MOUNTAIN VIEW — Pop stars of today and tomorrow gathered at Shoreline Amphitheatre Sunday night for the WAZZMATAZZ summer concert spectacle. The show, presented by radio station Wild 94.9, featured an eclectic lineup of performers not only stylistically diverse, but also culturally diverse. Headlined by superstar Halsey, the show was very much the summer counterpart to the Jingle Ball format, with each act playing shortened rapid-fire sets. The format made for a perfectly curated real-life Spotify playlist brought to life onstage.
Halsey, performing on the second anniversary of Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, brought an electric and engaging performance that left the Shoreline crowd begging for more. She took the stage in all black—from a chopped-up Ramones T-shirt to long jet black hair and leather boots. On opening song “Gasoline,” she was flanked by columns of flames that lit the outdoor stage during the resounding chorus. The New Jersey singer headbanged, bounced and got down into a balanced crouch with impressive dexterity. Halsey continued her set with “Now or Never” and the infectious driving stomp of “Colors.” She performed the Khalid collaboration “Eastside,” asking the audience to help out with his parts.
Before performing a stripped-down piano version of her hit Chainsmokers collaboration “Closer,” the 24-year-old reflected back on the past two years since the release of her last album and how much had changed since then, such as her hairstyle and her home address. The performance was poignant and dramatic as Halsey sang to a sea of cell phone lights. The subtle arrangement of the song proved superior to the original.
After “Alone,” Halsey brought out the recently released “Nightmare,” a song that exuded confidence and defiance. The intense performance served up thrills and was buoyed by a wall of flames as well as a concussion-level blast of pyrotechnics that welcomed the chorus. She concluded with singalong fan favorites “Bad A Love,” a song which Halsey dedicated to those who came to the show alone, and “Without Me.” Cannons of smoke engulfed the stage with confetti raining down.
U.K. songstress Ellie Goulding was supposed to play in San Jose before the College Football Championship last January, but that performance was canceled because of a storm. Her return was worth the wait for fans as the singer brought her most upbeat hits. Goulding exchanged the more brooding art-pop for pure fun and was all smiles as she bounded her way through infectious hits like the Calvin Harris collaboration “I Need Your Love” and “Outside.” Goulding’s smokey rasp was as strong as ever as she confidently powered through an upbeat club remix of new song “Close to Me” and soaring ballad “Love Me Like You Do.”
Goulding even included her original hit, “Lights,” which has become a rarity to hear live in recent years. She closed her set with a stellar performance of the trippy “On My Mind” and “Burn,” finishing by strapping on a guitar for an extended instrumental jam with her band.
Latin American boy band CNCO provided some of the night’s biggest highlights during its entertaining early evening set. The quintet showed impressive vocal chops and tight harmonies, proving its talents go beyond the flashy onstage moves. The group sang in a mix of Spanish and English, though the majority of the material was performed in the former.
Vocalist Richard Camacho performed much of the set from atop a road case as he was still recovering from a sprained ankle. He kept up with his bandmates, even with the assistance of a cane. CNCO included a surprisingly soulful stripped-down take of Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me,” a song which the members say brought them together in the first place.
Seoul, South Korea K-pop outfit NCT 127 proved to be one of the most anticipated bands of the night, and an introduction for this reviewer into the phenomenon that is K-pop. It’s easy to see why groups like NCT 127 appeal to the wide audience that they do, especially to younger fans. Donning multicolored blazers, fun hair colors and sharp dance moves, NCT 127’s performance was heavy on style, drama and energy. Nearly everything the group did elicited a scream from the crowd. The bass pounded, the beat dropped and the band jumped and posed with dramatic flair. The group’s set included a performance of the new song “Highway to Heaven.”
Another New Jersey singer-songwriter, Fletcher, turned in an impressive midday set as well, mixing Top 40 pop sounds with classic R&B. Fletcher, flanked by a drummer and a guitarist, delivered a head-turning set that provided excitement. Between songs she talked about the origins of her song lyrics, which included one of running into her ex at a bar. Fletcher closed out her set with the hit, “Undrunk.”
Breaking into the pop frenzy portion of the night was Ava Max. Alongside four dancers, the Wisconsin-born, Virginia-raised singer delivered bubblegum melodies with a punch. Her songs radiated with powerful positive energy that would encourage fans to embrace and stand up for themselves. “So Am I” was a comforting battlecry for misfits, while “Not Your Barbie Girl”—which sampled the Aqua song—gave an important lesson in consent.
Ava Max’s vocals stayed silky and flawless as she floated between belted and delicate notes. She ultimately closed with empowering bop “Sweet But Psycho.”
Ty James made the most of his short but sweet 15-minute set, kicking off Wazzmatazz with an energized performance. Each cut’s infectious, buoyant beat was perfect for the summer, as James stayed on top of his killer flow and made it all seem effortless.
Performing “Temptations,” “No Option” and breakthrough single “Splash,” the Indiana rapper had an obvious knack for melodic verses. His stage presence reflected the high-spirited nature of his songs, beaming pretty much nonstop. James would also express his love for the Bay Area, which made the crowd giddy to hear.