« Previous Post | Pop & Hiss Home | Next Post »

Live review: KIIS-FM's Wango Tango, featuring Ludacris, Usher, Justin Bieber, Ke$ha, others at Staples Center

Among the many revelations delivered Saturday night at Staples Center, where L.A.’s pop-radio powerhouse KIIS-FM presented its annual Wango Tango concert, perhaps the most noteworthy was this: Brody Jenner from “The Hills” has finally contracted a case of Bieber Fever.

If the preceding sentence consists primarily of unfamiliar words, you’re probably one of the three or four humans who fall outside the purview of KIIS’ mission, which is to provide the big-tent soundtrack to Right Now. (Alternatively, your name might be Andy Rooney.)

With an eclectic lineup populated in part by slick dance-popsters (Justin Bieber, Iyaz), club-friendly hip-hoppers (Ludacris, B.o.B.), a French house-music maven (David Guetta) and whatever it is we’re calling Ke$ha, Wango Tango works in giddy opposition to the idea that the music industry no longer produces stars capable of reaching across demographic lines.

Saturday’s five-hour show didn’t always hit its target, but that might only have been because the target kept moving.

This year’s headliner was Usher, the Atlanta R&B veteran whose recent “Raymond vs. Raymond” album announced his return to raunch after a brief stint as a domestic-minded crooner. At Staples, he deepened that reversion, performing hits such as “Nice & Slow” and “Lil Freak” while grinding suggestively against a series of objects -- some carbon-based (several female dancers), others not (a microphone stand, the stage floor).

Throughout his 30-minute set, Usher sang and danced with the precision of a professional; “U Got It Bad,” with a stripped-down tribal-groove arrangement, was especially impressive. Yet coming as it did after high-energy appearances by Ludacris and Akon (the latter of whom stage-dived twice), Usher’s performance felt a little lackluster. His closing number, the pulsing Eurodance track “OMG,” didn’t quite earn its Webspeak-derived title.

Usher protégé Bieber suffered no such shortage of intensity; this pint-sized Canadian’s six-song set was by far the most enthusiastically received of the evening. (Add a couple of exclamation points to “OMG” and you’re getting there.) Bieber offers the latest iteration of a proven puppy-love formula deployed by, among others, New Kids on the Block, ’N Sync and the Jonas Brothers, and though there’s something of a charisma vacuum at work in his music, he enlivened all the old tricks well enough Saturday night.

Generously sharing his thoughts with a KIIS DJ following Bieber’s performance, Jenner admitted that the 16-year-old had made him a fan. Watch out, world.

Bieber wasn’t the only newly arrived star at Wango Tango. There was also Ke$ha, who took the stage wearing a Wonder Woman-inspired costume (or half of one, anyway) and spent her 20 minutes there throwing a kind of simulated house party. Before she sang her hit “Tik Tok,” she announced that Saturday was the birthday of one of her band members, then presented a cake in the shape of a woman’s breast, which ended up smeared across the floor in no time. The moment felt exceedingly true to Ke$ha’s real-world existence.

Adam Lambert seemed intent on summoning a similar jolt of transgressive energy but came up short, offering plenty of fine-grain glam-rock detail (including a rhinestone-encrusted in-ear monitor) but little of the in-your-face spectacle he delivered during his climb toward fame on “American Idol.”

Inside the big tent at last, Lambert went unexpectedly small.

-- Mikael Wood

- Photos: KIIS FM's Wango Tango

Clicking on Green Links will take you to a third-party e-commerce site. These sites are not operated by the Los Angeles Times. The Times Editorial staff is not involved in any way with Green Links or with these third-party sites.
Comments () | Archives (61)

