Updated September 23, 2023 - 4:48 pm
Las Vegas is famous for buffets, or maybe food courts these days. The iHeartRadio Music is like that. The show offers it all. Everybody will like something, even if they don’t have an appetite for the whole menu.
Friday night was on brand, under the branded iHeart blimp floating around T-Mobile Arena. In order, Lenny Kravitz, TLC, Sheryl Crow, Bakar, Lil Durk, Tim McGraw, Miguel, Kane Brown and Lil Wayne. The show ended — or did it? — after midnight.
📸: Denise Truscello/Getty Images pic.twitter.com/47JPWpsxWA
— iHeartRadio Festival (@iHeartFestival) September 23, 2023
Having covered iHeart over the past dozen years, history dating to MGM Grand Garden, there is always a takeaway artist I’d not seen live. Friday night it was alt-R&B star Miguel. The moment he opened “Number 9,” I thought, “He’s influenced by Prince.”
I’d known of Miguel’s popularity and drawing power for a while, but had not experienced his production show. The man was a force, tearing through “Adorn,” “Sky Walker” and “Sure Thing” in his seven-song set. His music itself is much a buffet of styles, rock, hip-hop and funk among them. Find him, if you haven’t already.
A trio of Friday’s performers still defy age.
— John Katsilometes (@johnnykats) September 23, 2023
The 59-year-old Kravitz blew through “American Woman,” “Fly Away” and “Are You Gonna Go My Way” stalking the stage the in the same manner as when he was in his 20s.
Crow, 61, was vocally and musically flawless (has she always played bass?) through a set highlighted by “If It Makes You Happy,” “Soak Up the Sun,” and “Everyday is a Winding Road.”
And McGraw, 56, is still on his “No Body Fat World Tour.” At once a country star and a real rocker, McGraw took hold with“How Bad Do You Want It” and “Live Like You’re Dying.” And when he sings, “I went skydiving. I went Rocky Mountain climbing. I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu,” you believe him.
— John Katsilometes (@johnnykats) September 23, 2023
Flav clocks in
Public Enemy co-founder, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and proud Las Vegan Flavor Flav showed up on Friday’s red carpet. “Brief but impactful,” is the Johnny’s review of Flav’s appearance.
Public Enemy is performing in Saturday’s show. Flav was kind of performing Friday.
“It is gonna be epic!” he said as he walked from the carpet. “I’m gonna be a hometown hero, y’know what I’m saying?” As always, the answer is yes.
Vegas in the house
You didn’t think we’d post without spot-checking VegasVille musicians at iHeart. Violin master Jennifer Lynn of Violution Music Alliance assembled an all-Vegas string section of Chandra Meilbalane, Zuzana Engererova, Adrianna Thurber, Sage West, Crystal Yuan, Allie Pritchard, Waverly Tingle, Svetlana Garitselova, Isabel Guerra, Kat De Garcia and Barbara Ellis.
That section backed TLC on “Unpretty,” “No Scrubs” and “Waterfalls.” The latter is a happy ear worm.
Weezy closes it
Lil Wayne, who is to star at halftime of Sunday’s Raiders-Steelers game, closed the first night with such classics as “6 Foot 7 Foot,” “A Milli,” “Lollipop,” “Blunt Blowin,” and “Love Me,” and his hit from Tha Carter V “Uproar.” He also performed “Kat Food,” which is a personal favorite. The song is on Weezy upcoming release, “Tha Fix Before Tha VI.”
J. Cole in the mix
Lil Durk brought out J. Cole to perform their collaboration “All My Life” together live for the first time. I ran into Cole as he arrived in the red-carpet room. He pointed at my white, Pan Am-branded bag and said, “Nice bag.” Seriously.
Best collab ever
The festival has produced many wonderful collaborations over the years (see above). We had Lady Gaga and Sting in 2011, Pink and Gwen Stefani in 2012, Billy Idol and Miley Cyrus in ‘16. But the most memorable, from here, was Prince and Mary J. Blige, 2012. The two flew threw the Prince-penned “Nothing Compares 2 U,” and Chaka Khan’s “Sweet Thing.”
Seacrest spells it out
Ryan Seacrest has been called this generation’s Dick Clark. At least, I’ve called him that. He’s forever on broadcast platforms, hosting iHeartRadio Music Festival — which is being streamed on Hulu — and is supplanting Pat Sajak as host of “Wheel of Fortune.”
Seacrest told my buddy and People correspondent Mark Gray on Friday he’s not looking to reinvent the wheel (or alphabet) in his new role.
“With this game show, it’s such a success and has been for generations,” the 48-year-old Seacrest told the pub. “You don’t mess with it, just don’t mess with it. Just get out of the way, say ‘Good evening’ and let’s play.”
“I think I have so much adrenaline rushing through my body. Excitement is the word because it’s such a phenomenal show,” he added. “I’ve been a fan. I grew up watching the show. and I can’t wait to take over after the legendary Pat Sajak.” Sajak, 76, is calling it a career after hosting one more season.
Might We Recommend …
It’s “The Classics With Class” co-starring Elisa Fiorillo and Philip Fortenberry at 6:30 p.m. (dinner) 8 p.m. (show) Sunday at Italian American Showroom. Go to iacvegas.com for intel.
As followers (and even bystanders) of this column know, Fiorillo was a backing vocalist in Prince’s New Power Generation for more than six years and had known the legendary artist for more than 25 years, singing on the 1991 “Diamonds and Pearls.”
The album will be reissued in “Remastered,” “Deluxe” and “SuperDeluxe” formats Oct. 27. Fiorillo sings on “Daddy Pop” and “Walk.”
Fortenberry is a wicked talent with a lengthy list of credentials (including the star of “Liberace & Me” at the old Liberace Museum and as Michael Douglas’ hand model in “Behind the Candelabra). He was also associate music director for the entire run of “Jersey Boys” on the Strip. So get there, and enjoy the keyboard and vocal stylings of Nicholas Cole in the lounge, as a quality post-show hang.
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @johnnykats on X, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.