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July 31, 2014

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iHeartRadio Music Festival Night (and Day) 2: Miley Cyrus summons ‘Madhouse’; Paul McCartney lowers the booms

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Steve Marcus

Paul McCartney performs during the 2013 iHeartRadio Music Festival at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013.

2013 iHeartRadio Music Festival: Day 2

Ke$ha performs with dancers during the iHeartRadio Music Festival in the MGM Grand Garden Arena Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013. Launch slideshow »

2013 iHeartRadio: The Village

Miley Cyrus dances in the Village across from the Luxor during the 2013 iHeartRadio Music Festival on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013. Launch slideshow »
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Miley Cyrus performs during the 2013 iHeartRadio Music Festival at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013.

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Bruno Mars performs during the 2013 iHeartRadio Music Festival at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013.

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Maroon 5 lead singer Adam Levine performs during the 2013 iHeartRadio Music Festival at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013.

On Saturday afternoon, about 20,000 spectators stood on asphalt across the Strip from Mandalay Bay and the Luxor on Saturday and watched a young woman in mostly a white corset pantomime pop songs and shake her butt with a couple of little-people dancing partners.

Hours later, more than 11,000 music fans at MGM Grand Garden Arena saw essentially the same performance from Miley Cyrus. Generations ago, fast-rising teen idols were dismissed as the “pimple of the month” (the London Daily Mirror once described The Beatles that way). No matter. Cyrus has her first No. 1 single — “Wrecking Ball” — and has become one of the hottest topics in pop culture ever since her bottom-shimmying, over-the-top appearance last month at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards.

“If ya got it, flaunt it,” as Ulla famously sang in “The Producers.” With Cyrus, you can modify the lyric, “Even if ya don’t got it, flaunt it anyway.” Cyrus showed up with a collection of dancers costumed as mushrooms and multicolored daisies gyrating in front of a large rainbow. Throw in her outfit for the show at Grand Garden Arena, a white-fishnet number covering pasties and a black-electric-tape G-string, and this production would have been a far better fit for “Beacher’s Madhouse.” That show opens at the MGM Grand on New Year’s Eve, and producer Jeff Beacher was at the resort this weekend.

Cyrus, whose general disposition might best be explained by the fact that she once spent seven hours in an Amsterdam cafe, is a regular in the “Madhouse” at Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. She apparently has been taking notes. When the wrecking ball has finally exacted its damage, maybe she’ll find a home with Mr. Beacher. Seems only fitting.

More hearts from Night (and Day) 2 of the 2013 iHeartRadio Music Festival, which ran past 1 a.m. today before a weary but willing capacity crowd at Grand Garden:

I heart “Live and Let Die”: Paul McCartney opened the show with “Magical Mystery Tour,” breezed through “Lady Madonna,” unveiled three songs from his new album, “Out There,” and performed “Let Me Roll It” and “Another Day” from his Wings era. But it was the capper from the 1971 Bond film that set the place ablaze with fire and explosions. I hearted, too, how after that ferocious opening, McCartney put his hands over his chest and just strode from the lingering smoke in a very gentlemanly way.

I heart the Vegas quiz: “You know what Las Vegas means? You know how ‘Los Angeles’ means ‘The Angels?’ ” McCartney asked the crowd. “It’s ‘The Meadows,’ so there you go.”

I heart that Wings T-shirt: A girl who looked to be in her teens walked up the aisle with what looked to be a vintage Wings concert T-shirt from the 1976 world tour. She must be an honor student somewhere.

I heart Maroon 5’s endurance: The band was formed almost 20 years ago as Kara’s Flowers. These guys have paid their dues, clearly, and today Adam Levine is the frontman most likely to distract your date.

I heart those lyrics: A remarkably fit Tim McGraw, who looks like he performs Pilates for breakfast, sang “Live Like You Were Dying.” Just as I thought, “This is a really beautifully written song,” I read a tweet from one MGM Resorts PR rep Stacy Hamilton: “This has to be one of the best-written songs ever.” A great line, “I went sky divin,’ I went Rocky Mountain climbin’, I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu.” Tim Nichols and Craig Wiseman wrote that song, and a while back I caught Nichols at the songwriting showcase “Nashville Unplugged” at Red Rock Resort, where you learn all about how great songwriters make it happen.

