'New Year's Rockin' Eve' in NYC Highlights Include Lively Sets by Gloria Estefan, DNCE

Taylor Hill/FilmMagic
Ektor Rivera, Gloria Estefan and Ana Villafane perform during Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve at Times Square on Dec. 31, 2016 in New York City. 

Mariah Carey gave 2016 an appropriate send-off with a baffling performance plagued with technical difficulties on Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve with Ryan Seacrest on ABC, but the rest of the Times Square performances -- including Thomas Rhett, DNCE, and Gloria Estefan with the Broadway cast of On Your Feet! -- went off without a hitch.

Estefan had the tightest schedule, running through a medley of songs -- including “Conga,” “Turn the Beat Around,” “Everlasting Love” and “Get on Your Feet” -- with the stars of the musical, including two young boys who charmed the fans on the risers with their fancy footwork. She nearly made an error, declaring, “It’s almost 2000 and seven -- teen!”

Other than that, her set was a highlight, sharing vocals with Ana Villafane, who plays her character in the show. The dancers made full use of the stage, demonstrating turns and lifts, with Estefan never missing a step in her high-heeled boots. After her performance, Estefan waved to the crowd on the side, blowing kisses and then graciously taking pictures with members of the New York Police Department.

Joe Jonas is a performer that thrives on audience participation, and Saturday night’s show was no different. DNCE -- with members Jack Lawless, Cole Whittle, and JinJooLee -- is one of the most colorful acts in pop, and their outfits chosen for the occasion added a burst of Technicolor to the program. 

Jonas himself made it a point to barrel down the stairs from the stage and head right out to the barricades, coming face to face with fans and adding to the excitement of performing DNCE's hit song “Cake By the Ocean” in Times Square. On stage, Whittle is a show all by himself, playing his instrument almost in a headstand while kicking is legs like a bicycle. When Jonas returned to the stage, he came in close to share the mic with JinJooLee, clearly having a blast.

Rhett, decked in a red jacket, got into the spirit of the evening by donning a pair of 2017 glasses and dedicating his Grammy nominated song, “Die a Happy Man,” “to all the lovers in Times Square.” His set ended in a patriotic shower of red, white and blue confetti.

In the green room, Quantico star Blair Underwood enjoyed the evening with his family, and tells Billboard it was his daughter Brielle’s idea to come to Times Square.

“I have never come down here for New Year’s Eve,” he says. “It was my daughter’s idea, initially, and she said, ‘Why don’t we do it?’ So I work here with ABC on my show, Quantico, which comes back Jan. 23, asked for some passes, and here we are.”

Miss America 2016, Savvy Shields, tells Billboard that as a trained dancer -- her talent in the competition was as a jazz dancer -- said winning Miss America offered “experiences and memories” such as attending New Year's Eve in Times Square that she “ never would have had otherwise” for a 21-year old art major. Her major highlight of the evening: watching Estefan.

“It’s every dancer's dream to be on Broadway,” she says.

Also in the broadcast, co-host Jenny McCarthy pulled off what she called a “frozen challenge,” a play on the popular mannequin challenge before introducing DNCE.

Elsewhere in Times Square, Rachel Platten performed “Fight Song” while 18-year old performer Silento lead the audience for his hit song “Watch Me.” A kissing contest was also held on a separate platform.