Mariah Carey, Childish Gambino, Panic! At The Disco Get iHeartRadio Music Festival Underway In Vegas

LAS VEGAS is the epicenter of the pop music universe this weekend, with both the iHEARTRADIO MUSIC FESTIVAL and the LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL fest hitting town, along with no less than PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP.

The eighth edition of the iHEART RADIO MUSIC FESTIVAL was dominated by MARIAH CAREY’s reinvention, FLEETWOOD MAC’s new lineup and soaring sets from CHILDHOOD GAMBINO, JACK WHITE, PANIC! AT THE DISCO, JASON ALDEAN and RAE SREMMURD.

Host RYAN SEACREST promised “anything can happen” when the livestream on CWTV.com finally got underway from the T-MOBILE ARENA after an hour-long delay.

The reconstituted FLEETWOOD MAC got things underway with their revamed lineup — minus LINDSEY BUCKINGHAM but adding TOM PETTY cohort MIKE CAMPBELL and CROWDED HOUSE’s NEIL FINN — with a crowd-pleasing set highlighted by “The Chain.”

“The Hangover” star KEN LEUNG returned to Sin City to introduce CHILDISH GAMBINO, who apparently rolled into the arena on a wheelchair, but seemed well enough performing a scintillating, bare-chested version of “Redbone.”

iHEARTMEDIA on-air country personality BOBBY BONES and JASON ALDEAN paid tribute to LAS VEGAS First Responders at last year’s tragic shooting during the country music festival from the MANDALAY BAY.

JACK WHITE brought some white-hot rock ‘n’ roll urgency with a scorcing “Over And Over And Over,” from his most recent album, “Boarding House Reach,” followed by a rip-roaring “Lazaretto,” a WHITE STRIPES staple in the winsome “We’re Going To Be Friends” and THE RACONTEURS’ jaunty “Steady As She Goes.”  He closed with a preacher-like fire-and-brimstone “Connected By Love” that had him leading the flock of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Church. “Save me from myself,” he urged before wrapping with the familiar strains of “Seven Nation Army” that had everyone chanting along. Imagine, a JACK WHITE rave-up breaks out in the middle of a Top 40 countdown.  The absolute highlight of the evening to this point.

Introduced by IGGY AZALEA and THE BREAKFAST CLUB, groundbreaking brother rap duo RAE SREMMURD leaned into the swaggalicious materialism of “No Type” (“I make my own money/So I spend it how I like”) and “Swang” (“When the money talks what is there to say?”).  The landmark “Black Beatles,” which featured GUCCI MANE in its recorded version followed. “That girl is a real crowd-pleaser.” Oh, so that’s what they’re rapping. The undulating “Guatemala (From Swaecation)” got the crowd bumping in the aisles. They closed with an epic, raunchy, tongue-tripping “Powerglide” that ended with a chant of ‘iHEARTRADIO live!”

Introduced by recent EMMY winner DARREN CRISS, VEGAS’ own PANIC! AT THE DISCO made a funky, horn-punctuated, self-described “Victorious” homecoming, performing a highly theatrical set that opened with the “Rock Lobster” riffs of “Don’t Threaten Me With A Good Time” then segued into the buoyant “High Hopes.” Charismatic lead singer BRENDON URIE’s expert SINATRA homage, “Death Of A Bachelor,” proved, if he’s not careful, the dapper URIE could turn into the next ADAM LEVINE. The highlight, though, was “the song that got us going,” the emo standard “I Write Sins Not Tragedies,” which URIE explained he wrote “down on VALLEY VIEW BLVD.” The band made a major step even closer to mainstream recognition with the night’s show-stopper.

Returning to the scene of last year’s tragedy JASON ALDEAN performed a fiery set that spotlighted his own blue-collar hybrid blend of rock, rap and country on a set that opened with “Lights Come On” and “Gonna Know We Were Here,” then added a little plaintive steel guitar to the multi-CMT nominated “You Make It Easy.” But ALDEAN pulled out the stops with the hip-hop story-telling of “Dirt Road Anthem,” before blasting his way into SPRINGSTEEN territory with “My Kinda Party,” and the climactic “She’s Country,” both of which rocked as hard as anything played during the night.

The evening’s highlight was next, when PAULA ABDUL and SEACREST introduced the eagerly anticipated appearance by MARIAH CAREY, who has been in town performing a residency at CAESARS PALACE. The singer took the stage in a flurry of confetti for a sparkling comeback from her 2016 NEW YEAR’S EVE debacle. Featuring a slimmed-down look and renewed swagger, CAREY skillfully tackled a set that ranged over her career, from the best-selling “The Emancipation of Mimi” — the opening “It’s Like That” and the closing “We Belong Together” — as well as “Honey” (from “Butterfly”), “Shake If Off” and the cheeky “Obsessed” (“Why are you so obsessed with me?”). A medley of the BUSTA RHYMES joint, “Baby If You Give It To Me” and the “Genius of Love”-sampling “Fantasy” followed, leading into a silkily seductive “GTFO,” her latest single, a come-hither, chill-out dance beat that hits her sweet spot.  Even if she pushed her voice to the breaking point, this was a triumphant return to remind us what MARIAH CAREY is capable of when she’s feeling up to it.

EDM stalwart KYGO closed the evening’s festivities by bringing up guests JUSTIN JESSO for their “Stargazing,” singing to a video image of SELENA GOMEZ on “It Ain’t Me,” then being joined by MIGUEL for their dual hit, “Remind Me To Forget.”  He then sat behind a piano to accompany soprano CONRAD SEWELL on piano, with a full string orchestra for “Firestone,” capping the eclectic night. “Are you entertained iHEART?” bellowed SEWELL. As a matter of fact, CONRAD, we were.

MACY’s iHEARTRADIO “RISING STARS” winners HEFFRON DRIVE — which featured former BIG TIME RUSH member KENDALL SCHMIDT — opened the show with a well-received three-song pop-rock set that included the DURAN DURAN-esque “Hot Summer.”

SAM SMITH was scheduled to perform, but RYAN SEACREST announced he couldn’t make it after a “vocal emergency” suffered during rehearsal earlier in the evening.