KIIS FM’s daylong Wango Tango festival at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., may have featured an impressive roster of talent from Meghan Trainor to Justin Bieber, but there was clearly one artist who reigned over them all: Kanye West. The majority of the roughly 20,000 people in attendance clamored for his performance – to the point that the bleachers rattled threateningly from unison stomping in the moments leading up to his 9 p.m. set.
Now in its 17th year, Wango Tango is a Los Angeles-area pop music tradition. Even still, West’s headlining set felt like a big booking. With a stadium packed full of teenagers and twentysomethings, much of the same audience that shrieked for Bieber and Nick Jonas sang along word-for-word to West’s hits. And though he has reaffirmed his interest in radio play lately, after brushing it off with his last album, Yeezus, his solid performance is close as he may come to kissing big radio’s ring.
“I know everybody at the radio station is scared I might talk some shit tonight,” West said midway through his set. However, after a lengthy and expectant silence, he launched into “Heartless” from his 2008 album 808s & Heartbreak.Overall, he refrained from the kind of rants we’ve come to expect from him and, instead, delivered a solid offering of his hottest tracks from throughout his catalogue. These included “Black Skinhead,” “Power,” “Stronger,” “Good Life,” “Gold Digger,” “Bound 2” and the closer “All Day.” While the rest of the 14 featured performers’ sets stayed trim around 20 minutes, West’s rounded out 40 minutes.
For those unimpressed by West, the evening’s highlight was arguably Bieber, who is plenty divisive himself. Though he took the stage to some audible boos from the audience, the young superstar performed with a relaxed swagger, sometimes backed by dancers and at other points stripping things back with just an acoustic guitar accompaniment. After opening with “Boyfriend,” Bieber struggled with “Beauty and a Beat,” falling off-key for the first verse before finding his way again on the chorus; he stayed the course for the rest of his set, which also included “All That Matters” and “Hold Tight.”
Noticeably, Bieber performed “As Long as You Love Me” without Big Sean’s accompaniment, even though the rapper was in attendance and had joined Calvin Harris for “Open Wide” during his set earlier. (Perhaps Sean is holding a grudge for Bieber getting gropey with his ex, Ariana Grande?) And this was not the only instance of missed opportunities for exciting cameos. David Guetta and Sia were both on the bill earlier with back-to-back sets, but did not share the stage for “Titanium” or one of their several other collaborations. Alas, the veiled songstress performed the hit alone during her set, and Guetta was joined by no guests. Ne-Yo, Jason Derulo, Fifth Harmony, Tori Kelly, Natalie La Rose, LunchMoney Lewis and Echosmith all played earlier as well. The event felt heavily weighted towards EDM, not that the audience seemed to mind. By nightfall, the crowd had transformed to a sea of LED lights and KIIS FM had brought a teenage rave to Carson.
Overall, the Top 40 festival Wango Tango offered few surprises. Though West might have stopped short of paying any compliments to KIIS FM, most the other acts were ready to give thanks for its supporting their careers – none more than Nick Jonas. Sufficiently wooing the teenage crowd with suave moves and a sleeveless leather vest – even grabbing a fan’s phone mid-song to take selfies onstage – the savvy singer rolled though “Numb,” “Chains” and “Avalanche” while paying ample tribute to KISS FM. “KIIS FM is the greatest station in the whole world!” he shouted.