Do you know how ridiculous your article sounds to anyone that was there or saw the videos of Adam Lambert's performance at Wango Tango. Have you lost your sense of what good music sounds like. God I do not know why I am continuing to comment as your review is so superficial and makes no sense. What, you wanted Adam to cause a spectacle and then you would rave about. Adam blew Sleepwalker out of the stratosphere. Where were you? He rocked the joint out with If I Had You and Fever and was perfection with Whataya Want From Me. Where were you? Have you ever heard a voice like Adam Lambert's? No you have not. No one can compare and I really think you know it. Adam owned that stage last night and any stage he is on. He does not have to create a spectacle to gain attention, his voice and his performances do that for him. Again, where were you because you could not have seen his performance and write what you just wrote. Your bias is so out there that the LA Times should be ashamed of themselves for letting someone with such limited taste as you write a blog about music. I assume you are about 12 years old and only listen to the radio's same old, same old with mediocre singers and boring performances. That is how your writing comes across. Your article shows that you are incapable of recognizing the most exciting performer that ever was and is. I feel sorry you do not get it and probably never will!!! You are missing pure greatness. Someday you will look back at the drivel you just wrote about Adam Lambert and be ashamed.

I just had to add this. I saw your name and realized what the bias is. Is your masculinity so at risk that you needed to show what a real man you are and write the drivel you just wrote about Adam. Makes me pity you!!!

What concert did you see. Adam Lambert was bigger then life and by far the best singer at the concert. He was great. He may not be your cup of tea but how could you fairly state that he was small in comparrison to the other artist. I could not disagree with you more. By the ton of positive tweets from the concert and word from most of the people there Adam was fantastic and bigger then life. So I don't again respect your opinion but wholeheartedly disagree

Wow, too bad instead of concentrating on spectacle you didn't place more strength in vocal ability. In that department Lambert slayed everyone. And I'd take that over autotuned performances any day.


Ke$ha was the worst of the night. Lambert wasn't the main draw but I guess reviewers will always assume as such. Count me as a non-fan of his who became a fan of his after Wango. Dude probably should have body surfed the crowd to get your attenti0n. That or tore his shirt off.

Lol, I was there and it was such a KIIS crowd. They only reacted to the songs KIIS has played religiously. Any song that hasn't been released as a single was virtually ignored. It was also a hip-hop crowd. Give them a good beat, and they were satisfied. Akon easily got the best reaction of the night, although he was far from the best musically.

What about Lambert's voice? Of course you skip over that. Nobody else can top him. He was born to play the big tent. He sounded phenomenal and he put on a great show. Really don't know what you are talking about.

What, you didn't like Lambert??? I rather thought he was fantastic. Unbelievable vocals, as opposed to several others you praised. And the dress, the hair, the glitter! What did you want? A giant lit-up staircase and a big band?

Mikael, regarding your Adam Lambert assessment, are you for real?

nice review - was there and enjoyed usher, luda, and david guetta a lot. bieber love i just don't get. adam lambert looked ridic in hammer style ballon pants, and his dancers looked cheap. iyaz lip synched, and kesha and b.o.b. were just awful. overall, a pretty ok day, but nothing really to brag about. hope the lineup next year is better.

Are you jealous of Adam Lambert or are you deaf? I was there to see Justin but totally blown away by Adam's performance. He's spetacular! I'm a new fan.

Not sure what you wanted from Adam. After all, he is the new kid on the block. It was an honor that he was invited to perform there, a statement that he has arrived on the scene of pop music. With all the Bieberbots in the audience, was he supposed to give an AMA-type performance? Throw a cake into the crowd? Do something outrageous? It is easy to outperform people on a reality TV show, but he is just at the point of starting his career and beginning his first tour. He gave a knock out performance of his best pop songs, and his voice was stunning. Lots of people in this audience probably didnt even know who he was, or maybe had only marginally heard of him. Lots of comments on twitter from people who were blown away by his live singing. I guess I just dont understand the huge expectations that everyone puts on Adam. I wish he just had some time to grow into the artist that everyone seems to want him to be.

Mr. Woods, sorry for your infliction, hope you recover so that you can give credible musical opinions. No one in the music industry is as vocally talented as Adam Lambert. Here is a tip for you, until you recover in order not to appear irrelevant you should not set out to disrespect the next musical icon. It will make you appear stupid.

Lambert small? Mr. Wood - he was one of the few performers who could actually sing. No sure that matters in your mind, though.

