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iHeartRadio Music Festival 2019

Seven years after GREEN DAY’s BILLIE JOE ARMSTRONG stormed off the iHEARTRADIO MUSIC FESTIVAL stage, the band returned with a triumphant set at this year’s ninth iteration at the T-MOBILE ARENA in LAS VEGAS, underway tonight and streaming here

The band took the stage to lead off, introduced by RYAN SEACREST and CHRISTINA AGUILERA, stunning in a trench coat-length brown leather jacket and pony tail. 

Tonight’s bill, the first of two consecutive nights, will feature FRENCH MONTANA, HEART, CAMILA CABELLO, BACKSTREET BOYS, TIM McGRAW, FLETCHER, CAGE THE ELEPHANT, HOOTIE & THE BLOWFISH, HALSEY and STEVE AOKI with DARREN CRISS and MONSTA X. 

LIVEXLIVE will livestream the DAYTIME STAGE TOMORROW afternoon, while THE CW NETWORK will broadcast a two-night television special on OCTOBER 2nd and 3rd from 8p-10p (ET/PT).

GREEN DAY’s set included greatest hits .”American Idiot,” “Holiday” (which ended with a spirited “Viva Las Vegas” from ARMSTRONG), “Basket Case” and “Boulevard Of Broken Dreams,” wrapped around the brand-new single, “Father of All…” a disco-flavored number featuring ARMSTRONG’s falsetto and a MOTOWN beat straight out of “Feel It Still.” .

“Check my vital signs… We’re still alive, AMERICA..”  Look for them on tour with WEEZER and FALL OUT BOY at a stadium near you.

Resplendent in a colorful Afro-centric shirt, Moroccan-born rapper FRENCH MONTANA offered a medley of his hits: “Shot Caller,” his FAT JOE/REMY MA joint, “All the Way Up,” “On My Own,” “Ain’t Worried About Nothin’” (“Money don’t mean nothin’,” boasted MONTANA in the heart of VEGAS), .”Unforgettable” his collab with SWAN LEE and “Don’t Panic”:(featuring a nod to MONTELL JORDAN”s ”This is How We Do It”). He finished up with  “Slide” his current single with BLUEFACE and LIL TJAY, and then a final “No Stylist,” perhaps his best-known song, which featured DRAKE. 

Introduced by GAVIN McGRAW, HEART brought some welcome classic rock to the proceedings with a jammy psychedelic “Magic Man.” A svelte ANN WILSON, wearing a fetching red bandana, played the blues mama on “Straight On” from 1978’s “Dog & Butterfly,” showing off the group’s underrated funk chops.  “What About Love” is a quintessential power ballad as only ANN WILSON can sing it. Yes, millennials who weren’t born when the song came out in 1985 were somehow singing along.  God bless SPOTIFY. And if NANCY WILSON’s spirited acoustic intro to “Crazy on You” wasn’t one of the evening’s iconic moments, it wasn’t for lack of resonance. These Seattle gals proved their ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME chops, concluding with “Barracuda.”

LIL NAS X proved the evening’s first unannounced guest, singing his “Old Town Road” follow-up, “Panini,” which, with its whistle-chorus, is becoming almost as much of an ear worm as that ubiquitous hit..

CAMILA CABELLO has proven “Havana” was no fluke, making her iHEARTRADIO MUSIC FESTIVAL debut with a spectacular theatrical dance number for the confessional current radio track, “Shameless<”: She hits the impossibly high notes on “All Of Me,” from her self-titled debut. “I’ll never be the same,” she sang, and that’s true.  She’s a flat-out superstar in the next-BEYONCE/J. LO sweeps. She’s right up there with ARIANA GRANDE for reigning nouveau pop diva. The familiar flamenco chords open the smash “Senorita,” which CABELLO leans into with a casual sensuousness that burns a hold through the screen. “I love it when you call me senorita.” Then, she introduced a new song, “Liar,” with a breezy bossa nova/tropical/reggae beat. that took her into more rhythmic territory. A sultry, steamy “HAVANA” completed an impressive performance that recalled nothing so much as a 21st century CARMEN MIRANDA. Without the fruit hats, of course.

Unannounced surprise guest LIL NAS X returned to perform “Rodeo,” his CARDI B feature, whose vocals were piped in for the performance, then he finished up with the phenomenon “Old Town Road,” one of the most remarkable mash-up hits in all of pop music history..

TORI SPELLING and IAN ZIERING welcomed back the reboot of “BEVERLY HILLS 90210” and the ’90s revival by introducing BACKSTREET BOYS, who didn’t disappoint after a static-y video montage of their greatest hits. entering to the anthemic “Everybody (BACKSTREET’s Back),” which basically says it all about this unlikely blockbuster comeback. 

“The One” followed, as the band acknowledged iHEARTRADIO’s role in their recent success, having played that very stage as special guests to FLORIDA GEORGIA LINE three years ago. NICK CARTER leaned into “I Want It That Way,” and the rest of the band. especially AJ McLEAN performed it like they meant it, before closing with “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” their new single and a worthy addition to the oeuvre, followed by a suitably larger-than-life  “Larger Than Life,” — complete with a dub break — those boy band harmonies still intact. 

