Justin Timberlake, Beyonce Bring the Heat to Brazil's Rock in Rio

Rock in Rio Justin Timberlake - H 2013
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Rock in Rio Justin Timberlake - H 2013

The 13th edition of the two-weekend-long music festival drew a slew of international acts to the South American country's second largest city.

It was blazing hot in Brazil's second largest city over the weekend -- and we're not just talking about the scorching 90-degrees-plus temperatures. No, equally to blame, or credit, were Rock in Rio headliners Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, Alicia Keys, Muse, Florence and the Machine, Jessie J, David Guetta and The Offspring, among others, who entertained some 85,000 people per day during the first weekend of the Rio de Janeiro music festival. 

Beyonce -- who is in Brazil with her Mrs. Carter Show world tour -- impressed locals with her performance and style, which was complemented by Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo. To close out her set, the diva won the hearts of the cariocas (Rio de Janeiro natives) by singing and dancing to a Brazilian funk hit called "Passinho do Volante" by Mc Federado and Leleks.

Brazilian photographer and top makeup artist Fernando Torquatto said “Beyonce is so integrated, intelligent and alive,” adding that the way she ended her presentation shows how interested she is in the audience and their culture. “She could have sung 'Garota de Ipanema' ['Girl from Ipanema'], it would have been beautiful, but she touched the soul of the cariocas by singing funk and by honoring Rio de Janeiro, she is honoring Brazil,” he said.

Another highlight came courtesy of American band 30 Seconds to Mars, who had the crowd in a tizzy as they delivered a slew of heavy-hitting art-rock. Singer Jared Leto wowed by descending some 700 feet in front of the main stage.

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The drama didn't end there. Florence and the Machine dominated with hits including “Shake It Out,” “Cosmic Love” and “Dog Days Are Over.” Front woman Florence Welch also demonstrated her love to the audience, draping a Brazilian flag around herself while mouthing “I love you.” And Muse provided an audio-visual pummeling in its closing set on night two by ripping through guitar solos and powerful piano chords as signer Matthew Bellamy kept an eager crowd engaged.

The Hollywood Reporter spoke to one of the masterminds behind the festival, Rubem Medina, whose brother, Roberto Medina, is the creator and producer of Rock in Rio. “With every edition, we are trying to make a better festival," he said. "This is a moment of happiness, and that's what we want for the city of Rio de Janeiro.”

Indeed, British singer Jessie J brought smiles aplenty during her headlining set on the third night of the fest. Her fun and interactive performance included such hits as “Price Tag,” “Domino” and “Laser Lights.” Clearly as taken by the response as the crowd was with her moves, she capped her performance by noting, “This is an unforgettable experience."

But perhaps the hottest bows of the weekend came from the most experienced of the headliners. Alicia Keys proved why she is one of the best singers in the world and an impressive piano maestro as well. Among the songs she doled out were favorites “Girl on Fire,” “You Don’t Know My Name” and “Empire State of Mind.” The soul diva also included a surprise for the audience as she shared the stage with Brazilian singer Maria Gadú for her very first hit, “Fallin.”

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Justin Timberlake, however, won the title for deafening cheers as he delivered the weekend's best performance on Sunday night, closing out the fest's first weekend with fireworks. The multi-talented star’s set was energetic and chock full of choreography, allowing the thousands of fans in the audience to dance along. Indeed, how could you not get your groove on to Timberlake's non-stop hit parade, which included “Cry Me a River,” “Rock Your Body,” “Suit and Tie,” and “What Goes Around”?

Said Brazilian soap opera actor Lucas Malvacini, attending the festival for the first time: “I’ve always wanted to see Justin [Timberlake]'s show. I am a huge fan and even have a tattoo in my arm that is inspired by one of Justin’s tattoos.”

Besides the two main stages and an electronic dance music tent, the City of Rock also incorporates a Rock Street and a Street Dance stage. The former was a qualified success at Rock in Rio 2011, and this year, the 492-feet-long replica is inspired by streets in Britain and Ireland -- think London's Camden Town and Dublin's Grafton Street. The Street Dance stage incorporates scenery inspired by the streets of New York and features various urban dance styles and individual battles and dance contests.

Rock in Rio's second weekend is expected to rock as a bill of guitar-heavy bands take the stage. Among them: Metallica, Alice in Chains, Bon Jovi, Nickelback, Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band, John Mayer, Iron Maiden, Slayer and Avenged Sevenfold.

Twitter: @PaulaZulian