Upcoming ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME inductees LIONEL RICHIE and PAT BENATAR stole the show at this year’s 12th annual iHEARTRADIO MUSIC FESTIVAL. The two-night fest got underway TONIGHT (9/23) at LAS VEGAS’ T-MOBILE ARENA, hosted by RYAN SEACREST and livestreaming on CWTV www.cwtv.com/, and will continue TOMORROW afternoon and night. Keep checking the ALL ACCESS site for continuing coverage. THE ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME induction takes place in LOS ANGELES on NOVEMBER 5th at the MICROSOFT THEATER.
First up was MR WORLDWIDE himself. PITBULL entered to the backdrop of KISS’ “Rock and Roll All Nite,” with “Don’t Stop The Party” to get things rolling, then dug into “Feel This Moment,” with CHRISTINA AGUILERA’s image and vocals piped in. A spirited “Fireball” followed as PITBULL showed off some of his nifty dance moves. “iHEART, we on fire,” he proclaimed, forming an impromptu conga line with his dancers. He then performed a rousing “Timber,” featuring KESHA accompanying him on the screen, an inspirational “Can’t Stop Us Now,” his duet with ZAC BROWN, and “Time Of Our Lives,” which featured NE-YO in its initial incarnation. “Everybody going through something,” he acknowledged, “But every day above ground is a great day.” The crowd ate it up as he finished with his anthem, “Give Me Everyting (Tonight).”
A blonde and glittery SAM SMITH, with “they” pronoun as an introduction, offered a moving “Stay With Me,” accompanied by a three-person gospel choir. They then leaned into a yearning “I’m Not The Only One,” also from their 2014 debut, “In The Lonely Hour,” and followed it up with “How Do You Sleep?”, winner of the iHEARTRADIO AWARD for Favorite Music Video Choreography. SMITH performed their new song, “Unholy” — it just came out YESTERDAY — a rhythmically jagged, theatrical departure for the smooth crooner in which he was joined on-stage by KIM PETRAS, who accompanied SMITH on the recorded version. SMITH concluded with “Latch,” their 2013 feature with DISCLOSURE that first brought SMITH into the public eye, and “Dancing With A Stranger,” their 2019 collaboration with NORMANI.
RICHIE was up next, opening with “Dancing On The Ceiling,” interpolating both BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD’s “For What It’s Worth” and VAN HALEN’s “Jump” into it (!!). The crowd-pleasing set continued with the solo hit “You Are,” and THE COMMODORES’ funk classic, “Brick House/Fire” medley showing RICHIE still had what it took to galvanize an audience. He then sat down at the piano for “Hello,” as cell phones lit up the arena, into a spirited singalong on the climactic “All Night Long.”
THE BLACK KEYS made their iHEARTRADIO MUSIC FESTIVAL debut with DAN AUERBACH, PATRICK CARNEY and their cohorts taking the stage for a twangy, bluesy “Howlin’ For You,” followed by “Lo/Hi,” a previous winner for iHEARTRADIO MUSIC AWARD for Rock Song Of The Year. One of the evening’s rocking-est sets proceeded with “Wild Child,” a track from their latest album, “Dropout Boogie,” released earlier this year. “Tighten Up” had a whistling intro, a great funk backbeat, a winding AUERBACH guitar solo and a soulful vocal plaint, which segued into the chug-a-lugging, wah-wah riffs of their fan fave, “Gold On The Ceiling,” the flamenco acoustic guitar-turned-psychedelia of the LED ZEPPISH “Little Black Submarines,” and the irresistible, inevitable “Lonely Boy” finale. “I got a love that keeps me waitin'” indeed.
