“I haven’t sung some of these songs in awhile… I’ve been busy,” said P!nk, several songs into her opening set on the second and final night of the iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas Saturday. The singer was referencing her newfound mommyhood, having given birth to daughter Willow in summer 2011, and the hectic recording schedule that led her to turn around a new album, “The Truth About Love,” just over a year later. “So forgive me if I forget some of the words.”
And sure enough, less than a minute after launching into her No. 2 Billboard Hot 100 hit “F*ckin Perfect,” she found herself singing one verse too early. “See? I’m already doing it!” She then half-apologized for performing such a foul-mouthed song as a new mommy. “My daughter’s asleep, so I can say [f*ck] now,” she said with a laugh.
P!nk’s ability to laugh at and guide the audience through her own occasional mistakes was an ultimately winning start to the close of an exceptionally memorable music weekend.
Though Night 2 didn’t have a guitar-smashing highlight a la Green Day the night before, it was not without its moments — a major surprise guest in the form of Prince, who showed up for a pair of duets with Mary J. Blige; an energetic, audience-interactive set from Taylor Swift; a stellar, hit-spanning show from Linkin Park; a pair of performances from superstar DJs Calvin Harris and deadmau5, who were joined by vocalists Ne-Yo and Gerard Way, respectively, to perform their current singles. And there was a career retrospective from Aerosmith, who played “Dreamin,'” “Cryin'” and many hits in between and a grand finale from pop-radio kingpin Pitbull (who was also joined by Ne Yo, to perform show closer “Give Me Everything.” And oh yeah, P!nk donned a harness for her own curtain call, “So What,” doing backflips all over the MGM Grand Arena in a scene straight out of her hugely successful Funhouse Tour from 2009.
VIDEOS: Billboard @ iHeartRadio Music Festival
In the case of the night’s surprise guest, no one seemed more amazed than Blige herself.
“I feel so blessed to have you up here because I’m sure you must be very particular about who you mess with,” an incredulous, visibly emotional Mary J. Blige told Prince, who donned an Afro, yellow bellbottoms and what could best be described as beekeeper sunglasses.
The music legend came out halfway during the Queen of Soul’s set to play guitar while Blige belted the Rufus-Chaka Khan classic “Sweet Thing,” a moment that had the crowd on their feet and in varying degrees of euphoria. Later, Blige asked Prince if he would do her the honor of singing with her and if so what should they sing — a loaded question for a man who famously asks his band to learn 300 songs before every tour so they have a lot to choose from every night.
“I wanna do this song, but let’s do it a little differently,” he said, before launching into the original funk/soul version of his own “Nothing Compares 2 U” (popularized by Sinead O’Connor’s 1990 remake), with Blige handling Rosie Gaines duties in between verses with Prince.
Elsewhere, both Brad Paisley and Enrique Iglesias debuted new singles during their respective sets, with Paisley showcasing brand-new single “Southern Comfort Zone” during his fan-favorites set, and Iglesias bringing out rapper Sammy Adams to play new dance jam “Finally Found You.”
At a festival dedicated to the power of radio, these singers’ savvy ability to launch new material to such a captive audience seemed like exceptionally canny moves on a night that also featured new-single performances from P!nk and Aerosmith.