Usher, Britney Spears, Ariana Grande, Pitbull, Sting Dominate Second Night Of iHeartRadio Music Festival
September 24, 2016 at 7:21 PM (PT)
Strong performances from USHER, BRITNEY SPEARS, ARIANA GRANDE, TEARS FOR FEARS, FLORIDA GEORGIA LINE, ZEDD, PITBULL, STING, CAGE THE ELELPHANT and USHER were the highlights at the second night of this year's sixth iHEARTRADIO MUSIC FESTIVAL from the T-MOBILE ARENA in LAS VEGAS. It was the follow-up to a successful night before, when U2 and a controversial set by DRAKE led the way for the likes of SIA, TWENTY ONE PILOTS, SAM HUNT, ONE REPUBLIC and a surprise appearance by MILEY CYRUS joining BILLY IDOL for a rousing "Rebel Yell." Like last night, the livestream was available at www.cwtv.com (#iheartfestival). The highlights of both evenings will be telecast on THE CW TV over two nights, OCTOBER 6th and 7th.
The evening's closing act was USHER, who flew in straight from NEW YORK after performing at the GLOBAL CITIZEN' FESTIVAL earlier in the day, but that didn't stop the multi-talented superstar one iota. He leaned into a falsetto for his new single, "Crash," from the just-released "Hard II Love" album. Sounded like he'd been taking a page from the likes of DRAKE for another new song, "Missing U," which mashed up traditional hot buttered soul and the post-rap disruption of special guest and fellow ATLANTAN LIL JON providing the rough edges. USHER unleashed some serious new smoov dance moves during "Rivals," yet one more from the new album that showed him staking out his old "next MICHAEL JACKSON" turf. With LUDACRIS joining the two of them, the trio brought the A-T-L flavor to the old school quiet storm of their 2012 collabo, "Lovers and Friends," then reached back to 2004 for the seminal bleep-hop of their hit "Yeah," followed by a blast of the DJ SNAKE/LIL' JON smash, "Turned Down for What," which served as affirmation of USHER's role in the evolution of rap and R&B. Mr. RAYMOND closed with one more new song, "No Limit," an apt description of his own prodigious talent. His appearance this weekend served as a both a reminder and a warning shot to all the KANYEs, FRANK OCEANs and THE WEEKNDs out there -- the original is back to claim his throne.
To start the show, JOHN STAMOS and TAYLOR LAUTNER joined host RYAN SEACREST to introduce BRITNEY SPEARS, who brought a little of her VEGAS glitter with the opening number "Work Bitch," showing off her pecs, followed by a swaggering "Womanizer," which put her well-tooled dancers to work holding her aloft. A dramatic, dry-ice-infused "I'm a Slave 4 U" was next, leading into "Do You Wanna Come Over?" the recently released song from her new album, "Glory." "Nobody should be alone if they don't have to be," she chanted, surrounded by her energetic troupe. A short snippet of MISSY ELLIOTT's "Get Ur Freak On" led into an undulating, coquettish "Toxic," an anthemic "Stronger," that doubled as a nod to her road to recovery and a pony-tail-tossing, writhing "(You Drive Me) Crazy," The recent single, "Make Me..." proved a suitable conclusion, with SPEARS joined by collaborator G-EAZY, just as he did at the recent MTV VIDEO MUSIC AWARDS, delivering his rap from the song, riled up the crowd and left arm-in-arm with BRITNEY under a shower of confetti.
DAVID SPADE made a few futile stabs at BRANGELINA humor before bringing on FLORIDA GEORGIA LINE, who convincingly presented their rapabilly brand of country-rock with the bro-friendly hit,"This Is How We Roll" and the tailgate-ready "Round Here," urging, "Dance in the dust/Turn the radio up." TYLER HUBBARD and BRIAN KELLEY then touchingly dedicated the midtempo ballad, "H.O.L.Y. (High On Loving You)," to their wives, "without whom we wouldn't be here," before launching into a tribute to one of their admitted primary influences, BACKSTREET BOYS, bringing the band on-stage for a crowd-pleasing, flame-spouting "Everybody (BACKSTREET's Back)." They built on that energy to close their set with a hick-hop-flavored "Cruise," an homage to the joys of driving with the windows down, trading the verses like a pair of seasoned MCs.
KATHY GRIFFIN then summoned the BACKSTREET BOYS to return for their own set, which included hits like "I Want It That Way," "As Long As You Love Me" and "Larger Than Life" serving as a plug for their just-announced, similarly titled 18-date SIN CITY residency at the AXIS at PLANET HOLLYWOOD RESORT & CASINO starting next SPRING.
