By John Katsilometes
Lady Gaga was midway through her show-ending set to close the second night of the iHeartRadio Music Festival at MGM Grand Garden Arena when she called a guest to the stage.
The groundbreaking artist was already showing some serious creative wear and tear, shining with sweat and smeared with fake blood after a full-force accounting of “Paparazzi.” With her customary theatrics, Lady Gaga announced that "police" were on the scene -- oh my! -- but that only led to Sting’s entrance to an already memorable artistic showcase.
Sting made his way over to his friend and fan at a keyboard that was affixed to a giant motorcycle. He loomed over Lady Gaga as if waiting for a cue to sing or play the bass, or to do anything. So Lady Gaga did what comes naturally to Lady Gaga, spreading her hand across her reddened chest and wiping the stage blood across Stings neck and cheek.
He grinned slightly. When Lady Gaga wipes your mug with fake blood, there is nothing else to do.
“Sting is one of my most favorite people in the world,” Gaga said by way of explanation. “The reason he is one of my most favorite people in the world is because whenever I am in a bad move and hear his voice, I feel better.” She added that, as a friend, “Sting always stands by me.”
That led to a duet of “Stand By Me” between the longtime Police frontman and today’s hottest recording artist and live performer. They followed with a Police classic, “King of Pain,” released two years and two months before the birth of Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, whose alter-ego was singing the song with Sting himself.
It all meant for a bloody fine closing of two five-hour performances that wrapped the two-day iHeartRadio show at a jammed Grand Garden Arena. A total of 25,000 fans turned out Friday and Saturday nights, and an estimated 10 million accessed the show through the iHeartRadio Web site and on the KPLV 93.1-FM Web site. Lady Gaga capped Night 2 that also featured Steven Tyler, Kenny Chesney, Nicki Minaj, Rascal Flatts, David Guetta (with a supercharged boost from Usher), Nicole Scherzinger and Sublime With Rome. DJ Pauly D performed a 10-minute DJ set (at this point, his hair merits separate billing and maybe even its own agent), and Karmin appeared for a second night to play a single song.
The show moved swiftly, with acts playing on one end of the MGM Grand’s rotating stage while sets were built behind the continuing performance. That is, until Lady Gaga was due up, and she was about 20 minutes behind schedule, not taking the stage until 11:30 p.m. But she was worth the delay (at least her legions of howling “little monster” devotees thought so), uncorking a 10-song set that included the satisfying sing-alongs “Bad Romance,” “Poker Face” and the previously noted “Paparazzi.” She also delivered the heart-rending selection “Hair,” dedicated to gay teenage fan Jamey Rodemeyer, who this month committed suicide after being bullied about his sexuality.
To finish off a two-night festival that invited many of the top draws in contemporary music was no easy task, but Gaga was more than up for it. “They’re only allowing me to play for 45 minutes!” she barked at the beginning of her set, then produced a one-hour show. Dancing and, at times, heaving on a stage littered with wrong-side-of-the-track signs reading “TATTOO,” “XXX” and “PSYCHIC,” the 25-year-old visionary donned a lot of leather biker-styled costuming, finishing the show in a bandana, black leather jacket, matching boots and a color-coordinated G-string.
It was a primarily blackened experience, actually, aside from all that faux blood.
“They gave me a big suite here, but I don’t give (an expletive) about the hotel room!” Gaga shouted. “I just want to sleep right on this stage!”
She did leave, of course, closing off a two-day arena music festival rare in Las Vegas in that it was a multiday event held in a hotel-casino arena. MGM Grand had never hosted such an event, as MGM Resorts exec Richard Sturm noted Friday. Sturm also gave credit to MGM Grand VP of Marketing and Brand Strategy Scott Voeller for constructing the deal with Clear Channel to bring the show to MGM Grand.
Whether there will be a second iHeartRadio show in Vegas, or anywhere, has yet to be announced. The feeling among hotel and Clear Channel officials at Saturday’s show was, “Let’s just get through this show first.”
More from the MGM Grand iHeartRadio Theme Park:
Who wins the unofficial iHeartRadio Rex Smith Take My Breath Away Award? Nicole Scherzinger.
In introducing Lady Gaga, what stage prop did Justin Timberlake say he considered using in his entrance before reconsidering? A giant egg.
Jeff Beck was wearing something around his right bicep. What was that? Seemed to be duct tape.
Who performed for 10 solid minutes in front of a crowd of 12,500 while chewing gum? DJ Pauly D.
To which fashion line of children’s wear did Randy Jackson compare his purple, dinosaur-adorned jacket? Garanimals.
What will iHeartRadio do for the music industry, according to Jackson? “Hopefully it’ll change it and move it forward,” he said on the red carpet. “Hopefully people will start buying more music and listening to more music. Hopefully we’ll get the sales back up.”
Which of the “American Idol” judges put on the best performance? Early, the call would have been Steven Tyler, who shredded “Sweet Emotion” with Beck and Sting, and went wild with “You Really Got Me,” covering the Van Halen version rather than the Kinks’ classic. But then Jennifer Lopez strode onstage in a cut-just-so red dress, and she wholly rendered questions about her personal life irrelevant. She performed "Get Right, "Jenny on the Block," "Let’s Get Loud," "Ain’t It Funny," "On the Floor" and her latest release, "Papi.” Some performers just move around the stage like they own it, and Lopez is one.
After promising to “curb my mouth,” and watch the profanity, how long did it take Nicki Minaj to break that promise? Roughly 12 seconds.
Whose Facebook status today could read, “Last night I grooved to J-Lo at the MGM Grand!” Mark Zuckerberg, seated (and standing) on floor level.
The figure $10 million is pertinent, why? That is reportedly what Clear Channel spent to stage the two-day festival.
Has anyone ever noticed this? David Guetta looks like he could be Tom Petty’s younger brother.
A person who covers country music full time said of the following artist, “I have never seen (blank) work so hard to win over a crowd.” To whom was this person referring? Kenny Chesney, who powered through his 30-minute set with uncommon zeal in the last performance leading to Lady Gaga.
What is the strangest notation in my notebook after two nights of iHeartRadio? “Minaj-Barbie-Monti.” This is to remind myself that Nicki Minaj looks like a Barbie Doll given a makeover by Monti Rock III.
With that, we sign off. Be well, little monsters …
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