Country took its moment in the spotlight with TIM McGRAW, forever known to this METS fan as the son of the late, great relief pitcher TUG McGRAW, but his down-home flavor was most welcome amidst the glitz. He opened with the surprisingly blues-rock almost hip-hop-inflected (LIL NAS X anyone?) “Truck Yeah,” the ultimate rallying cry, when you think about it. “Gotta little redneck in your blood,” he yowled, with some nice slide guitar accompaniment.  The opening of THE WHO’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” leads seamlessly into the rollicking honky-tonk of “All I Want Is a Life.,” the first track to his 1995 album, “All I Want.” This is country-rock at its most inclusive, as McGRAW wades into the crowd to shake hands. The sing-song “One of Those Nights” follows, the CMT winner for Video Of The Year back in 2013 about the joys of making out in the back of a car on a moonlit night. This country has a rock ‘n’ roll soul.  “My name’s TIM McGRAW… I’m your country guy,” he said to the crowd before introducing  a moving tribute to the late RIC OCASEK with an unexpectedly touching cover of THE CARS’ “Drive,” the original sung by the late BEN ORR, citing the band as a real creative inspiration. “Real Good Man” continued the set’s  rowdy, rockin’ road with a wink and a smile, while the finale, a brand-new song in which he repeated the phrase “Way Down,” has a gospel/swing jazz backbeat to it. 

FLETCHER is a highly touted pop ingenue signed to CAPITOL RECORDS who recently released her major label debut, the much-buzzed-about “.You Ruined NEW YORK CITY For Me,” performing  a pair of songs from it, including the fetching “:If You’re Gonna Lie” and the confessional “Undrunk,” which pitched her somewhere in between ALANIS MORISSETTE and HALSEY. The JERSEY shore native and “X Factor” alum admitted this was the biggest crowd she’d ever performed for and that the songs were “about an ex who ruined my life.” 

Rock reared its head with CAGE THE ELEPHANT, the rockers from BOWLING GREEN, KENTUCKY, who dominate the Active radio format.  The rockers’ “Broken Boy,” from their most recent album, “Social Cues,” began with kinetic, ever-wandering lead singer MATT SHULTZ declaring, “I was born on the wrong side of the train tracks.” The jagged, bluesy “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” showed the influence of hip-hop on modern rock, while “Trouble” proved a falsetto-laden tour de force in which SHULTZ waved a light bulb, skipped around the stage and laid himself bare for the audience. He abruptly jumped off the stage, then clambered back on, singing the title track from the “Social Cues” album on his knees. “Listen on the radio,” went the refrain before SHULTZ removed his sandals and did a handstand. “Come a Little Closer,” probably their most familiar song, brought the mini-set to an honest-to-goodness cathartic conclusion, as SHULTZ once again moved into the crowd, removing his shirt and socks this time, leaving him clad in a nude bodysuit. “Thanks for letting me explore, and exploring yourselves,” he said in parting.

HOOTIE & THE BLOWFISH were up next, back together after a decade apart, performing four songs from “Cracked Rear View,” one of the best-selling debut albums of all time, including “Hold My Hand,” “:Time<” “Let Her Cry” and a jangly “Only Wanna Be With You,” leading into a cover of KOOL AND THE GANG’s funky “Get Down On It.” The inspirational gospel sound of the brand-new “We Gotta Hold On” provided a welcome taste to the upcoming new album.  Emboldened by his successful solo country career, leader DARIUS RUCKER was more energized and confident than ever for one of the most underappreciated bands of all time.

HALSEY took the stage to a vaguely ASIAN soundtrack before getting into “Gasoline,” a song from her 2015 debut, “Badlands” (has it already been four years?), asking, Are you strange like me?” It’s easy to forget that in these limited attention span times, before BILLIE EILISH, HALSEY was the next big thing as a post-feminist pop diva. And this performance confirmed she’s still one to keep an eye on. She then introduced the brand-new, recently released clickety-clackety rhythms of “Graveyard,” about romantic obsession. She belts out the hip-hop riddims of “Bad At Love,” her self-examining hit, with impressive conviction. It’s kinda weird watching HALSEY grow up in public; girl, you’ve become a woman.  “Are you guys ready to move yet?” she prompts the crowd, then launches into “Nightmare,” the title track from her most recent album, letting the audience answer her.  “I keep a record of the wreckage in my life.” Indeed. “I waited a while for a moment to say I don’t owe you a goddamn thing.” Understood. Then it was onto an aching “Without Me,” “Baby I’m the one who put you up there,” she sings as the confetti flutter down around her and the audience completes the thought. 

STEVE AOKI provided the EDM-fused topper, joined by K-Pop band MONSTA X for their recent collaboration, “Play It Cool,” then DARREN CRISS for their cover of DAVE MATTHEWS BAND’s “Crash Into Me,” to the finale with the BACKSTREET BOYS, “Let It Be Me,” AOKI and the band’s recent salute to tolerance, self-determination, gender equality and good old-fashioned “peace and love.” It was a fitting ending to an evening of inclusion, not just music genre-wise, but culturally and politically. Day One of this year’s iHEARTRADIO MUSIC FESTIVAL’was off to a very promising start.

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