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Maroon 5, Wiz Khalifa Among Wango Tango 2012 Highlights: Concert Review

Wiz Khalifa
Kyleen James
Wiz Khalifa

The Bottom Line

An exhaustive marathon event featured memorable performances by Wiz Khalifa, Maroon 5 and Gym Class Heroes.

Venue:

The Home Depot Center
Carson, Calif.
(Saturday, May 12)

The 15th annual concert presented by Los Angeles radio station KIIS-FM boasted top acts Nicki Minaj, Pitbull, Maroon 5 and Wiz Khalifa.

The 15th annual KIIS-FM-hosted radio show, held at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. (capacity: 27,000) benefitted from beautiful, sunny weather and a light breeze, allowing the legions of young ladies in attendance to break out their flowing, backless tunic tops and shortest shorts for the day. 

PHOTOS: Nicki Minaj, Pitbull, Adam Levine, Wiz Khalifa Among Wango Tango 2012 Performers

The headliners alone at Saturday's Wango Tango were worth the price of admission (ranging from $79.50 to $225.00), but while top tier performances from Maroon 5, Nicki Minaj, Wiz Khalifa, DJ Pauly D and Pitbull were all scheduled for the final two hours, latecomers to the seven-hour marathon event missed out on the handful of enjoyable, albeit brief, sets from Gym Class Heroes, Big Sean, J. Cole and Foster the People.

As the crowd began to filter in around 3 p.m., acts including Chiddy Bang, Wallpaper. Childish Gambino, Diggy Simmons and K'NAAN fearlessly played three to four songs apiece for a half-empty arena, as many of the missing audience members braved the panic-inducing lines for beverages, snacks and the restrooms. The show began to pick up with a little help from Kanye West-protege Big Sean, who is perhaps best known for his Nicki Minaj-assisted "Dance (A$$)." Between his charming banter, high-energy rhymes and the fact that he stripped down for those "fine ass L.A. ladies" while playing Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On," Sean was among the first to get the audience actively engaged and on their feet (though it should also be noted that Diggy Simmons drew a surprisingly passionate response from the younger audience members during his earlier performance).

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From there, highly anticipated teen sensations The Wanted and Carly Rae Jepsen gave lukewarm showings at best. But to be fair: They can only claim one radio hit each, making a full set difficult to pull off at a radio show. Justin Bieber hit the stage to introduce Jepsen, whom he discovered and signed just this year, fulfilling his "special guest" hosting duties in less than one short minute. Following the blood curdling screams that coincide with any Bieber appearance, cheers for Jepsen were bound to pale in comparison. And they did, until she obliged the audience by ending her performance with the infectious "Call Me Maybe."

Foster the People, J. Cole and B.o.B all put forth respectable performances, appreciated mostly by the adults in the room. Also in the mix were the Geneva, N.Y.-based Gym Class Heroes, who (somewhat surprisingly) provided one of the best sets of the evening. Travie McCoy was joined on stage first by Neon Hitch for their collaboration "Ass Back Home," and later by Adam Levine for their hit, "Stereo Hearts." McCoy delivered an inspiring version of "Fighter," sans Ryan Tedder, while encouraging the audience to put a stop to teenage bullying, and led the audience in a full-blown sing-a-long on his breakout solo single, "Billionaire."

Around 7:45 p.m., KIIS-FM's nationally syndicated morning show host Ryan Seacrest (On Air With Ryan Seacrest) arrived and the real show started. First up for the big finale were locals boys Maroon 5, who brought back their early singles "Harder to Breathe," "Sunday Morning" and "This Love" before launching into their current single, "Payphone." Unsurprisingly, Wiz Khalifa -- who would perform his own solo set later on -- jumped out on stage to assist on the track. As we've come to expect from Levine and his crew, the group delivered a rousing performance that made it impossible not to get up and dance, closing with the crowd-pleaser "Moves Like Jagger."

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Nicki Minaj, who had largely been promoted as the show's headliner, came next and, true to form, put on a captivating show complete with a team of backup dancers. She was among the only artists to require an additional stage set, which consisted of stairs on one side of a pink platform with a slide down the other side. Dressed more Barbie than Roman (two of her famed alter egos), Minaj growled out the lyrics to "Did It On 'Em" and "I Am Your Leader," but relied heavily on backing vocals for "Beez In The Trap" and David Guetta's "Turn Me On," which was also plagued by technical difficulties from the microphone and speakers. Among the highlights for the audience were her live renditions of "Moment 4 Life," "By My Side," "Superbass" and, of course, her current smash hit single "Starships."

Wiz Khalifa captivated with "When I'm Gone," "No Sleep," "Roll Up," "Young, Wild and Free" and the kicker, "Black and Yellow." The set was straightforward balancing the right mix of mellow beats and full blown jams. In a word: Perfect.

With only one more act to go, Jersey Shore's DJ Pauly D took over the turntables to entertain the crowd while Pitbull prepared to go on. The set was mostly forgettable, save for one brilliant mashup of LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem" and Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit."

VIDEO: Maroon 5's 'Payphone' Video Features Bank Robbery, Car Chases and Explosions

Cuba-born rapper Pitbull, a.k.a. Mr. Worldwide, electrified and closed the show with a bang. The man has so many radio hits that frankly, it would have been a crime to stray too far from his tried-and-true Top 40 fare. He did, however, if only for a moment, mixing "Give Me That Ass/Sexy and I Know It" with "Hey Baby (Drop It To The Floor)," "I Like How It Feels," "International Love," "Rain Over Me," "Calle Ocho," "On The Floor," "I Like It," "DJ Got Us Falling In Love," "Back in Time" and "Give Me Everything." It's a bit unusual for such a collaboration-heavy artist to perform on his own without the likes of T-Pain, Enrique Iglesias, Chris Brown, Marc Anthony, Jennifer Lopez, Usher and Ne-Yo, but Pitbull pulled it off with ease, as he should have plenty of practice carrying the tunes on his own after multiple tours across the globe.

Any of the show's headliners could have provided a satisfying close for the lengthy event, but Pitbull was certainly a solid choice to give Wango Tango a heart-pumping finale. Patrons filed out of the venue around 10 p.m. with some heading straight home, while others continued on to the concert's official after-party at Club DV8 at Hollywood & Highland. While it's not everyday concert-goers are bombarded with such an impressive laundry list of performers on a single stage, Wango Tango is not an event for the faint of heart. Now that the 2012 show is officially in the books, it's time to rest up and speculate which A, B and C-list performers will make the cut for next year's roster.

E-mail: Sophie.Schillaci@thr.com
Twitter: @sophieschillaci

Kyleen James
Kyleen James
Kyleen James
Kyleen James