I heart Jared Leto’s mock request: The actor and frontman of Thirty Seconds to Mars asked, “Is it OK if we play a rock song? We’re a rock band, and you’ve heard a lot of pop.” Then they played “Up In the Air” as giant balloons filled the arena, which seemed a planned thing.

I heart choreographed musicians: I am one of these Bruno Mars Advocates. He mixes musicianship and showmanship as well as anyone ever has, and the movement of his band is a reason he’s one of the great live acts today. He also exploded through “Gorilla,” and during his set, I was getting texts from friends who hadn’t seen him live before. “Holy crap!” was the general tenor. Mars is playing the Super Bowl Halftime Show in February, and he’s just going to get bigger. It’s a deserved outcome.

I heart this idea: Figure out a way to present electronic artists apart from the arena show. The iHeart Festival is a celebration of music to be listened to and great stage performances. For all the value of these superstar DJs who fill Vegas nightclubs each weekend and are extraordinarily well compensated, they do not play particularly well in a lineup of great bands and accomplished solo artists. Tiesto rages at MGM Grand’s Hakkasan uber-club, but his 8-minute set on Friday night felt like house music. Also Friday, Benny Benassi’s electronic set followed the stirring performance by Elton John, which is sort of a tough spot for B-squared to take the DJ booth. Maybe an offshoot, all-star showcase at Hakkasan would be worth investigating. But after seeing the likes of McCartney-Mars (Bruno and 30 Seconds To)-McGraw-Maroon 5 and awaiting Timberlake, the DJs are an odd fit.

I heart Brad Garrett running into Drake in the hallway: Garrett and his girlfriend, IsaBeall, encountered the Drake entourage in the hallway on the lower level of Grand Garden Arena. Garrett shouted, “Drake! I love you! Show some love to the white man!”

Drake laughed and hugged Garrett, asking, “What are you doing here?”

Garrett: “I’m here to see Menudo! Is Menudo still around!?”

I heart Drake’s smoke: He wore a T-shirt bearing the face of Jaden Smith, an apparent reference to Smith’s emotional response to Drake’s performance at the MTV VMAs. He tried to goose the crowd verbally, calling out, “I’m up here for a party!” before unleashing such a pyrotechnic spectacular that smoke hung in the arena concourse even after Timberlake closed the night.

I heart the Plasmatics: Ke$ha is sexy and droll, sort of winging it up there in a manner that makes it clear she’s not particularly concerned if you approve of what’s going on. She had a guy near the edge of the stage lick whipped cream from her face. This after spitting whipped cream and also tossing back a couple shots of Jack Daniels, plus, drinking a beer — from a fan. She lost her footing a couple of times for those tricky dance steps. All in all, it was a very Wendy O’Williams-esque-like performance. But Ke$ha had a different throwback artist for whom to pay tribute …

I heart Joan Jett: On the event of her 55th birthday, Jett performed “Bad Reputation.” Ke$ha followed — but seemed not to know all the lyrics. No matter. It was great to see Joan Jett, in her customary red leather jacket and pants, once more.

I heart Miguel’s announcement: The Grammy Award-winning R&B star had enough left in the tank to play a set afterward at Tao at Venetian, announcing from the stage that he’ll be playing the club on New Year’s Eve.

I heart J.T.: Timberlake obviously seeks to be more than just a successful recording artist. He was in town this week for the Vegas premiere of his new film “Runner Runner” at Planet Hollywood, and his stage show is a well-conceived, throwback production with a bunch of great players under a shining “J.T.” sign and matching music stands.

Timberlake did play the predictable “Sexy Back” and “Suit & Tie,” dealt to a delirious audience. But he sampled heavily from his new album, "The 20/20 Experience (2 of 2).” He played three songs from that release (featuring “TKO”). He is the modern-day Rat Packer, if the Rat Pack ever were to embrace hip-hop.

At the end of a long weekend of music, 15 hours counting the Village lineup, Timberlake was a good card to play. He had it all covered.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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