Kanye West lives in the spotlight, but on Friday the acclaimed rapper was instead a backlit silhouette barely visible behind smoke for his first few songs on stage at the iHeart Radio Music Festival in Las Vegas.
The headline-maker, who recently announced at MTV's Video Music Awards that he has designs to run for president eventually, made the slightest of references to his possible run, singing the lyrics from "Only One" that "You'll be the man I always knew you'd be," adding the year "2020" at the end.
The iHeart Radio Music Festival is normally a time warp of a variety show of rock, pop, country and rap, and this year's show proved no different.
West's closing set followed performances from Duran Duran, Coldplay and The Killers as well as rapper Lil Wayne, soulful singer Sam Smith and country music's Kenny Chesney at the MGM Grand Garden Arena for the festival's fifth year.
Flashbacks to the 1990s and early 2000s proved popular with a cameo by Third Eye Blind's Stephan Jenkins performing the band's 1998 single "Jumper" with pop singer Demi Lovato and short set by reggae artist Shaggy, who sang his 2000 hit "Wasn't Me."
The two-day show continues Saturday with performances from Jennifer Lopez, The Weeknd and Blake Shelton. A scheduled performance by Janet Jackson was canceled after an ear injury prevented the singer from flying. The Who also cancelled its Friday appearance after Roger Daltrey had come down with a "mystery illness" later determined to be viral Meningitis.
Here are some of the highlights from day one:
Actor and singer Jared Leto introduced Kanye West as a "visionary, artist, mad man" before listing off several more attributes to describe the iconic rapper married to celebrity Kim Kardashian, adding "and just maybe the future president of the United States."
West has said he would run in 2020, but he did little if any campaigning Friday. He stuck to a medley of hits and stayed in the shadows, mostly, backlit by rows of flashing bright yellow lights before a spotlight found him a few songs in. Having a problem with the lights not being bright enough, he paced back and forth on stage in silence for a minute or so, until summoning a DJ off to the side to play it again until he would ultimately signal again to skip ahead or cut a song short realizing he needed to pick up the pace on his set list that included "Stronger," ''Jesus Walks" and a self-censored version of "Gold Digger."
The Killers embraced their Sin City roots to the fullest by bringing a bevy of showgirls on stage as lead singer Brandon Flowers, dressed like a snazzy lounge singer in a gray blazer, sang "Viva Las Vegas" and giant videos of slot reels spun behind them.
"We are The Killers brought to you by way of Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada," Flowers said introducing a set that would bring confetti explosions and sparklers raining down on the stage.
He launched into impassioned renditions of some of the band's biggest hits including "Mr. Brightside" from 2004 and "When You Were Young" from 2006 looking genuinely thrilled with the excited reception the band was receiving.
RETURN OF THE 90'S
"How many 90s kids are out there?" asked pop singer Demi Lovato to a tepid response. Fans of the 90's? Oh, there were plenty, but that still didn't make Stephan Jenkins, wearing knee-length shorts underneath what appeared to be a drawstring black skirt with black hi-tops, any more recognizable to the crowd until he launched into his Third Eye Blind hit "Jumper" with Lovato on a duet.
The 50-year-old's voice didn't sound as crisp as it did in 1998 when "Jumper" was first released. But another blast from the past sounded as if he had been preserved in the year 2000. That's when reggae singer Shaggy debuted his hit "Wasn't Me."
At the end of his short set, he bid adieu in vintage style: "Peace out."
Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin said it was the band's first concert in a long time and the crowd had been "lovely to us."
He was being modest. This was a Coldplay crowd that sang along to "Paradise" and jumped along with a pepped-up version of "A Sky Full of Stars" that ended with a confetti blast of white stars over the crowd.
Sam Smith with his soul-searching eyes, soft voice and huge smile said it was his first time playing a show in Las Vegas when he led the lineup Friday, appearing with dance music duo Disclosure, and leading a solid set that sounded as perfect as a live performance can get.
It was Jason Derulo's first time on the main stage after appearing in the festival's daytime outdoor village two years ago.
"And it's all because of you," he told the fans." The R&B singer famous for "Talk Dirty To Me" had choreographed dance routines and a microphone holster on his belt to free him up for his moves.
The festival's Rising Star winner, Christina Grimmie, got a second swing at a first appearance, filling the arena with her impressive voice and excited shouts twice, presumably for television recording.
"It is crazy for me to be in all of your presence right now," she told the crowd that was trickling in for the festival's start during her first performance.