It wasn’t all Billie Joe and bombast at the first night of the iHeartRadio Music Festival at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Great moments: Gwen Stefani and No Doubt were joined onstage by Pink, Jon Bon Jovi dovetailed into a rousing rendition of “Shout,” and madcap dance sensation Psy turned up in a glistening white suit and a matching grin.
Tonight’s show begins at 7:30. The lineup features Aerosmith, Brad Paisley, Deadmau5, Linkin Park, Mary J. Blige, Calvin Harris, Ne-Yo, Enrique Iglesias, Pink, Pitbull and Taylor Swift. Tune in on any Clear Channel radio stations or on the live stream at iHeartRadio’s Yahoo website.
More from the first night:
• Pink hopped onstage, unannounced, to join No Doubt for “Just a Girl.” Upon meeting Stefani, Pink dropped and performed a few push-ups as a means of tribute, as the onstage workout has long been a Stefani hallmark. Her entrance, from the tunnel opposite the stage as dancers filed down from the middle of the arena, was a lot of fun.
• Miranda Lambert followed No Doubt with a remarkably high-energy set highlighted by the chart-topping hit “Over You,” inspired by the death of her husband Blake Shelton’s brother Richie. Blake Shelton was just 14 when his 24-year-old brother was killed in an auto accident.
• Bon Jovi is Italian for “Better get your butt back in the gym.” He turned 50 in March years ago and still jams around the stage like a teenager. The band raced through “Livin’ on a Prayer,” “It’s My Life,” “Dead or Alive” (featuring Richie Sambora strumming a double-neck acoustic). Dialing up “Shout” was a great move, turning the Grand Garden Arena into Animal House for a few minutes.
• A guy who can keep pace with Billie Joe Armstrong in any F-bomb competition: Li’l Wayne. He stripped to his shorts, showing off what can be called the “Three Ts” in rap (totally tattooed torso). He also threatened, or promised, to rap about his privates. “But that would be a love song!” (Or did he actually say long song? Either way ...)
• Psy and his "Gangnam Style" have drawn more than 246 million hits on YouTube. He’s performed the ants-in-my-pants-styled dance on “Today” and “Saturday Night Live.” He was back at it again, in an unbilled appearance, reinforcing the belief that humans will always gravitate toward other humans performing some variety of hilarity. Say this for the guy: He is as happy as a lark. And happier, at least onstage at this festival, than the lead singer for Green Day. Somewhere, the “Macarena” guys are toasting Psy’s success.
• Rihanna wore a slinky, skimpy, shimmering basketball jersey-styled gold dress with the No. 23 on the front and back and "Scott" as the name on her back. Presumably, that's for designer Jeremy Scott. Rihanna's set ended after 1 a.m. after she sashayed through “We Found Love,” “Birthday Cake” and “Where Have You Been,” “Only Girl in the World,” “Don’t Stop the Music,” and “Umbrella." She was visually stunning, as was her lavishly appointed, Egyptian-inspired set. But after Green Day set fire to the stage, anything that followed had to feel cool by comparison.
• I’d not seen Swedish House Mafia perform (at least, to my knowledge) before Friday. Fun trio, but I wonder why there needs to be three of them to perform recorded electronic dance music. The answer is there does not need to be three of them. Why split the pie three ways when you can make about as much money as a soloist? That is the argument, and Friday may have been their last performance as a group.
• Was Billie Joe Armstrong’s tirade that usurped a lot of attention on the first night genuine? I felt so, for the most part. Initially it seemed arguable that Armstrong was engaged in some rock ’n’ roll theatrics, but his pulling at the house video camera and loud, profane complaints about Green Day’s time being cut short appeared earnest. Less convincing was his earlier berating of the audience for a less-than-robust response to its first song of the night, “American Idiot.” Armstrong wound up trashing Reno and Justin Bieber in a single appearance, a remarkable piece of critical dexterity.
Green Day played for a half-hour, from 11:35 until about 12:05 a.m. The original iHeart schedule had the band taking the stage at 11:05 p.m., closing just before 11:50 p.m., when Rihanna and her vast Luxor-ian stage was spun toward the audience. That’s 45 minutes, roughly. At the very least, the show was running long. Also at the very least, Billie Joe went nuts. A piece in the Atlantic argues that Armstrong was driven to the theatrics by his own waning relevancy in the face of such new-order stars as Bieber. In whatever reality his disposition was rooted, I felt it was not an act.
• Chatter that Clear Channel will move iHeartRadio Music Festival to Miami next year is based largely on the success of the iHeartRadio Ultimate Pool Party held in Miami. Maroon 5, Gym Class Heroes, Flo Rida, Calvin Harris and Enrique Iglesias appeared at the event held June 30. MGM Resorts officials still want to pitch a more broad-ranging event for 2013, possibly using Mandalay Bay Events Center. As they say in radio, stay tuned.