CAGE THE ELEPHANT brought some good old-fashioned rock 'n' roll swagger to the proceedings with lead singer MATT SHULTZ doing his best MICK JAGGER jumping jack flash impression on the garage band psychedelia of "Mess Around," the sing-song rap/slide guitar DELTA blues of "Ain't No Rest For The Wicked," the whooping vocal "ooh-woos" and chiming riffs fueling "Trouble" and the emotion-charged acoustic strum und drang of "Cigarette Daydreams." The band continued the tight set with the soft-and-loud neo-grunge dynamics of "Shake Me Down," as SHULTZ and the band grabbed their moment in the spotlight and made the most of it. "Even on a cloudy day...." Next up was "Come A Little Closer," an insinuating minor key brooder that closed with a suitably anthemic catharsis, and a rattling "Teeth," as SHULTZ asked/answered the house: "Are you into the beat? I can feel it in my teeth," before rolling around on the ground amidst the crowd.
ARIANA GRANDE wowed the room with a captivating five-song set that combined passionate fire and icy precision, starting with a dominating “Into You,” which featured the pony-tailed ingenue clad in a yellow rain slicker/poncho, working the house like an old pro on "Be Alright," exploring otherwise simple sentiments with impressive tenacity. She invited ZEDD on-stage to play drums and synths on their collaboration, “Break Free,” which would be EDM’s first appearance at the two-night affair, but most certainly not the last, and followed that with the aptly named, playful “Dangerous Woman,” which proved GRANDE is well on her way to assuming the mantle of the next triple-threat crossover pop ingénue to follow in the footsteps of BEYONCE and TAYLOR SWIFT.
ZEDD was up next, carrying the dance music banner, offering an eye-popping, toe-tapping, head-nodding medley of his greatest hits set to a major league light show, featuring such club-floor staples as “Stay the Night," “Clarity" and “IWant You to Know." He was joined by MAGIC! for their hit "Rude," then ALOE BLACC for the pair's joint smash, "Candyman" and, finally, HAILEE STEINFELD for "Starving," the duo's latest single with GREY.
The '80s new wave was well-represented by TEARS FOR FEARS, introduced by the unlikely pair of one-time MTV VJ MARTHA QUINN and "Wicked" star IDINA MENZEL. ROLAND ORZABEL and CURT SMITH started with -- what else? -- a note-perfect rendition of the prescient "Everybody Wants To Rule The World," into the extended, BEATLES-que "Sowing The Seeds Of Love," the now-recurrent, much-covered "Mad World," "Head Over Heels," and the primal scream-influenced "Shout," any of which, remarkably enough, would fit right in at today's Top 40 with, say, a ZEDD remix. The pair looked gratefully overwhelmbed by what was the night's first big standing ovation.
WILMER VALDERRAMA and iHEARTLATINO's ENRIQUE SANTOS presented MIAMI’s own LATINO superstar PITBULL, who brought his typically high-energy work ethic, taking the stage to PHIL COLLINS’ “In the Air Tonight” and VAN HALEN's “Pretty Woman,” amid a full-blown production. The entertainer is less a singer and dance than an affable host/cheerleader, opening with the high-speed island toasting of “Don’t Stop the Party," before tackling (believe it or not) an instrumental segue of "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Give the man credit; he gets the audience involved with the bumping FLO RIDA/LUNCHMONEY LEWIS collaboration, "Greenlight." He followed with the celebratory SPANISH-language "Echa Pa'lla (Manos P'Arriba"), translating for the multi-ethnic crowd the admonition to get your "hands in the air." The tropical-flavored "Fireball" shakes up salsa and rap into a flaming centerpiece, a post-rap nod to the likes of TITO PUENTE or XAVIER CUGAT. He then read a poem about the immigrant experience as a way of introducing the soaring, autobiographical disco/rap anthem, "Give Me Everything (Tonight)" ("Took my life from negative to positive"), before signing off with gracious thanks to everybody. Just PIT doing what he does best, inspiring people to be the best they can be by turning his personal triumph into a group affirmation.
STING continued TFF's '80s theme with an expansive take on THE POLICE's "Message In a Bottle," before performing his new single, "I Can't Stop Thinking About You," representing a reported welcome return to his pop-rock-styled songwriting with that band on his upcoming album, "57th & 9th," coming out in NOVEMBER and marking his return to A&M RECORDS. He followed with another new song, "50,000," his reflections on the recent deaths of DAVID BOWIE and PRINCE. "We create the gods we can and give them immortality," he sang. "Rock stars don't ever die/They only fade away," followed by a seamless transition into an intense "Every Breath You Take" that thematically linked the two numbers. A feverishly speedy punk-rock rendition of THE POLICE's "Next To You," which confirmed the man's renewed commitment to his rock roots, ended with a hearty, gospel rave-up courtesy a pair of soulful female vocalists.
Kudos to Messrs. TOM POLEMAN and JOHN SYKES for another two nights of memorable music, and a nod to the melting pot power of classic Top 40 radio..