Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015 | 5:32 p.m.
The annual iHeartRadio Music Festival at MGM Grand Garden Arena is an embarrassment of riches, and that’s a good and bad thing.
The good thing is that iHeartRadio is an incredible lineup of two days of some of the very best in pop music, and there is usually something for everyone — from pop, rock and country to hip-hop, alternative and EDM.
On Night 1, Sam Smith kicked things off at 7:40 p.m. with a terrific set that included young British house duo Disclosure, and Coldplay followed him with the best performance of the evening. Talks about tough acts to follow.
The bad, and it’s mostly being nitpicky here, is that the marathon show — at nearly five hours — is exhausting for most anyone, and the night ends up being a popularity contest.
Artists who would normally garner enthusiastic responses in their respective musical worlds, and should — on Friday night, it was Kenny Chesney, Demi Lovato and Duran Duran — fell victim to reserved and/or exhausted applause.
And then there’s Lil Wayne. #icant
It’s interesting that Lovato was the only female headliner on Night 1, while it’s Jennifer Lopez on Night 2. From Night 1 at iHeartRadio — and thanks to Tom Donoghue of Donoghue Photography for his photo gallery of the arrivals carpet:
“Twilight” hunk Taylor Lautner (insert screams here) kicked off the evening introducing Smith (“Las Vegas, Sam Smith!”). He would later return to record the introduction again, and it was odd and out of place.
A noticeably slimmed-down Smith was charming and captivating in his first performance in Las Vegas, and his falsetto, used a lot, was glorious in “Not the Only One,” “He’ll Never Love You Like I Can,” “Latch” with Disclosure (whom he brought onstage) and “Stay With Me.” As he departed the stage, Smith said, “This has been an amazing night. I love you, Las Vegas. Thank you very much.” Thank you very much, Sam Smith.
Radio and TV host Ryan Seacrest introduced Coldplay, a bucket-list group for this journalist, and Chris Martin et al were exceptional, performing their anthemic hits “Paradise,” “Viva La Vida,” personal favorite “Fix You” and “A Sky Full of Stars.” At 8:30 p.m., the night’s first confetti cannons erupted, and they filled the arena with … a sky full of stars, literally white tissue paper stars. Coldplay and Martin rule, as evidenced by the arena audience standing for the entire performance.
Country DJ Bobby Bones and actress Ashley Tisdale introduce Kenny Chesney, one of the best live performers today in any genre. Chesney, in cowboy hat, sings “Beer in Mexico” to great strobe-light effect, “Gone, “Summertime,” “American Kids,” “Living in Fast Forward” and “Young.” (What? Six songs?!) Chesney rocked it, even without showing off his guns in a tank top, and the crowd gave him appreciative, if polite, applause.
Lautner is back to record the intro for Smith again. It’s out of place and odd.
“Everybody’s favorite tribute from District 11” actor Josh Hutcherson introduces Jason Derulo as the “LeBron James of music.” Derulo, a terrific dancer and a judge on Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance,” performs “Talk Dirty to Me,” “Trumpets,” “Wiggle,” “Try Me” (his new duet with J.Lo) and “Want to Want Me,” the most added song in history, per Derulo, and he’s thankful. So thankful that he strips off his T-shirt mid-set to show off his set.
There is room at the table for all genres of music, and Lil Wayne is wildly popular. But I just don’t get him. His set was filled with a nonstop barrage of F-bombs and mentions of female genitalia. Onward.
Seacrest is back to talk The Who, who had to cancel their weekend appearances at iHeart, the Colosseum at Caesar Palace and more due to Roger Daltrey’s illness. An apologetic video apology by Pete Townsend is played, and an energetic and EDM-inspired recent performance at Hyde Park of “Teenage Wasteland (Baba O’Riley)” also is played.
Mario Lopez introduces Lovato, who looks gorgeous and sexy (if Jennifer Lawrence and Demi Moore had a daughter, if that’s possible) in a black, low-cut one-piece ensemble with boa and nearly bare butt. Lovato, whose new album drops Oct. 16, performed “Cool for the Summer,” “Really Don’t Care,” “Heart Attack,” “Give Your Heart a Break,” Third Eye Blind’s “Jumper” with surprise guest TEB frontman Stephan Jenkins, in shorts and sneakers, and “Neon Lights.”
