Saturday night brought out some of the biggest names in alternative music as iHeartRadio’s annual ALTer EGO Festival was held at the Forum in Inglewood.
To put the show in perspective, previous years have brought out such artists as Billie Eilish, Foo Fighters, Weezer, and the Killers, so this year’s event was highly anticipated and sold out months in advance.
The Forum | Los Angeles, California
January 15, 2022
Opening the show was Imagine Dragons. I remember when “It’s Time” was played on the radio and they were new artists. A couple of multi-platinum selling albums later and here they are kicking off the night with “Believer.”
A few songs in and all that could be heard was the keyboard and front-man Dan Reynolds singing “Demons,” along with a couple thousand people singing back unison. A stagehand brought out a huge standup bass drum, which Reynolds hit with a mallet as the band kicked in with “Radioactive,” their closer for the night.
What was great about the night is there was a revolving stage, so while one band played up front, the techs were busy backstage setting up for the next band. When the first band was finished, the stage simply revolved around and the next band was ready to play, with virtually no break in music.
The next band was Måneskin, a band from Italy who have the distinction of being Eurovision champions. With that in their back pocket, they hit it with radio friendly hits like “Zitti e Buoni” then they broke in the US alternative charts with “Beggin.” The band dresses and sounds reminiscent of glam rock and brings to mind bands like The Darkness. The five-sing set concluded with “I WANNA BE YOUR SLAVE.”
One of the biggest surprises of the night was that Coldplay was scheduled to play third in the lineup, with just a 40-minute set. When I saw the lineup of bands announced, I assumed they would be headlining or at least playing second or third to last. Coldplay is celebrating the success of their ninth studio album, “Music of the Spheres,” and they opened with the lead single “Higher Power.”
When entering the venue, fans were given what looked like a clear, plastic watch with no face. It was unexplained what these were for, but it became evident as the bracelets began lighting up with different colors throughout Coldplay’s set, creating a beautiful visualization as you looked out at the crowd.
One of the biggest ovations all night came as lead singer Chris Martin sat down at the piano and began playing the opening notes to “Clocks.” Martin has always come off as particularly humble and grateful, never more so than now after the past two years. He told the crowd, “We’re so happy to be in the room with real, live people. Thank you for going through all the bullshit you had to go through to get here: The traffic, and the masks, and all that.”
They played through a collection of their biggest hits, including “Viva La Vida” and “My Universe,” the song they collaborated on with BTS. For “Yellow,” Martin played by himself on acoustic guitar. He joked, “This song was older than a lot of you in the audience. And even older than Willow (Smith, who was also on the lineup).” The band closed with “A Sky Full of Stars” as confetti rained down on the audience.
As alluded to earlier, WILLOW was next up. Although a shorter set of just 20 minutes and five songs, she made the most of her time showcasing her powerful vocals and guitar playing. Although as a child she had released music that leaned more towards pop and hip-hop, WILLOW’s current incarnation is alternative rock with a full band. She opened with “t r a n s p a r e n t s o u l,” before playing, “Meet Me at Our Spot,” a song that had blown up in the past few months with social media and TikTok play.
During her songs, she takes up the attitude and facial expressions of angsty 20-something, but she was all smiles, and her excitement was evident in between songs. She ended her set with “Wait a Minute.”
When the stage turned around again, Kings of Leon launched into “Crawl” off of their double-platinum selling album, “Only by Night.” The band has accomplished something that is no easy feat: they have remained together for over two decades with the exact same lineup as when they first started. Maybe one factor that helps keep the foursome together is that they keep it all in the family. The band consists of lead singer and rhythm guitarist, Caleb Followill, brother Matthew on lead guitar, brother Nathan on drums, and their cousin, Jared on bass.
They breezed through hit after hit and right before the fourth song when Caleb asked the excited audience, “Y’all want to dance with us?” He then played the opening sliding notes of “Sex on Fire.” Two songs later, they played “Use Somebody,” before closing with “The Bandit.”
