Yesterday may have been Cinco de Mayo, but that didn’t stop LiveNation from planting the flag for a new annual event: National Concert Day, a celebration of – and promotion for – the increasingly busy summer tour season. The company staked its claim with an afternoon show at New York City’s Irving Plaza, where The Today Show‘s perpetually-enthused Hoda Kotb hosted an intimate gig for a small audience of reporters and contest winners. Kid Rock and Florida Georgia Line performed short sets, and in between, artists like Billy Corgan and Rae Sremmurd fielded Kotb’s questions.
Though Kid only played two songs, he filled the room with classic rock swagger and accurately captured the mood of the unusual event. Between new single “Born Free” and Zevon-meets-Skynyrd comeback track “All Summer Long” (which here included a brief beat-box breakdown), he enthusiastically addressed the crowd: “Thanks for coming out to” – he paused – “whatever the hell this is!”
“He’s a stage animal,” Mick Jones of Foreigner, Kid’s opening act this summer, told Rolling Stone before the performance. “We don’t have the same demographic, but there’s a lot of common ground in between there. He definitely listened to our music when he was growing up.”
National Concert Day turned out to be filled with inspired pairings. Billy Corgan, who will be co-headlining shows across North America with his self-professed “bestie” Marilyn Manson, spoke with the Kotb first, detailing a veteran-related initiative that will be tied into their shows. Though he referred to Manson and him as “the Devil and the Devil’s child,” Corgan refuted Kotb when she characterized him as “wild.” “I own a tea house,” he said, laughing. “I’m not that wild.”
Not long after, the Smashing Pumpkins frontman told Rolling Stone about the experience of seeing Manson live for the first time. Though he couldn’t remember the exact show, it occurred after they became friends in 1997: “If I’d seen Manson before I knew Manson, I would’ve had a much different impression,” said Corgan. “Knowing that it was my friend onstage, I could see where he was toying with the audience and saying things to get a rise out of people.” Corgan identifies with but admits that his persona is less “overt” than Manson’s. “Mine is more synonymous with my personality, so people kind of confuse it and think that the person I play onstage is actually me – but it’s not me at all! It makes me seem like I’m quite frumpy. I’m a dangerous frumpy.”
Newcomers Tinashe and Rae Sremmurd, two of Nicki Minaj’s openers for her Pinkprint tour, were next to be invited onstage. Kotb welcomed the latter by continually and confidently mispronouncing their name – “Rae Sremmrund” – and though the brothers were polite, the older Slim Jimmy did make a point of saying it slowly. Otherwise, they were remarkably hyper, jumping around while Tinashe remained in her seat. “So. . . bizarre,” said the confused host upon their exit. “What just happened?”
Florida Georgia Line’s short, explosive set included “Anything Goes,” “Sipping on Fire” and “Cruise.” Singer Tyler Hubbard hit peak hick-hop when he jumped across the stage pumping his arms and doing the music-video move that has come to be known as “rap hands.” The pair then intertwined Nelly’s “Cruise” remix verse with the bridge of the original track. “Surprisingly, I think a lot of people have the same influences as BK and myself, so it went over great,” Hubbard told RS while he and BK – his partner Brian Kelley – roved the concert hall with blue solo cups in hand. “We do everything from Garth Brooks to Wiz Khalifa to Dr. Dre. I think it’s a beautiful thing.”
Recently, Nelly announced that he would be working on a country EP of his own; naturally, these guys are involved. “We’ve actually got a writing appointment with Nelly this May,” Kelley said, hinting that they may soon be working on Steven Tyler’s country album as well. “They’re both incredible, great people. Great humans, as well. We’d love to do something with them, if that works out.” Asked whether they have any advice for these artists transition to a new genre, Hubbard demurred: “Those guys have it figured out.”
Several other big names – including Wiz Khalifa, Kip Moore and Incubus – were in attendance before the show but didn’t stay for the proper event. Still, even without their appearance on the stage, the occasionally awkward event proved wildly entertaining and never dull – a good omen for 2015’s summer tours.