A few days ago, I realized that the annual Billboard Music Awards would be happening in Las Vegas while I would be in town for the International Film Festival Summit. A few emails later, the great folks at Billboard magazine hooked me up with tickets to attend tonight, at the MGM Grand. The show was broadcast live on Fox, so being in the PST, the actual show began at 5:00 p.m. Vegas time. It was a brisk and entertaining two hours of awards, performances, and amusing presenters. The big winners of the show were pretty populist fare (after all, the awards are determined by album and singles sales), with the likes of Nickelback and Chris Brown walking away with prizes. But, musical performances were a great attraction. Mary J. Blige and Ludacris (with Pharrell) were among the highlights. Janet Jackson and The Fray were among the low points. The show wrapped up with a fun performance of ZZ Top’s “Tush,” orchestrated by Kid Rock, Billy Gibbons, and Nickelback. All in all, the entire program was a smooth and efficient production, from the perspective of the thousands of audience members in attendance.
The Killers were supposed to perform, but reportedly due to singer Brandon Flowers’ vocal chords, dropped out to instead co-present the “Artist of the Year” award with a chipper and sober Courtney Love. Among the awkward moments not captured on the live Fox cameras: Stevie Wonder was left hanging for a solid 30 seconds when trying to hand Tony Bennett his “Century Award,” because Bennett was waving to the audience and didn’t realize the visually impaired Wonder couldn’t know any better.
The show’s after-party, held at MGM Grand club Studio 54, was a comfortable and fun affair. Plenty of tasty food and an open bar while dancers entertained the crowd and VIPs slowly circulated throughout. The only big celeb in the house (by half-time) was Courtney Love. Actor Chris Kattan and magician Criss Angel mingled, but the dancers on the floor easily drew more attention. But, it was Vegas, and Billboard threw a helluva party. Without a doubt, it was a fun Vegas detour and I’m really grateful that Billboard gave me the chance to check it out.