Next up for the night was All Time Low. I was a bit surprised to see how high up in the show they were slated to play. The band opened their set with “Some Kind of Disaster,” complete with confetti and streamers. Lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Alex Gaskarth, clad in leather jacket and backwards cap, seemed really appreciative of the opportunity to play in this lineup and expressed as much to the crowd. The guys definitely brought their “A” game.
They played the positivity anthem “PMA,” as well as “One in a Lifetime” and “Monsters.” They closed their set with “Dear Maria, Count Me In” and said their goodbyes, which I was confused by since it was still 15-20 minutes until the headliners were slated to perform and All Time Low seemed to have played a short set. This was explained as an image on the screen announced “SURPRISE GUEST.”
ALT 98.7 DJ Booker took to the stage and said, “He said he’s a skater boy, she said see you later boy…” A huge ovation went through the crowd as Avril Lavigne walked onto the stage and her band began playing, “Girlfriend.”
Lavigne has been making quite a buzz since last year when she announced that her upcoming album, “Love Sux,” would feature songs produced and featuring Travis Barker, Goldfinger lead singer John Feldmann, rapper Mod Sun, and even Machine Gun Kelly.
Her next song was “Bite Me,” one of the Barker produced songs and current single from her upcoming album. The four-song 15 minute set concluded with “Sk8er Boi.”
Finally the time came for the festival’s headliners. Twenty One Pilots immediately opened their set with “Stressed Out,” which I was pretty surprised at, as this is one of their biggest hits. Lead singer and multi-instrumentalist, Tyler Joseph played bass and sang, while drummer, Josh Dun, kept a rhythmic beat. The lights went down, and Joseph moved toward a piano as he told the crowd, “We don’t have very long with you… but we’re going to give you everything we have.”
He then began playing the opening notes to “Heathens.” As the opening verses started and Dun’s drums kicked in, Joseph had again moved to bass. During one of the song’s breakdowns, he seemed to make good on his promise about giving it their all as he leapt onto a stool, hopped onto his piano and leapt high across the stage while never missing a note.
Joseph donned on a flashy pair of white sunglasses as he went back to the piano and played “Mulberry Street,” a song that brings together memories of a flashy, ‘70s rocker. If that song is reminiscent of Elton John, well it’s no surprise the band began playing a cover of “Bennie and the Jets.”
They then launched into a high-energy rendition of “Level of Concern” complete with trumpet player. When the song concluded, Joseph stripped the fur-lined black leather coat he had donned and began walking into the audience. He started climbing stairs until he had made his away amongst the people of the upper tier of seats high above the stage.
He stood in a balcony and sang the opening to their hit “Ride,” which made for a pretty spectacular view. After the first chorus, he made his way back to the stage, rapping the whole time. The song seemed to end a bit prematurely, as Joseph headed back behind the piano and began singing the intro to Coldplay’s “Yellow.” He explained what a huge influence the band was on Twenty One Pilots before the entire band resumed “Ride” where he had left off. The band ended the night, as they often do, with “Car Radio,” whilst both donning black ski masks.
Toward the song’s conclusion, Joseph walked into the crowd again, this time climbing a scaffolding toward the back of the floor section where he climbed up and sang the rest of the song, with just barely enough room for him to stand on, particularly with as much energy and motion as he was doing. He took off his mask and told the audience, “We’re Twenty One Pilots and so are you. We’ll see you next time. Peace.”
And just like that, another ALTer EGO had come to its finale. Honestly, this kind of high energy and showmanship was just the kind of big spectacle finish that was needed to finish off a strong night of performances. The crowd loved and appreciate what Twenty One Pilots brought and happily sang along to every song.
ALT987 and iHeartRadio proved yet again that they really are one of the gold standards for putting on larger than life shows. One can only imagine what they could possibly plan to outdo this year, but I’m eager to be there and find out.