NEW YORK — Fashion Rocks definitely lived up to its name Thursday night at Radio City Music Hall. As the kickoff event of New York’s Fashion Week, the action in the high-couture audience was as eye-grabbing as the happenings onstage as Beyoncé, Christina Aguilera, the Black Eyed Peas, Elton John, Nelly Furtado and others served up brief but exciting performances.
While 30 Seconds to Mars performed a short set atop Radio City’s marquee, the red carpet filled up with designers, “Devil Wears Prada”-type magazine editors, musicians and pop stars galore, including Eva Mendes, Drea de Matteo, Joshua Jackson, Seth Green, Carmen Electra, Eve, Scott Weiland and Rachel Bilson (who’s chopped off her long locks and was sporting a new bob hairdo). Master of ceremonies Jimmy Fallon was a highlight of the evening, cracking jokes about Paris Hilton’s DUI arrest and celebrity name-dropping in between performances.
The show kicked off with Fergie, who did a solid, sexy “London Bridge” in a glittery mini-dress that was much less revealing than her body-baring VMA ensemble. The booty-shaking dutchess was then joined by the rest of the Black Eyed Peas for “Pump It.”
The Peas were followed by the First Couple of country music, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, who performed the ballad “I Need You.” Their performance went smooth as silk, although their exit didn’t: McGraw tripped while walking offstage, prompting many “oohs,” “ahs” and “Is he OK?”s from the crowd.
The Pussycat Dolls switched from the vintage Herve Leger dresses they’d worn on the red carpet into much skimpier outfits for their performance of “Buttons” (something their onstage gear was notably lacking), for which they were joined by rapper Jibbs. Head Doll Nicole Scherzinger told MTV News earlier in the evening that hitmaker Scott Storch will be producing tracks on her forthcoming solo LP.
The main look for the evening’s ladies, however, paid tribute to jazz singers and legendary musical icons. Beyoncé’s performance of “Deja Vu” was billed as “a tribute to Josephine Baker,” and both her stage set and outfit were in homage to the legendary early-20th-century singer/dancer. The set was designed like an old cabaret club, complete with male dancers bearing saxophones, and both B and her female dancers wore Baker’s trademark mini-hula skirt embellished with fake bananas.
The crowd went wild as Jay-Z descended a black staircase, rapping his part of the song while looking sleek in a white tux with black lapels, although he and B didn’t get as much time onstage as the audience evidently would have liked.
The dynamic duo were followed by fashion designer Donna Karan and Elton John, the event’s curator, who introduced Bon Jovi. The singer delivered “Livin’ on a Prayer” accompanied by a violinist before being joined by the rest of the band for “Who Says You Can’t Go Home.” Earlier in the evening, Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora walked the red carpet hand-in-hand with Denise Richards.
Jay wasn’t the only star to break the “Don’t wear white after Labor Day” rule: Christina Aguilera sang her new single, “Candyman,” in a white sailor suit with cap, accompanied by dancers and a photo montage of jazz legends that appeared on the video screen behind the stage.
A brief interlude followed, wherein Scott Weiland and Drea de Matteo presented the winner of the Best Music Look contest. The pair had to re-do their dialogue four times, eliciting boos from the crowd. The nominees were the “schoolgirl look,” the “grunge look,” the “heavy metal look,” “the ’Saturday Night Fever’ white suit” and “heavy-metal hair,” with schoolgirl taking the honors.
Denise Richards and designer Max Azria then introduced an exhilarating performance by Kanye West and Fonzworth Bentley, the latter of whom also wore all-white and dazzled the crowd with his dancing skills. Next, Kimora Lee and Russell Simmons presented Jamie Foxx, who sang “Can I Take U Home” as three “Dreamgirl”-like ladies stood beside the piano.
The crowd got on their feet for Nelly Furtado — rocking bangs, black pants and a tight mesh top — who was joined by Timbaland for “Maneater.”
The evening was capped with a performance from Elton John, who launched his set with a song from his forthcoming album, The Captain and the Kid, accompanied by the Scissor Sisters. Rihanna then joined him for “The Bitch Is Back,” dancing around his piano throughout the song. Finally, in a comically inappropriate moment, the Pussycat Dolls bumped and grinded around the openly gay (and married!) singer as he sang “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting.”
Still, it was all in good fun, as you can see for yourself when the show airs on CBS at 9 p.m. ET on Friday night (September 8).