Even a downpour couldn’t keep alternative rock fans from packing Los Angeles’ Kia Forum Saturday night for iHeartRadio’s annual Alter Ego Festival. With a bill bringing together Fall Out Boy, Chavches, Phoenix, Muse, Jack White and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, spirits were high inside the venue despite the slippery floor and soaked concertgoers.
And it was a mad rush to get in, as Fall Out Boy was set to kick off the eight-act event at 7pm sharp. Showing an LA allegiance, the room was surprisingly full as the crowd awaited the pop-punk favourite. The band is gearing up to release its first album since 2018 and expectations are high.
The show also brought out some stars, with Jared Leto jamming in a box and at one point joining ALT 98.7’s Woody on stage to tease new music from 30 Seconds to Mars. Patrick Schwarzenegger of “The Staircase” could be seen playing air guitar and drums at nearly every performance, 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 Deakins (Adele’s manager) and Lucy Deakins (co-head of music at WME) looked after 10-year-old Jack White’s party bus-loads of fans also in the VIP section. Seen: iHeartMedia Chairman and CEO Bob Pittman, Virgin Music Labels and Artist Services President Jacqueline Saturn, Warner Records EVP, Promotions and Merchandising Mike Chester and SVP of Promotions Rob Goldklung 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 brings the energy, opening with the one-two punch of “Sugar, We’re Going Down” and “Uma Thurman.” However, one couldn’t help but feel that something was missing… oh, yes, it was lead guitarist Joe Trohman, who was absent from the show (and recovering from an illness). A stand-in filled in, but it just wasn’t the same. The band teased its upcoming single, “Love From The Other Side,” which will be released Jan. 18, but sadly didn’t perform it because the track is “so new we can’t play it yet,” explained bassist Pete Wentz. However, he encouraged the crowd to “keep your eyes open this week” for more announcements, hinting at a possible tour in the works, especially as Wentz ended the set by saying he “can’t wait to spend next year with you.” Black and White The band played “Thanks fr th Mmrs” and “Centuries” as confetti erupted into the crowd, literally starting the show with a bang.
Rosa Linn, CHVRCHES Bring the girl power
Armenian singer-songwriter Rosa Lynn, best known for her TikTok hit “Snap,” wowed audiences with her powerhouse vocals — but she had a bigger message to spread. Etched on the back of his trench coat were the words “Stop the blockade”, referring to Azerbaijan’s blockade of the present-day Artsakh Republic, which has prevented imports of food, fuel and medicine into the breakaway state. During a performance of “Snap”, Lin 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 ended 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 the night would offer.
Fairytale birds are special climbs to new heights
French rockers Phoenix delivered perhaps the most exciting performance of the night, opening their set with bangers “Listomania” and “Lasso” from their fourth album “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.” But it was during a mash-up of “If I Ever Feel Better” and “Funky Squaredance” that the mystery really began, when a man appeared on stage in a white mask and Paul Revere-esque colonial outfit. He just stood there for a few minutes, and then left as the song ended. Nothing was ever explained. The onstage antics continued as the band closed their set with “1901,” and frontman Thomas Mars jumped into the crowd and walked through it with an extended mic cord, giving fans high fives and hugs along the way. But it didn’t end there — Mars was then somehow up on the balcony shouting “Thank you, good night!” From higher levels before finding his way back down again.
Muse’s Matt Bellamy channels Iron Man
Muse is known for her high-voltage performances, and Alter Ego was no exception. Frontman Matt Bellamy charged out as “Will of the People” began to play, and spent the rest 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 heard classics like “Hysteria,” “Madness” and “Supermassive Black Hole” sandwiched between new cuts “Won’t Stand Down” and “Compliance.” There was plenty of trickery as well, as “Don’t Stand Down” and Chris Wolstenholme’s Chaos Pad burst into flames as he connected to his bus, making for its own mini light show. But perhaps most delightful was when Bellamy appeared during “Coup d’état” in a light-up jacket, complete with a robotic-looking arm piece containing a synthesizer. The whole look presented Bellamy as a sort of synth Iron Man, there to save rock n’ roll. Muse’s last song was the always beautiful “Starlight,” which had the entire 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 transition seamlessly and every show is a jam sesh. The first four songs of the set were “Fear of the Dawn”, White’s blues-leaning fourth album, which was released in April 2022. The band was completely airtight, with drummer Daru Jones, bassist Dominic John Davis and keyboardist Quincy McCrary matching White’s on-stage improvisation. The crowd seemed to have their full attention. But of course, it could only last so long, because by the time White finished his set with “Icky Thump,” “Steady As She Goes” and “Seven Nation Army,” there were plenty of phones in the air. Naturally, White still adds some experimentation to his classic songs, stretching out the intros to make their climaxes more upbeat and bumping into well-known choruses.
Red Hot Chili Peppers play ‘Return of the Dream Canteen’ songs live for the first time
Before the Chili Peppers head to New Zealand and Australia next week to continue their world tour, Alter Ego proved to be a testing ground for some of the band’s new songs from their 13th album, “Return of the Dream Canteen.” RHCP’s 10-song set featured the live debut of “Fake as Fu@k,” “The Drummer” and “Tippa My Tong,” all of which proved more enticing live than on record. With an L.A. band, Anthony Kiedis and Flea entertained the audience between songs with anecdotes about growing up in the City of Angels, including the time they saw a Who Who concert at the Forum in the ’80s. The Kiddies dedicated “Snow (Hey Oh)” to “all the girls in Encino” and encouraged everyone to “come down to Randy’s Donuts” after the show at the Flea Party. The set also included a cover of Loggins and Messina’s “Danny’s Song” sung by guitarist John Frusciante, who quietly stole the show with his stellar guitar solo. At one point, Frusciante turned away from the audience and smashed straight into his stacked martial amps. Kiedis flips his black mesh shirt over his head and bounces back and forth with the Marshall amp in tatters. While Pepper’s performance was as solid as ever, the set was mostly new music — the aforementioned “Snow,” “Californication” and set-closer “By the Way” — that might not be everyone’s cup of tea. But, as Flea stayed on stage to dance and flash the LA sign with his fingers, RHCP still won over the crowd.