Image Credit: Christopher Polk/Getty Images; Johnny Nunez/WireImage.com “I love music!” Perez Hilton seemed to shout those three words at least once every time he took the stage at L.A.’s Wiltern Theatre last night. While he’s still best known as a cantankerous gossip blogger, Hilton clearly does spend a lot of time thinking about tunes, between his Perezcious Music label and his ongoing “One Night in…” concert series. Promotional materials for “One Night in Los Angeles” promised A-list celebs like Katy Perry and Kanye West would be in the audience; they never showed, as far as I could tell. In a way it was fitting. This event ended up being more about music than about stars, after all.
The Wiltern’s historic art deco ballroom was packed with blank-looking fashionable types by 10 P.M., shortly after Florence + the Machine’s opening set ended. Most of them were grooving in a half-distracted manner, drinks in hand. No one seemed to be paying much attention to the leather-jacketed dude on stage — until a familiar synth chord sequence alerted all present that the guy was Taio Cruz, and he was about to sing his smash “Dynamite.” Suddenly everyone was whooping with delight, singing and/or shouting along to the chorus (“Ayyyyyo, gotta lehhh-go”), and dancing much more enthusiastically. Cruz is not a world-class live vocalist, but that song sure is fun in a clubby setting. At this point Cruz wisely chose to end his set on a high note.
After an extended break during which the house DJ spun pounding remixes of Mike Posner’s “Cooler Than Me,” Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness,” and more, Hilton returned to introduce Pitbull around 11 P.M. The Cuban-American rapper cut a dashing figure in blazer, slacks, partially buttoned dress shirt , and shades. He’s a pro who rarely if ever stops moving on stage, and his rapid-fire bilingual rhymes and between-songs patter kicked the Wiltern’s energy level up by several orders of magnitude. Backed by a live band — two percussionists, a bassist, and a keyboardist — he ran through a breathless assortment of his own hits along with a few others’. (Not sure what the guitar riff from “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was doing in his set, but it worked.) The crowd ate it all up, reserving its rowdiest reception for an Iglesias-less “I Like It” along with Pitbull’s “I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)” and “Hotel Room Service.”
By this point the crowd was in all-out party mode. I saw at least three people falling down drunk by the time N.E.R.D. began their headlining set around midnight. They brought the most elaborate stage crew yet, including Pharrell Williams, Shay Haley, and someone hidden behind a keyboard and a low-slung cap who might or might not have been Chad Hugo, plus a hypeman, two scantily clad dancers, and another backing instrumentalist or two. On record, there are nuances to N.E.R.D.’s sound; not so much in a setting like this one. They banged through tracks like “Everyone Nose,” “Brain,” and “Spaz” in eardrum-threatening cacophony. Anyone who came to the Wiltern looking for a loud, wild time must have left satisfied. One person who definitely did: The Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA, who appeared in the crowd during N.E.R.D.’s set. He looked like he was having a great time despite the fans who kept asking him for pictures while they posed with Wu-Tang hand signals, but he left shortly before N.E.R.D. closed out the night with their 2001 debut single, “Lapdance.”
Did any of you go to Perez Hilton’s “One Night in Los Angeles”? Who gave your favorite performances? Speak up in the comments.
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