The iHeartRadio festival, a two-day event at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand celebrating the launch of the new I Heart Radio application, brought the pop charts to life with a superstar lineup from Jay-Z, Coldplay and Kelly Clarkson on night one to Lady Gaga, Kenny Chesney and Jennifer Lopez on night two. As Carrie Underwood told Rolling Stone backstage between her own performance and introducing Jane’s Addiction Friday night, “There’s not one single weak link in this lineup, which is really rare and really amazing. It’s from start to finish A-list to A-list.”
Many of the performers agreed, turning into fans when they weren’t on stage; Clarkson rushed through interviews backstage to sit in the back of the arena and check out Coldplay’s crowd-pleasing set Friday night. But while others were psyched to see Coldplay’s set, Chris Martin had his own favorite of the night: Jay-Z’s masterful 40-minute Friday night set, which kept Martin fist pumping with hits such as “99 Problems” and an appearance by Alicia Keys on a stunning “New York State Of Mind.”
Black Eyed Peas, who opened Friday night’s show, stopped in the middle of their backstage photos to gather around a TV monitor’s live feed of Jane’s Addiction serenading the crowd with “Jane Says.” Before Jane’s set, frontman Perry Farrell told Rolling Stone “I’m proud I’m able to be invited, we’re turning on young kids, I’m a performer, these kids out there, they got rock & roll hearts, they’re just not being fed it.”
Saturday night they were fed a major dose of rock by Steven Tyler, joined by Sting, for Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion” to start night two. Though a little miffed at where he was originally positioned in the lineup (he wouldn’t say where), Tyler decided to show everyone what a true rock star could do, bringing out Jeff Beck for several tracks including a cover of “You Really Got Me.” Then, in the only holy fuck, not-to-be-missed moment of the two days, he and Beck led a group that included Cynthia Robinson of the original Sly & The Family Stone in an arena-electrifying “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin).”
Beck, for one, was impressed with Tyler’s bravado at starting the show off in such an inspired manner. “When you know you’re gonna slam ass you go on first. I love the way you’re thinking.”
It created a tough act to follow for Nicki Minaj, who told us “I realize this is a big honor to be sharing a stage with so many people that have done stadiums already. It’s a big deal, so I’m really excited. It makes me feel humbled and like I have to just go hard.” She definitely won the crowd over – though perhaps no one had the crowd going more Saturday night than David Guetta, the French DJ who turned the venue into a giant dance party before bringing Usher out for their first live performance of “Without You.”
Night two saw more collaborations, including Natasha Bedingfield and Rascal Flatts on their single “Easy,” and Guetta and Usher and Tyler and Nicole Scherzinger’s “Feel So Good.” The night’s closer Lady Gaga got into the act as well, bringing out Sting for both “Stand By Me,” which they’ve done together before, and the Police hit “King Of Pain.”
Mixing a legend and a current pop star is always a recipe for success, and it’s one that iHeartRadio followed very well this weekend, bringing together just the right blend of icons, up-and-comers and chart toppers for an impressive weekend of music.