By Scott T. Sterling
P!nk, Harry Styles and Macklemore lead a star-studded lineup at CBS Radio’s fifth annual We Can Survive breast cancer benefit concert last night (Oct. 21) at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.
P!nk headlined the show with a high-energy celebratory set, setting the upbeat mood by opening with her 2001 hit, “Get the Party Started.” The multiple GRAMMY winner dove into the recently released Beautiful Trauma album, channeling the introspective emotions of her new music with the title track, “What About Us” and “Barbies.” Working every inch of the stage and catwalk that extended out into the capacity crowd with her troupe of dancers, P!nk closed the triumphant set with 2010 fan favorite, “Raise Your Glass,” before saying goodnight.
One Direction alumni Harry Styles took the stage to a deafening wall of shrieks from fans amped to see the star showcase his solo sound. Resplendent in a bright red suit and black ascot, Styles recalled Johnny Cash with a rootsy rendition of “Carolina,” followed by the warm country tones of “Two Ghosts.” A raucous take on “Only Angle” invoked classic Rolling Stones, with an insistent cowbell clanking inside the driving beat. Styles paused to announce that it was his mom Anne’s 50th birthday, coaxing the crowd to sing “Happy Birthday” to her. “What Makes You Beautiful” galvanized the smitten crowd, which eagerly sang along. Styles ended his successful set with a lovely rendition of “Sign of the Times” before throwing it back to the retro rock sounds of “Kiwi.”
Macklemore made it clear that he came to party, opening with new song, “Ain’t Gonna Die Tonight,” before really setting it off with his breakout hit, 2013 smash, “Thrift Shop.” Sharing the stage with a trio of backing singers, three horn players and a handful of dancers, the Seattle rapper paused to deliver the only overt political statement of the night. “We are in interesting times in American history,” he said. “We are here as a form of resistance. Resistance to those that would separate us.” Macklemore’s message of acceptance was an appropriate introduction to “Same Love.” “Can’t Hold Us” and “Downtown” delivered a one-two party punch, turning the Hollywood Bowl into a giant dance party. Shouting out his grandmother Helen, a breast cancer survivor who recently turned 100, Macklemore closed his set with “her song,” the Gemini single “Glorious,” with a cameo from Skylar Grey singing the hook.
Alessia Cara’s bold and empowered pop was eagerly received by the crowd when she bounded onstage to “I’m Yours.” She turned up the bluesy vibes with “Here,” adding a brand new verse to the delight of her fans. “How Far I’ll Go” from the Moana soundtrack was followed by a heartfelt statement about self-love and understanding as an intro to “Scars to Your Beautiful.” Cara inspired fans to jump to her last song of the night, the Zedd collaboration “Stay.”
Harry Styles wasn’t the only One Direction alumni in the house with the appearance of surprise guest, Niall Horan. Marveling at the ornate Hollywood Bowl during his first-ever visit to the venue, Horan conjured early Elton John vibes with songs like “Too Much” before shifting into Tango in the Night-era Fleetwood Mac with the smooth soft-rock track, “On the Loose.” The bump and grind of “Slow Hands” served as Horan’s last song of the night.
Sam Smith emerged onstage to a hero’s welcome with a breezy take on fan favorites “I’m Not the Only One” and “Like I Can” before turning to his upcoming album, The Thrill of It All, with new single “Pray.” “Stay With Me” generates a dazzling cell phone light show from the crowd, soaring right into his recent smash, “Too Good at Goodbyes.”
Lorde’s cool and moody atmospherics brought a fresh energy to the show, with the young singer charging through her recent single “Homemade Dynamite” before turning back to her first big hit, “Royals,” featuring the nice touch of a giant hand holding up a lighter on the screen behind her. She took a seat at center stage for the emotional ballad, “Liability,” before ramping up the party vibes with another new song, “Perfect Places.” “Team” brought more big beats to the upbeat atmosphere, with Lorde winding up her performance with the late-night euphoria of “Green Light.”
Kesha displayed a soulful new feel and big band aesthetics with a slew of songs from her latest full-length, Rainbow. Capturing the crowd with “Woman,” the singer strapped on a guitar to look back at 2010’s “Take it Off” from her Animal album. She welcomed Macklemore to the stage to perform the standout single, “Good Old Days” from his most recent release, Gemini. Kesha took a moment to recognize a fan named Nick, who she said has been to 50 of her shows. Revealing that Nick’s mom is a breast cancer survivor, she dedicated her performance of “Pray” to the fan’s mom.
Sam Hunt confidently straddles the line between country and pop, blasting out of the gate with recent his radio hit “Body Like a Back Road” Thanking the crowd for supporting breast cancer awareness as it’s affected his family, Hunt and his crack band smoothed things out with “Ex to See” and “Drinkin’ Too Much”
Khalid kicked off the show with an affable energy and big anthemic pop tracks made personal with his warm, soulful vocals. “Another Sad Love Song” and “Location” connected easily with the crowd clearly familiar with his music, with the promising young star signing off with “Young, Dumb & Broke.”