Not even a torrential downpour could stop alternative rock fans from packing Los Angeles’ Kia Forum on Saturday night for iHeartRadio’s annual Alter Ego Festival. With a bill bringing together Fall Out Boy, Chvches, Phoenix, Muse, Jack White and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, spirits were high inside the venue despite slippery floors and drenched concertgoers.
And it was a mad rush to get inside, as Fall Out Boy was set to kick off the eight-act event at 7 p.m. sharp. Demonstrating the loyalty of the L.A., the room was surprisingly full as the crowd waited for the pop-punk favorites. The band is preparing to release its first album since 2018 and anticipation is high.
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The show brought out some stars, too, with Jared Leto jamming out in a box and at one point joining ALT 98.7’s Woody on stage to tease new music from 30 Seconds to Mars. “The Staircase’s” Patrick Schwarzenegger could be seen playing air guitar and drums to nearly every act, and Bachelor Nation favorites Michelle Young, Rachel Recchia and Genevieve Parisi were also spotted in the crowd. Backstage, Tobey Maguire mingled with various rock stars while industry vets — and siblings — Jonathan Dickins (manager of Adele) and Lucy Dickins (co-head of music at WME) looked after a party bus-load of 10-year-old Jack White fans. Also spotted in the VIP section: iHeartMedia chairman and CEO Bob Pittman, president of Virgin Music Label & Artist Services Jacqueline Saturn, Warner Records’ EVP, promotion and commerce Mike Chester and SVP of promotion Rob Goldklang and manager Peter Katsis.
Read on for more standout moments from iHeartRadio’s Alter Ego Fest 2023.
Fall Out Boy Opens the Show With a Bang
Despite the early set time, Fall Out Boy immediately brought the energy, starting its set with the one-two punch of “Sugar, We’re Going Down” and “Uma Thurman.” However, one couldn’t help but feel like something was missing… oh, yeah, it was lead guitarist Joe Trohman, who was absent from the show (and recovering from an illness). A stand-in filled in, but it simply wasn’t the same. The band teased its upcoming single, “Love From the Other Side,” which releases on Jan. 18, but sadly did not perform it as the track is “so new we can’t even play it yet,” bassist Pete Wentz explained. However, he encouraged the crowd to “keep your eyes peeled this week” for more announcements, hinting at a possible tour in the works, especially as Wentz ended the set by saying that he “can’t wait to spend the next year with you.” The band played “Thnks fr th Mmrs” and “Centuries” as black-and-white confetti erupted into the crowd, literally starting the show with a bang.
Rosa Linn, CHVRCHES Bring the Girl Power
Armenian singer-songwriter Rosa Linn, best known for her TikTok famous song “Snap,” wowed the audience with her powerhouse vocals — but she had a bigger message to spread. Emblazoned on the back of her trench coat were the words “Stop the Blockade,” referring to Azerbaijan’s current blockade of the Republic of Artsakh, which has prevented the importation of food, fuel and medicine into the breakaway state. During her performance of “Snap,” Linn waved an Armenian flag to drive the point home.
Taking the stage in a form-fitting yellow gown, Chvrches’ Lauren Mayberry commanded the stage during the band’s six-song set, which capped off with the 2015 hit “Clearest Blue.” Midway through a male-heavy lineup, the female-led synth-pop was a welcome break from the onslaught of guitars that the night would offer.
Phoenix Climbs to New Heights
French rockers Phoenix delivered what was perhaps the most exciting performance of the night, starting their set with bangers “Lisztomania” and “Lasso” from their fourth album “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.” But the mystique truly set in during a mash-up of “If I Ever Feel Better” and “Funky Squaredance,” when a man appeared on stage in a white mask and Paul Revere-esque colonial outfit. He simply stood there for a couple of minutes, and then left as the song came to a close. Nothing was ever explained. The on-stage antics continued as the band closed out their set with “1901” and frontman Thomas Mars leapt into the crowd and walked through it with an extended mic cord, giving high fives and hugs to fans along the way. But it didn’t end there — Mars was then somehow boosted up into the balcony and yelled “Thank you, goodnight!” from the higher level before finding his way back down again.
Muse’s Matt Bellamy Channels Iron Man
Muse is known for its high-voltage performances, and Alter Ego was no exception. Frontman Matt Bellamy came charging out as “Will of the People” began to play, and spent the remainder of the song gallivanting around the stage, bringing a lightning bolt of energy to the crowd. Muse’s set was the perfect mix of old and new, as fans got to hear classics like “Hysteria,” “Madness” and “Supermassive Black Hole” sandwiched between newer cuts “Won’t Stand Down” and “Compliance.” There were plenty of gimmicks present, too, as bursts of fire erupted during “Won’t Stand Down” and Chris Wolstenholme’s Kaoss Pad attached to his bass made for its own mini light show. But perhaps the most entertaining of all was when Bellamy emerged during “Uprising” in a light-up jacket, complete with a robotic-looking arm piece that had a synthesizer built into it. The whole look presented Bellamy as some sort of synth Iron Man, there to save rock ‘n roll. Muse’s last song was the always lovely “Starlight,” which got the whole audience singing “Hold you in my arms/ I just wanted to hold you in my arms.”
Jack White Gets Experimental
Alter Ego was then transported to a different dimension courtesy of Jack White: a blue-and-white world where songs have seamless transitions and every show is a jam sesh. The set’s first four songs were from “Fear of the Dawn,” White’s blues-leaning fourth album which released in April 2022. The band was absolutely airtight, with drummer Daru Jones, bassist Dominic John Davis and keyboardist Quincy McCrary matching White’s on-stage improvisation to a tee. Though Alter Ego marked a rare White show where audience members had access to their phones, the musicality of the performance was so captivating that White seemed to have the crowd’s full attention. But of course, that could only last so long, for when White ended his set with “Icky Thump,” “Steady as She Goes” and “Seven Nation Army,” there were plenty of phones in the air. Naturally, White still added some experimentation to even his classic songs, extending intros to make their climaxes that much more euphoric and riffing on well-known choruses.
Red Hot Chili Peppers Play ‘Return of the Dream Canteen’ Songs Live for the First Time
Before the Chili Peppers jet off to New Zealand and Australia next week to continue their world tour, Alter Ego proved to be the testing ground for some of the band’s newest songs from their 13th album “Return of the Dream Canteen.” RHCP’s 10-song set saw the live debut of “Fake as Fu@k,” “The Drummer” and “Tippa My Tongue,” all of which proved to be more enticing live than on the record. An L.A. band through and through, Anthony Kiedis and Flea entertained the audience in between songs with anecdotes about growing up in the City of Angels, including the time in the ’80s they snuck into the Forum to see the Who in concert. Kiedis dedicated “Snow (Hey Oh)” to “all the girls in Encino,” and Flea encouraged everyone to “come on down to Randy’s Donuts” after the show to party. The set also included a cover of Loggins & Messina’s “Danny’s Song” sung by guitarist John Frusciante, who quietly stole the show with his stellar guitar solos. At one point, Frusciante turned away from the audience and shredded directly into his stacked Marshall amps as Kiedis cheered him on by flipping his black mesh shirt over his head and bopping back and forth. Though the Chili Peppers’ performance was as solid as ever, the set was mostly new music — save for the aforementioned “Snow,” “Californication” and set-closer “By the Way” — which may not have been everyone’s cup of tea. But, judging by the rapturous applause as Flea remained on stage to dance around and flash the L.A. sign with his fingers, RHCP still won the crowd’s heart.
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