda and bunny heads acting out a knock-down fight with a giant hammer before joining hands. Her stunning "Chandelier" left little to doubt -- SIA is one of the most compelling figures in all of pop at the moment, not to mention a world-class vocalist and writer, even if we never do get a glimpse of her face.
The remarkable TWENTY ONE PILOTS -- COLUMBUS, OH natives, singer TYLER JOHNSON and drummer JOSH DUN -- might be the biggest story in hybrid rock, with a dubwise sound that has found a home on iHEARTRADIO (and other) Top 40 playlists around the country. The hooded two-man singer/ drummer duo launched into the dynamic, double-time dancehall toasting of their 2015 hit, "Heavy Dirty Soul,." taking the excitement level up a notch, before easing into their most recent single, the haunting piano-tinged ballad, "Heathens," which gains power as it moves to its conclusion. "It looks like you might be one of us." The loping, spooky, reggae beat of "Stressed Out," a rock-rap anthem for these neurotic times, perfectly captured the zeitgeist, followed by the breezy island beat of the smash "Ride," which prompted the most enthusiastic audience participation of the night. "I've been thinking too much." The pair concluded with the slow build of "Car Radio," and what better way to pay tribute to a concert promoted by a broadcast chain? The now face-masked JOHNSON, looking for all the world like he was ready to hold up a 7-ELEVEN, hoisted himself on one of the scaffoldings around the stage to rouse the crowd. Perhaps the most underrated arena band on the planet at the moment, they were obvious audience favorites.
For some reason (perhaps they're saving it for the telecast?), the livestream just ended, so we're now on the iHEARTRADIO app for audio-only of the night's two climactic headliners, DRAKE and U2. DRAKE, who's dominated the airwaves, the streaming services and wherever else music is heard and sold, was up next in a set that was heavily censored because of language. "Started from the bottom, now I'm here," he boasted, bringing the moment to life. "They brought me here to turn things up... We're going to take things through the ceiling." Then it's "The Motto," his collaboration with LIL WAYNE, seamlessly into "I'm Free," which he did with DJ KHALED. The insinuating "Energy" upped the ante, a confessional that turns the arena into an intimate confessional. The anxiety of "Jumpman" -- which he recorded with FUTURE -- kept up the mood of jumpy, clinking neurosis, all delivered with that distinctive DRAKEAN drawl, filled with an occasional whoop and a coupla shout-outs for DJ MUSTARD. "Controlla" is pure seduction, AUBREY GRAHAM with his smoothest come-on. "I think I'd die for you." Unfortunately, much of the obscenity-laced performance was lost to delays by the iHEARTRADIO feed.
LOS 5, winner of this year's iHEARTRADIO/MACY'S RISING STAR contest, a five-piece from MEXICO, BRAZIL, ARGENTINA and COLORADO, proceded the show with a robust, bilingual rap-reggae-pop-soul four-song set that occupied the promising middle ground between boy band and world beat. "We're on the same stage as U2 tonight," enthused one, setting the stage for what was to come. "Anything is possible."