Unfortunately for Lovato, she followed the wildly popular Lil’ Wayne, and the audio made her voice and singing shrieky and especially ear piercing. The audience overall was less than appreciative, a shame because the girl can sing.
Courtney Love — Courtney Love! — introduces The Killers, and they bring the energy back up — way up — with Elvis Presley’s “Viva Las Vegas” (with “Jubilee” at Bally’s showgirls), “Human,” “Mr. Brightside,” “Shot at the Night,” “All the Things That I’ve Done” and “When You Were Young” (instead of the too-obvious fan favorite “Somebody Told Me”). The Killers are electrifying, even 3 1/2 hours into iHeart, and the night’s second confetti cannon erupts at 11.
Frontman Brandon Flowers, looking dapper with long hair, paisley jacket and pocket square, introduces the band as, “The Killers, brought to you by way of fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada.” Fabulous indeed, and another act for whom the audience was on its (tired) feet.
Radio DJ Elvis Duran introduces surprise guest Shaggy for a medley of hits "Ooh Boy," "Angel," "I Need Your Love, " "Wasn't Me" 11:25 p.m.
British actor and late-night TV talk-show host James Corden introduces countrymen Duran Duran and their 35 years of music. Slimmed-down frontman Simon Le Bon and company, with much energy, perform “Wild Boys,” “Hungry Like the Wolf,” “Notorious” (dedicated to uber-producer Nile Rodgers, whose birthday was Friday), new single “Pressure Off,” personal favorite “Ordinary World” and “Rio” (sadly, no “The Reflex”). Welcome back, mates.
The five-hour evening ended with DJ David Guetta in his usual high-energy set with lights and effects galore and show-closer Kanye West, introduced as “the next president of the United States” by Oscar-winning actor and 30 Seconds to Mars frontman Jared Leto with pink ’do.
Unlike his polarizing 2015 Billboard Music Awards performance in the same venue in April, West’s Friday night performance was tame by comparison — and thankfully devoid of any mention of Taylor Swift.
The 2015 iHeartRadio Music Festival wraps today with iHeartRadio Music Village at MGM Resorts Village — with Nick Jonas, Tove Lo, Hozier, George Ezra, Echosmith, Lovato and more — from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Night 2 at MGM Grand Garden Arena — with Jennifer Lopez, Puff Daddy, Blake Shelton, DJ Diplo, Fall Out Boy, Jonas and more — beginning at 7:15 p.m.
Don Chareunsy is the Las Vegas Sun’s entertainment and luxury senior editor and has been a journalist for nearly two decades.
Robin Leach of “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous fame” has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past 15 years giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
Follow Sun Entertainment + Luxury Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.
MGM Grand, a AAA Four Diamond resort, offers 5,044 rooms and suites.
MGM Grand features KÀ by Cirque du Soleil; Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club; and world-class entertainment at the Grand Garden Arena and Hollywood Theatre.
The resort offers signature restaurants by celebrity chefs including Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak, Emeril Lagasse’s New Orleans Fish House, Wolfgang Puck’s Bar & Grill and Michelin three star and Forbes Five Star restaurant, Joël Robuchon.
As part of its ongoing “Grand Renovation,” MGM Grand has remodeled all rooms and suites in its main tower and is adding several new experiences to its lineup including Hakkasan Las Vegas Restaurant and Nightclub, a new upscale dining/nightlife concept (coming in April 2013).
MGM Grand also features a state-of-the-art, non-smoking conference center, the Grand Spa, Cristophe Salon, "CSI: The Experience" and an inviting pool complex featuring the tantalizing daylife of Wet Republic.
Upscale accommodations include The Mansion, an exclusive hotel within the hotel; the luxurious two-story SKYLOFTS at MGM Grand; and The Signature at MGM Grand, a luxury all-suite, non-gaming hotel located adjacent to the main resort.