"I got 20 minutes," Calvin Harris said as his set at Wango Tango came to a close, and that was all he needed.
Careful not to offend his host, the Scottish DJ was complaining ever so mildly about the brevity of his slot at this annual pop-music extravaganza put on by L.A.'s Top 40 radio powerhouse KIIS-FM (102.7).
Wango Tango's sold-out 2014 edition, held Saturday at the StubHub Center in Carson, featured appearances by more than a dozen acts, including Shakira, Maroon 5, Ariana Grande and Zedd. All had come to perform their hits — quickly — as a kind of quid pro quo meant to ensure future airplay.
If the hurried ring-kissing left Harris feeling crowded, though, he needn't have worried. Short as it was, his set, which came about halfway through the six-hour event, provided Wango Tango's first real eruption of energy. Standing behind a bank of DJ equipment, he transformed the crowd — one that had given a warm but measured welcome to the likes of OneRepublic, Christina Aguilera and B.o.B. — into a surging sea of neon-green glow sticks throbbing in time to abbreviated versions of his electronic dance tunes: "I Need Your Love," with recorded vocals by Ellie Goulding; "We Found Love," featuring the voice of Rihanna; "Feel So Close," sung by Harris himself, though in the studio, not live at the StubHub Center.
As he did at last month's Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Harris was hitting a sweet spot at the intersection of radio pop and club music, with sticky choruses laid over stomping beats that might have banged on for hours in other settings. And as at Coachella, he was inspiring a reaction far more intense than those triggered by more conventional pop stars. Harris' only competition at Wango Tango was Zedd, the German DJ who also thrilled thousands at Coachella, and Tiësto, the Dutch DJ who closed Saturday's show.
That difference in reception seemed natural at Coachella, which presents itself as a showcase for cutting-edge styles. But Wango Tango's brand is essentially the mainstream come to life; it's an opportunity for the singers of hit singles to fortify their terrestrial celebrity.
Indeed, many of Saturday's comparatively old-fashioned performers emphasized a human touch.
Shakira, atypically dressed down in jeans and a T-shirt, moved her body like no robot can in "Hips Don't Lie" and "Can't Remember to Forget You." Ed Sheeran enlisted the crowd as backup vocalists in "Sing," which the British folkie played as a one-man band, thumping the body of his guitar for percussion.
Grande peppered her effervescent pop-soul songs with lively vocal runs, while Adam Levine of Maroon 5 strutted across the stage like any number of peacocking frontmen before him.
Wango Tango's most convincing non-electronic act — remember that appellation, as it may turn up at the Grammy Awards should dance music continue its expansion — was Paramore, the live-wire emo-rock band that raced headlong through its sharp, potent songs but also paused in "Ain't It Fun" so that it could "take you to church," as singer Hayley Williams put it.
That meant it was time for a funky slap-bass solo from Jeremy Davis, Paramore's self-conscious nod to a tradition of rootsy, hand-played sounds.
The solo went over well; it drew cheers from an audience that hasn't yet evolved out of its reflex to applaud a musician handling an instrument while illuminated by a spotlight.
But Williams knew which way the wind was blowing at Wango Tango. After Paramore played, she popped back onstage near the end of Zedd's performance to join him for their computerized stadium-rave hit "Stay the Night."
She was raging with the machine, not against it.Copyright © 2015, CT Now