iHeartRadio’s Alter Ego — a multi-band bill that serves to showcase some of the biggest names in alternative rock — is a relatively new creation, but clearly one that’s been embraced by radio listeners in the greater Los Angeles area who filled the Forum on a Saturday night.
Twenty-One Pilots, the Revivalists, Rise Against, Bishop Briggs, Weezer, the Killers, and Muse were on the lineup for a night that proved to mostly flow smoothly, with plenty of highlights and few dull moments. Read highlights from the event below.
Young and Hungry
Twenty-One Pilots knew they had a big task in opening a show ahead of a succession of heavy hitters. “When we came up with the idea of opening the show, we were like, ‘That’d be cool,'” mused the group’s Tyler Joseph. “But when we saw the other bands, we were like, ‘Yeah, that makes sense.'”
But give credit where credit is due: the radio-friendly duo made for an explosive start to the night, quite literally. Performing around a burning car on stage, Twenty-One Pilots was energetic and even theatrical at times. The two were engaged with the crowd, drummer Josh Dun left his post to do a backflip off the piano at one point, and Joseph ended the set by climbing up a small raised platform during a drawn-out performance of “Car Radio.” The opening did more than just ensure that a younger set of ticket buyers showed up on time; it was truly a great way to kick it all off.
Another highlight of the night came a little later with a fellow young musician. Bishop Briggs was placed in between Rise Against and Weezer, and it takes a certain skill to stand out in between those two acts. But Briggs did just that, not just with stunning vocals and runs across the stage, but in the genuine way she interacted with the crowd. She acknowledged her own nervousness, and made an important point: she was the only woman on the lineup. “I’m going to try not to cry,” she said, noting that the show occurred on the same day as this year’s Women’s March and thanking iHeart for supporting female artists.
And when there was a technical malfunction — leading to Briggs to question on stage if they should perform her single “Baby” without bass — what could’ve turned into an awkward moment was a charming look behind the curtain. Briggs took it all in stride, and stayed memorable in a packed line-up.
Good Old-Fashioned Rock and Roll
It almost didn’t seem fair to put the Revivalists, a true-blue roots rock band from New Orleans, directly after Twenty-One Pilots. The Revivalists have a great vibe, and did put on a solid set, but it was hard for an all-focused-on-the-music group to follow an opening act that featured pyrotechnics and backflips, leading to a large portion of the audience to opt to go get drinks or chat outside. Even still, the eight-piece group made the most of the space, and had the benefit of having so many people able to amp up the crowd. When lead singer David Shaw prompted the audience to engage in a “crazy” dance party as a sort of therapy, he wasn’t the only one busting a move: everyone from the band’s drummer to saxophonist joined in, and it was an endearing moment for a clearly talented crew.
Rise Against followed directly after, getting heads banging in a high-energy set. It’s hard for any Rise Against set to not be at least a little political, given the nature of many of their songs. But the group tackled a timely issue, the Los Angeles teachers’ strike, head on, dedicating “Re-Education” to the city’s protesting educators. Vocalist Tim McIlrath’s passionate performance of the song stood out as a particularly inspiring moment.
As an added bonus: Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello joined the group to perform his song “How Long,” even using his teeth to play the guitar in a notably rock ‘n’ roll moment. A suggestion for their supergroup name: Rise Against the Machine (we’ll see ourselves out).
Tried and True
The final three acts of the night showcased the talents of three very different established bands. First of this trio was Weezer, and there’s something to be said of the fact that frontman Rivers Cuomo and the rest of the band still seem to be having a great time playing their old hits. They played a new single off the forthcoming “Black Album,” “Can’t Knock the Hustle,” but aside from that, they gave the people what they knew they could sing along to, from “The Sweater Song” to “Say it Ain’t So.” And yes, they played “Africa,” closing out the set with the massively crowd-pleasing cover.
The Killers came next, with frontman Brandon Flowers leading with glam-rock charisma. Their set was a delightfully upbeat one featuring psychedelic lights and nice touches added to the band’s staples (“Human,” for example, had a retro robot opening that made the whole thing feel like an ’80s sci-fi movie). Much of the credit goes to Flowers himself: if he’s tired of playing the radio hits, it doesn’t show. At one point during “Mr. Brightside,” Flowers seemed genuinely thrilled as he looked out to a crowd singing every word, blowing the audience a kiss for good measure (he also shouted out veteran radio personality Matt Pinfield, in the house but still on the mend from a car accident that occurred in December, with the song “All These Things That I’ve Done”). It’s always refreshing to see a show so unapologetically joyous.
Leave it to Muse to close out the night in cinematic fashion. From the flashing lights to Matt Bellamy’s dramatic, operatic vocals, the group pulled out all the stops. After “Psycho,” they built up to the fist-pounding “Uprising,” which proves always relevant in today’s political climate. A passionate Bellamy ended that song by throwing his guitar into the amp — and was promptly handed another. But it wasn’t all aggression and resistance. When he sang “Madness,” a highlight in the final set, he switched to a fittingly emotional and vulnerable mood. Ultimately, Muse proved why, in a lineup where any of the final three acts could’ve been the headline, the group was the right pick for that last spot.