BENATAR and her husband and bandmate of 40 years, NEIL GIRALDO, continued their victory tour with an impressively hard-edged performance that opened with the 1988 smash “All Fired Up,” into “Promises In The Dark,” which they introduced as the first song they ever wrote together. A piano ballad which quickly turns into a full-throttle rocker, GIRALDO positively shredding after he stands up to play guitar. An epic, War & Peace-like “Love Is A Battlefield” brings back what you so loved about the now unabashedly white-haired BENATAR in the first place, a pugnacious belter-outer of the first order punching out hook-filled choruses like a savvy bantamweight. Then, “the song that started it all,” the swaggering “Heartbreaker,” a classic that only HEART itself can rival for distaff rock intensity, which suddenly turns into rousing “Ring Of Fire,” followed by a GIRALDO guitar solo that turned into an IRISH jig. It was a set totally in the present, transcending any nostalgia.
WILL.I.AM and the BLACK EYED PEAS returned to the iHEART stage with — what else? — “Let’s Get It Started,” their 2004 dance classic, then jumped into the catchy “Boom Boom Pow.” A smooth, LATIN-flavored “Ritmo,” their collaboration with J. BALVIN, and the tropical vibe of “Mamacita” were next, reminding us, no matter what you think of them, the PEAS — and especially WILL.I.AM — remain ahead of the curve. “Pump It” proved the BEPs can be as heavy and rock out harder than just about anybody out there, if that’s whatcha want, adding a Middle Eastern-ish jam just because they could. They continued with a new song, “Don’t You Worry,” a collaboration with SHAKIRA and DAVID GUETTA, with WILL assuring us, “Everything’s gonna be all right.” “The Time (Dirty Bit),” their interpolated nod to the “Dirty Dancing” anthem, “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My LIfe,” was next before the closing salvo of the wistful “Where Is the Love” and the showstopping, ever-hopeful “I Gotta Feeling.” As the man put it, “Mazel tov.”
Country star MORGAN WALLEN was up next for an eagerly anticipated set.that started off with “Sand In My Boots,” proving the man is a master storyteller as he sat alone at the piano, unassuming with his backwards baseball cap, tight blue jeans and black T-shirt. But you could tell he was the real deal, giving off a distinct SPRINGSTEEN vibe. “More Than My Hometown” was more of the same, placing him squarely in the heartland, working class sweet spot of JOHN MELLENCAMP, GARTH BROOKS or BOB SEGER. He turns “Still Goin’ Down” into an autobiography; you believe every word he sings. He performed “You Proof,” his most recent release, next, a rhythmic-flavored ballad with a backbeat, followed by “Wasted On You,” thanking iHEARTRADIO for giving him his first Top 20 crossover hit. WALLEN finished his set with his signature heartbreak song, “Whiskey Glasses,” that perfectly captured his down-home charisma.
DIPLO closed the show with a DJ set that included SGT. SLICK and HUMAN LEAGUE remixes as well as “Electricity,” his own collab with DUA LIPA, MARK RONSON and SILK CITY, among other tidbits, that had the fans dancing to the bitter end, turning the venue into a sweaty club. The finale marked a return to the stage for WALLEN to sing “Heartless,” his collab with the EDM icon, playing it together live for the first time. It was a fitting end to a most eclectic musical night.
TOMORROW night’s lineup features AVRIL LAVIGNE, HALSEY, LL COOL J f/DJ Z-TRIP, LUKE COMBS, MAREN MORRIS, MARCUS MUMFORD, DIDDY and MEGAN THEE STALLION.
DAYTIME STAGE performers at the outdoor AREA 15 include LAVIGNE, MAGGIE ROGERS, 5 SECONDS OF SUMMER, BIG TIME RUSH, GIRL IN RED, LAUV, CHLOE, WILLOW, CHASE RICE, LATTO, CARLY PEARCE, RYAN HURD, GAYLE and LAUREN SPENCER SMITH and JAX among others.
Said iHEARTMEDIA President Of Entertainment Enterprises JOHN SYKES, who co-produced the event with TOM POLEMAN, “This is the one music festival that celebrates the best in class in all genres of music. Fans love this weekend because they discover new artists and the artists leave with new fans.”