Were you even watching Adam Lambert's performance? Not intense? Adam is always intense and he put on a great set last night. Stop living in the past. American Idol is over and while concentrated on classic rock back then, he loves singing all styles of music and he can do it too.

Move on. Adam has. So have his fans.

The author wrote:

"Adam Lambert seemed intent on summoning a similar jolt of transgressive energy but came up short, offering plenty of fine-grain glam-rock detail (including a rhinestone-encrusted in-ear monitor) but little of the in-your-face spectacle he delivered during his climb toward fame on “American Idol.”

Inside the big tent at last, Lambert went unexpectedly small."

Were you blind, def?? Were you smoking while watching Adam Lambert ? Because I have seen something totally different: a powerful performance , outstanding voice, confidence, stage dominance (balls of steel style) and a public responding positively loud.

What ever you were smoking.....is good staff, your brain was so gone! Don't change the supplier....lol

Enthusiasm of the crowd all comes down to familiar with the song so artists with multiple radio hits will receive the most earpiercing screams. And in this age of autotunes, you need not sing your whole song. A couple of lines here & there combined it with throwing cake, talking to the crowd, doing antics on stage will do the tricks. That's what entertain has been all about, isn't it? People with vocal talents & musicality aren't in right now. Sad.

Are you kidding- did you watch the same show, Adam Lambert was the only one in that whole show who can actually sing, which he did beautifully.

Mikael Wood, listen to the compliments from Meatloaf and Rob Cavallo. They said it all. Do you know who they are BTW?

I guess the writer of this article thought Adam Lambert came up short (small??) regarding his performance. I sure didn't but I'm glad Adam was there at WangoTango. I have a feeling that altho it didn't win this guy over, I think he may just have won a few more fans! Most people thought his voice, which is the reason he was there, was just fantastic!
His voice is never "small" & is in no need of auto-tune or recording studio magic as so many singers rely. As far as Bieber, I guess if I were 12 yo, I would enjoy his pubescent voice.

Re: Lambert - Mikael, he's just starting out and doesn't have recognizable songs that would elicit screaming from a crowd like KIIS-FM that is very limited in its range of music. Instead of reviewing Lambert's performance, believe you reviewed the decibel level instead. At this stage of Lambert's career (a few months?), it's obvious that established stars will elicit greater enthusiasm. Perhaps you could review his singing and not just dismiss his performance by saying he didn't sing covers as he did on Idol.

This article is a joke, right? Adam Lambert's voice was beyond compare. No other performer came close to his vocal abilities. I would expect that someone qualified to write a music blog would also have the ability to move out of the "repetitious-pop" bubble and objectively review the musical talent of the participants. Maybe after you have heard one of Adam's songs 10,000 times, you'll start to recognize the genius. Times are changing dude, maybe you should look for a job in advertising.

Mikael Wood tell me, do you have a problem with Adam Lambert? If you dont like his show many other peoples love his show. You dont like Adam performance but we love his performance.

What do you want from him? All his fan's love him and his voice his so amazing and he are such a great performer.

So please forget Bieber, he his young and when he's gone to have his own voice like a man probably he will not delivred like Adam always performe. So please dont compare Bieber whit anyone because he's the best. So please take your insult about Adam for you.

OUps sorry I would not tell that * dont compare Bieber because his the best...( sorry I want to tell you dont compare Adam's to anybody because he his the best singer we never have for many years and not just the young girl love him like the 12 to 18 years because Adam's have all age who loves him to 5 years old at 85 years old love Adam.

You forgot to include anything about the actual singing...
Justin Bieber has finally hit puberty and his voice is breaking... It isn't pretty. To everyone but the little girls he sounded screetchy and pitchy.
Ke$ha simply can Not sing live, several people around me cringed.... Even some of the little girls who were there for Bieber.
Adam Lambert sounded amazing, his voice is insane. He rocked up there and got a better responce than Ke$ha.
Usher phoned it in... he looked bored and sounded bored. A let down...

1 2 3 | »


Recommended on Facebook

In Case You Missed It...


Recent Posts

Tweets and retweets from L.A. Times staff writers.



Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: