Ed Sheeran, Paramore Lead Wango Tango 2014 Standouts (Concert Review)
Iggy Azalea strutted, Ariana Grande sang and Adam Levine surprised during Sunday’s marathon show, while concertgoers drank the house dry.
Summer has officially arrived in Los Angeles, and with it comes deafening pop music filling the warm Saturday air.
Some 18,000 KIIS FM listeners flocked to Carson, Calif. on May 10 for Wango Tango, where families and friends of all walks of life joined together under the blazing SoCal sun to eat nachos, drink beer and hear their favorite radio hits come to life. For those brave enough to power through all 12 hours of live music, water was a must. Temps reached 73 degrees around noon (Wango Tango’s pre-show village kicked off at 10:30 am with artists including R5, GRL and Rixton), with not a cloud in the sky or a breeze through the open air concrete stadium.
Ryan Tedder seemed unfazed by the heat, donning a black leather jacket and Ray Bans for OneRepublic’s 5:20 p.m. set. The band was preceded on Wango’s main stage by The Chainsmokers (of “#Selfie” fan) and Kid Ink, but OneRepublic was the first act to deliver a steady stream of hits (and some serious musicianship), from “Secrets” to “Counting Stars.”
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With one radio smash to their name, A Great Big World kept their set to just two songs. But the duo did manage to lengthen their stage time due to one pregnant diva running late. Christina Aguilera didn’t make it to the stage until at least five painful minutes after she was introduced, leaving poor Ian Axel to make strained banter with the audience. When she finally did arrive, looking flawless in a baby bump-hugging little black dress, Aguilera struggled to find the words to describe her feelings about the song she was about to perform. Thankfully, all awkwardness was quickly put out of mind when the group launched into “Say Something,” delivering a powerhouse rendition of the ballad. It was worth the wait.
Rapper B.o.B. followed up with a rapid-fire nine-song set, performing “Magic,” “Nothin’ On You” and “So Good,” with snippets of “Price Tag,” “Killin’ It,” “Headband” and “Paranoid.” Bobby Ray received an assist from Priscilla on his current radio jam “John Doe,” but his delivery of “Airplanes” left something to be desired (namely: Hayley Williams, who was set to perform with her band Paramore later that evening). Before exiting the stage around 6:30 pm, B.o.B. offered up some valuable Wango Tango wisdom. “Don’t drink and drive,” he said. “Smoke and fly!”
Hopefully there were some designated drivers in the house, because before the night’s end the venue had run out of ice, Coca Cola, tequila and vodka. Said one bartender: “In 25 years of bar tending, I’ve never run out of that much product.”
Ariana Grande and her pipes (seriously, girl can saaang) upped the pop diva quotient, albeit briefly, with a black and white-themed performance of “Right There,” “The Way” and “Problems.” With her came a gaggle of backup dancers and Iggy Azalea, sauntering in like she owned the place. Cue Grande’s exit, while Azalea delivered her own summer anthem, “Fancy.” Azalea took care to introduce herself to the crowd, many of whom had likely sang along to her in their car but were surprised to see the blonde beauty in person. Her performance may have been par for the course, but audience members won’t soon forget her black and white checkered ensemble, highlighting her, ahem, assets.
Speaking of blondes … Adam Levine’s new hairdo made its big stage debut on Saturday, prompting some befuddled fans to take to Twitter with their reactions. As Wango Tango-goers feverishly hashtagged with the hopes of landing their message on the jumbo screens, one wrote: “#QuestionableDecisions “EyebrowsDontMatch #WhyAreYouBlond?” Another proclaimed that “#BlondesHaveMoreFun,” while yet another simply said “Adam take off ur shirt.”
More questionable than his hair was Levine’s decision to sing “Stereo Hearts” sans Travie McCoy. The singer even acknowledged to the audience that the song would require him to “pretend” he could rap, confessing, “I’m not saying I’m good at it.” With an arsenal of hits in their repertoire, couldn’t Levine have picked another song? (Answer: Yes.) Also, was McCoy busy? We suspect that if Levine had picked up a phone, the Gym Class Heroes frontman would have hopped a plane to L.A. in a heartbeat. The fans weren’t fully on-board either, barely singing along. “That’s not loud enough!” Levine screamed.
Otherwise, it was a solid set for the Los Angeles natives. “One More Night,” “This Love,” “Lucky Strike,” “Love Somebody,” “Moves Like Jagger” and “Pay Phone” were all strong choices for the show.
It’s worth noting that 2014 marked the 10th anniversary of both Maroon 5’s first Wango and Ryan Seacrest’s first time hosting. “Our first Wango was 2004,” Levine reminisced. “Half of you weren’t alive, so welcome.”
As Maroon 5 played into the sunset, Calvin Harris kicked off the night time festivities. Appropriate, considering the entire floor level was eager to wave their green glow sticks in the air. Harris was the second EDM act (behind The Chainsmokers) to hit the stage, but he wouldn’t be the last. Zedd also took to the turntables, while Tiesto nabbed the coveted show closing slot.
But it was Paramore that ruled under the moonlight. Opening with “Misery Business” at 8:10 pm, lead singer Williams pulled a teen girl on stage and handed over her bright yellow mic for the song’s bridge. Between bouncing and bobbing from one side of the stage to the other, the hyper energetic Williams left an indelible mark on the show with just four songs. “How many of you have never been to a Paramore show before?” she asked the audience, to a large number of cheers. “Welcome to the family,” she said. “You’re in, and you’re never getting out!” Somehow, those words felt truer than any other artist proclamation that night.
Williams and her cohorts performed “Ain’t It Fun,” “The Only Exception” and “Into You” before making room for Zedd — but Williams wasn’t done. The 25-year-old returned to the stage to lend her vocals to his hit “Stay the Night.”
As social media savvy kids peppered the jumbo screen with “Happy Mother’s Day” messages to their own moms, Shakira received an on-stage shoutout from the KIIS FM DJs before her own set. Presumably, one-year-old Milan was not in the audience. Wango Tango is no place for a baby.
The Colombian native killed it in the wardrobe department, rocking a shredded white tee with a jeweled bra underneath, a sparkly statement necklace and shredded denim pants, but her set left much to be desired. Opening with “Can’t Remember to Forget You,” The Voice coach launched into a snooze-worthy set of slow jams before closing out with “Hips Don’t Lie.” Come on, Shakira — where was “She Wolf,” “Whenever Wherever” or heck, even “Waka Waka”?
Then there was Ed Sheeran. The feisty Brit’s showcase was anything but slow, as he commanded the arena with just his guitar and a loop station on “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You,” “The A-Team,” “Lego House” and his The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug end credits song, “I See Fire.” Before finishing things off with his current single, “Sing,” he asked the audience to chime in. “If you don’t know the words, make them up,” he commanded. “If you do know them, sing along.” The crowd had no trouble getting in on the infectious, wordless chorus of “Ohs,” delivering every note even after Sheeran exited the stage. Concert organizers may not have saved the best for last, but at least he was second to last.