Last night in L.A. iHeart put on their annual Alter Ego show, a showcase of the biggest alternative acts in music. There were several takeaways from the more than four-hour concert, which featured Coldplay, Twenty One Pilots, Maneskin, Willow, All Time Low, Imagine Dragons and Kings Of Leon, as well as surprise guest Avril Lavigne, who very nearly stole the show.
The first major takeaway is that after nearly two years of live music being an endangered species, performers are not taking anything for granted anymore, making for some incredible performances. Coldplay’s Chris Martin thanked the crowd for braving all that they had to go through — traffic, tests, vaccines, masks — to watch the show, while Twenty One Pilots’ Tyler Joseph assured the crowd live music wasn’t going anywhere.
Every performer on the stage seemed genuinely excited to be there, none more so than Lavigne and Coldplay, who stood out on a night where every performer rose to the challenge.
Lavigne, who came out as the surprise guest between All Time Low and the show’s final act, Twenty One Pilots, received a hero’s welcome. Between the recent pop/punk resurgence and nostalgia for the 2000s, the timing is right for a huge year for Lavigne, who has a new album, Love Sux, out February 25. Whether it was watching the crowd go crazy as she walked onstage, seeing everyone scream along to “My Happy Ending” or listening to five women in their mid to late 20s in the parking lot talk about how Lavigne was their middle and elementary school hero and still is the coolest, it is clear there is a generation of fans excited to welcome Lavigne back and see her succeed. And she couldn’t stop smiling as she fed off the crowd’s adoration, making for a very memorable love fest between the performer and audience.
The same was true of Coldplay. Obviously Coldplay haven’t gone anywhere the last few years, but through their consistent performing and adventuresome work they continue to grow into one of the finest live bands in all of music. Of course this type of show is perfect for a band like Coldplay, who has such a deep catalogue of hits.
Then when you match songs such as “Fix You,” “Yellow,” “Clocks” and “Viva La Vida” with Martin’s hard work and amiable personality, like thanking the crowd and joking that Kings Of Leon wrote better songs than “Viva La Vida,” but “we still like playing it,” you have a masterful set. They closed up their near hour with the anthemic “Sky Full Of Stars,” which has become a modern arena favorite.
Also interesting was that during their feel good, very jovial set All Time Low and during their closing set Twenty One Pilots both made quips about Coldplay opening for them, showing how much Coldplay have become the benchmark for today’s alternative scene.
During Twenty One Pilots superb set, Joseph expanded on the Coldplay theme by sharing how Martin once left him a voicemail about how much he loved the band’s music and what it meant to him. Made for a very nice and real moment. Now of course Twenty One Pilots are also one of the biggest live acts in the world, headlining arenas on their own. And they showed why again, especially having some fun including covers of Elton John’s “Bennie And The Jets” and a portion of My Chemical Romance’s “I’m Not Okay (I Promise),” alongside hits like “Stressed Out,” “Ride” and “Heathens.” The set ended with their own live anthem, the stellar “Car Radio.”
While almost every band was an arena headliner in their own right, the one newer artist, Italian rock band Maneskin showed up very nicely. The band’s five-song set was an absolute blast and filled the venue nicely, though watching the band’s style and swagger one couldn’t help but dream of seeing Maneskin in a small, sweaty, packed club (when safe of course).
With Alter Ego having taken the mantle as the biggest alternative show on the live scene these days, it has become a barometer for the state of the alternative scene. And watching the show it was clear alternative music is in a very vibrant place right now.