Las Vegas, Nevada, September 23, 2011 “IHeartRadio” hit the MGM Grand tonight, bringing some of the hottest live acts currently touring together in an eclectic 2-day extravaganza billed as “the biggest live concert festival in radio history” in the September 18, 2011 Las Vegas Magazine & Show-Biz Weekly article entitled “Titans of the Airwaves” by Josh Bell. As Bell phrased it, “Clear Channel is pulling out all the stops to promote its new IHeartRadio service.”
First up singing to the audience of 12,000 were the Black Eyed Peas with Will.i.am and Fergie. Noting that they first formed in 1995, were signed in 1997 and put out their first record in 1998 the energetic group said it used to perform for $20 a gig. “Now we get paid a whole lot more zeros than that. We’ve had a great career…We’ll never stop making music,” said Will.i.am. The group invited the audience to join in signing along to the theme from “Dirty Dancing” and it was the most successful sing-along request of a 3-hour concert. Biggest impressions of the group: Fergie’s shorts were cut so high and short that she might as well have worn a thong and there was a lot of energetic jumping up and down.
That level of energy made it difficult for Kelly Clarkson to compete on an equal footing. The former “American Idol” winner and singer-songwriter sang many of her hits like “Since You’ve Been Gone” and “Walk Away” but her request for an audience participation moment resulted largely in a crowd that didn’t know the words, and she finally relented and announced, “We’re not doing any more sad ballads to bring you down.” Clarkson looked slimmer than in some previous performances and sported a flattering hairstyle.
Every so often, for no more than a total of 5 minutes, it seemed, Ryan Seacrest would put in an announcing appearance, although others, such as Joe Jonas and a local DJ (Elvis Duran) carried most of the MC-ing heavy water. Another change in the night’s programming saw John Mayer drop out due to illness.
After Clarkson’s stint, Bruno Mars, who played Little Elvis in “Honeymoon in Vegas” in 1992 when he was 7 performed, and it was as though he was channeling the high-pompadoured singers of yesteryear like Fabian, Frankie Avalon and Jackie Wilson. Mars’ big hit “Just the Way You Are” was well-received, but it was astonishing how retro his look was: dark suit, white shirt, thin black tie and a pompadour that made JFK Jr’s hairdo look flat. Mars performed a bit of fancy footwork and seemed to give off a vibe that he thought he was very cool, indeed. The middle-aged lady in front of me in the nose-bleed section began waving her cell phone and pumping her arm in the air; I wanted to tell her to cool her jets. We were a long way from catching young Bruno’s eye. A song dedicated to Amy Winehouse (“I miss you. I love you.”) Seemed like blatant capitalizing on the recent death of the British songbird.
The next performer out of the box began by telling the crowd, “I think the IHeartRadio show is the most eclectic I’ve ever been in.” The introduction for Carrie Underwood, American Idol’s darling, was given by Joe Jonas, and Carrie was one of the strongest performers of the night. She danced around the stage, looked lovely, belted out her ballads, and all I could think of was how far she had come since the cow-milking segment featured on her early “American Idol” appearance. She is a polished performer now, much slimmer, and genuinely beautiful. It was now nearly 9:30 p.m. and the show had begun 2 hours earlier.
At this point, amongst the never-still throngs who were in constant motion, a stranger climbed over me and, as he passed in haste, something wet spilled on my leg. I could only hope it was beer. An announcement was made that Justin Timberlake plans to host something billed as an Old School Jam on October 1st. It will feature Earth, Wind & Fire, Charlie Wilson and Vanilla Ice. All I could think of was that I had been under the impression, apparently mistaken, that Robert Van Winkle, 44, had melted years ago, and, having just seen Earth, Wind & Fire at Northerly Isle Pavilion (also known as Charter One Pavilion) in Chicago this summer, the band was now featuring the children of the original performers, after nearly as many years as a performing group (i.e.. 42). However, early word regarding Timberlake’s attempts to cross over to action hero in his newest sci-fi film makes his return to the music world timely.
Next up was 52-year-old Perry Farrell, generally regarded as one of the godfathers of alternative rock. The Farewell Tour that Farrell organized for his band “Jane’s Addiction” in 1991 became Lollapalooza, now a 2-day destination tour centered in Grant Park in Chicago. Tonight, Farrell announced that his performance represented “the rock and roll version of IHeartRadio.” With Dave Navarro on guitar, the set was excruciatingly loud and employed a Persian/Arabic-themed stage backdrop with much use of confetti canons. When Farrell talks to address the crowd, he sounds like a cartoon character with his high-pitched voice. It is now 10 minutes of 10 p.m.
At this point, saving the day and the concert, Coldplay emerges, singing “Rule the World.” Chris Martin actually lay down onstage at the end of the song and asked, “Is there anybody out there?” He also told a story that went Snippet of Chris Martin of “ColdPlay.” (See longer video clip on Facebook at my Profile.)like this: “We played down the street in a little club at 3 in the morning when we were starting out, just this band from Britain, and there were just 2 ladies in the place and one of them was deaf, and even she walked out. We said that one day we’d come back and play the MGM Grand. I hope you’re having a great time. And that’s all I have to say. Don’t lose all your money.” And then, almost as an after-thought, before throwing himself into energetic flailing about that seemed almost childlike in its random-ness, Martin added, “The back is the best place to see our band.” If you gave yourself over to the pulsing, exuberant experience, Coldplay was a fantastic way to go out. They exited to huge applause. Only problem was, Alicia Keys had to follow Coldplay.
Much like Kelly Clarkson, doomed to come on after the Black Eyed Peas, Alicia Keys performed admirably (and overly loudly, much like Perry Farrell), with a backdrop of white doves flying across the projection screen behind her piano. She often stood center stage, solo, to sing songs while attired in a sparkly top like every other female performer. (Sparkles are in this season). It was now 10:30 p.m. and Alicia announced her intention to play a new song, “A Place of My Own” on the Yamaha piano, saying, “It’s an incredible night, I have to say.”
Announcements were made that Lady Gaga would perform with the just-turned-60 Sting on Saturday night, along with Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, Rascal Flatts, Nicki Minaj, Sublime with Rome, Usher, Kenny Chesney and Jay-Z. The ticket price in the nosebleed section I was in was listed as $165, but there were 9 empty seats in my row (Section C 209) and they were going for 2 to 3 times that on StubHub. Some of the seats down front were priced in the thousands online.
Coldplay and Carrie Underwood made my seat worth what I paid for it, but when the witching hour of 11:00 p.m. came and went, with only the possible appearance of Jay-Z (he was a late addition and may never have appeared, I was happy to bolt, waiting for what seemed like hours in the taxi line outside the MGM Grand.) Stay tuned for tomorrow night’s big show, which drew fans from both coasts and all areas in between. Big draws tomorrow are Lady Gaga appearing with Sting and Steven Tyler.