The Black Eyed Peas‘ will.i.am said he would work with Bruno Mars, Jane’s Addiction and Coldplay performed new singles and Dr. Dre caused the biggest hubbub in the audience when he and Jimmy Iovine took their seats to catch Jay-Z‘s set on the first night of the iHeartRadio Music Festival. Other than that, Friday night at the MGM Grand Arena was a glitch-free celebration of radio hits from performers who often find their names high up on the Billboard charts.
Jay-Z closed the evening with a 45-minute set which featured a cameo from Alicia Keys for “Empire State of Mind,” while every other act turned in 20 or so minutes of music at “the largest live concert event in radio history,” a bit of incalculable hyperbole from the promoter Clear Channel. Breaks between acts were always about five minutes and filled with either videos of performers talking about radio’s effect on their careers or else advertisements from State Farm (really?), Budweiser (that made sense) and others. Nearly every seat in the 12,000-capacity was arena was filled within an hour of the 7:30 p.m. start time; the crowd had thinned by about a third as Jay-Z was wrapping up.
The short sets meant performers had no time to ease their way in — it was pedal to the metal from the get-go for each one, as only Coldplay and former “American Idol” champs Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood even offered a ballad. Each act, regardless of how multifaceted they may be in a concert of their own, was forced to show only one side of their personality, which meant fast and furious in every case. It worked best for Alicia Keys, who opted to embrace a soul matron persona, a mature R&B singer emphasizing themes of perseverance and dedication over party anthems of love ballads.
Black Eyed Peas
Set: “Boom Boom Pow,” “Just Can’t Get Enough,” “Don’t Stop the Party,” “The Time (Dirty Bit),” “I Gotta Feeling.”
Shout outs: A thank you to people supporting them since 1998.
Visuals: Audience was asked to hold up cell phones to illuminate the room; eight dancers.
Performance style: Robotic strutting
Set: “Since U Been Gone,” “Walk Away,” “Because of You,” “Mr. Know It All,” “My Life Would Suck Without You”
Shout outs: Coldplay and Jay-Z
Visuals: A lot of bouncing
Performance style: Full-throated anguish.
Set: “Nothin’ on You,” “Grenade,” “Just the Way You Are,” Valerie”
Shout outs: Black Eyed Peas, Kelly Clarkson, Amy Winehouse
Visuals: Black and white suits + pompadour = soul singer Jackie Wilson fronting the ’70s ska revivalists the Specials.
Performance style: Soul, circa 1961.
Set: “Cowboy Casanova,” “Undo It,” “Say You Won’t,” “Last Name,” “Before He Cheats”
Shout outs: The entire bill
Visuals: Neon for the opener; interacting with eight-member band.
Performance style: Angry cowgirl with a love for Aerosmith riffs.
Set: “Super Bass” cover
Visuals: Guy and gal seated behind an electric piano.
Performance style: Ironic Vegas lounge act.
Set: “Mountain Song,” “Been Caught Stealing,” “Irresistible Force,” “Stop,” “Jane Says”
Shout outs: Las Vegas, 1988
Visuals: Two dancers with stripper moves; green lasers shooting into the deepest reaches of space
Performance style: Prototypical metal-meets-punk.
Set: “Viva La Vida,” “Clocks,” “Rehab” into “Fix You,” “Paradise,” “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall”
Shout outs: The club they played on their first visit to Las Vegas. A 3 a.m. set and only two patrons.
Visuals: Swirls beamed on the screen behind the band
Performance style: Twirls from Chris Martin in front of the band
Set: “Ghetto Story,” “You Don’t Know My Name,” “Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart,” “Unthinkable (I’m Ready),” “Empire State of Mind,” “No One”
Visuals: The band.
Performance style: Mature matron of R&B
Set: “Diamonds from Sierra Leone (Remix),” “U Don’t Know,” “99 Problems,” “I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me),” “On To The Next One,” “Empire State of Mind” with Alicia Keys, “Run This Town,” “Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” “Izzo (H.O.V.A.),” “Jigga What,” “Big Pimpin’,” “Public Service Announcement,” “Heart of the City (Ain’t No Love),” “Encore”
Shout outs: Alicia Keys
Visuals: Occasional pyrotechnics; a six piece band in a single line across the back of the stage
Performance style: Rooted in the ’80s – but without the crossed arms acting as punctuation. Lots of stage prowling, hand waving and requests for screams and hands in the air.