Las Vegas music festival brings out big names, blasts from pastLAS VEGAS - Kanye West lives in the spotlight, but on Friday, the acclaimed rapper was instead a backlit silhouette barely visible behind smoke for his first few songs on stage at the iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas.
The headline-maker, who recently announced at MTV’s Video Music Awards that he has designs to run for president eventually, made the slightest of references to his possible run, singing the lyrics from “Only One” that “You’ll be the man I always knew you’d be,” adding the year “2020” at the end.
The iHeartRadio Music Festival is normally a time warp of a variety show of rock, pop, country, dance and rap, and this year’s show proved no different.
West’s closing set followed performances from Duran Duran, Coldplay and The Killers as well as rapper Lil Wayne, soulful singer Sam Smith and country music’s Kenny Chesney at the MGM Grand Garden Arena for the festival’s fifth year.
Flashbacks to the 1990s and early 2000s proved popular with a cameo by Third Eye Blind’s Stephan Jenkins performing the band’s 1998 single “Jumper” with pop singer Demi Lovato and short set by reggae artist Shaggy, who sang his 2000 hit “It Wasn’t Me.”
The two-day show continued Saturday with performances from Jennifer Lopez, The Weeknd and Blake Shelton. A scheduled performance by Janet Jackson was canceled after an ear injury prevented the singer from flying. The Who also canceled its Friday appearance after Roger Daltrey had come down with a “mystery illness” later determined to be viral meningitis.
Actor and singer Jared Leto introduced Kanye West as a “visionary, artist, mad man” before adding, “and just maybe the future president of the United States.”
West has said he would run in 2020, but he did little if any campaigning Friday. He stuck to a medley of hits and stayed in the shadows, mostly, backlit by rows of flashing bright yellow lights before a spotlight found him a few songs in. Having a problem with the lights not being bright enough, he paced back and forth on stage in silence for a minute or so, until summoning a DJ off to the side to play it again until he would ultimately signal again to skip ahead or cut a song short realizing he needed to pick up the pace on his set list that included “Stronger,” “Jesus Walks” and a self-censored version of “Gold Digger.”
The Killers embraced their Sin City roots to the fullest by bringing a bevy of showgirls on stage as lead singer Brandon Flowers, dressed like a snazzy lounge singer in a gray blazer, sang “Viva Las Vegas” and giant videos of slot reels spun behind them.
“We are The Killers brought to you by way of fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada,” Flowers said introducing a set that would bring confetti explosions and sparklers raining down on the stage.
He launched into impassioned renditions of some of the band’s biggest hits, including “Mr. Brightside” from 2004 and “When You Were Young” from 2006, looking genuinely thrilled with the excited reception the band was receiving.
“How many ’90s kids are out there?” asked pop singer Demi Lovato to a tepid response. There were plenty in the audience, but that still didn’t make Stephan Jenkins any more recognizable to the crowd until he launched into his Third Eye Blind hit “Jumper” with Lovato on a duet.
The 50-year-old’s voice didn’t sound as crisp as it did in 1998 when “Jumper” was first released.