While many people were celebrating Labor Day Weekend by throwing a family barbecue or chilling by the pool, a few hundred revelers were jamming to an exclusive afternoon concert behind the iconic Fontainebleau Miami Beach Hotel by Grammy-winning super-producer Pharrell Williams and pop-soul man Robin Thicke, who collaborated on the mega-hit “Blurred Lines.”
The show – which closed the summer season of the BleauLive concert series that has recently featured Jewel, fun. and Carly Rae Jepsen – was different from a normal concert experience in that neither performer took the stage for longer than 40 minutes, and the heat was near-unbearable. But the sweaty party people didn’t seem to mind. Perhaps the open bar had something to do with that.
After sexy hip-hop beats by DJ Slim Rock warmed up the crowd, Pharrell took the stage – only 15 minutes late! – dressed to beat the heat in a straw hat and white V-neck T. Those who expected a full-band, full-singing performance by the member of The Neptunes and N.E.R.D. were probably disappointed, as Pharrell’s set was a DJ tour through his personal production highs, with him adding sporadic vocals and many obligatory shout-outs to South Beach. He kicked things off with Jay-Z’s “I Just Wanna Love You (Give It To Me),” screeching the chorus and imploring the dancing crowd to chant the famous line “It’s about to go down.” Quick flashes through past hits that benefited from Pharrell’s production genius followed, including Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl,” Ludacris’ “Money Maker,” Nelly’s “Hot In Herre” and Snoop Dogg’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot.”
Things began to get raunchy during Snoop’s “Beautiful,” when Pharrell invited several bikini-clad women to dance onstage alongside him. Yes, there was twerking (“It’s like Twerk Central up here,” he exclaimed), and the inevitable simulated sex with Pharrell by one particularly smitten fan. The sultry vibe continued with rapper 2 Chainz’s “Feds Watching,” N.E.R.D.’s “She Wants to Move” and Jay-Z’s “Frontin’.”
Then Pharrell abruptly announced, “I’m supposed to leave, but you know what? I feel like we just got into our groove,” before launching into the finale, “Get Lucky,” his exhilarating hit collaboration with French house duo Daft Punk. This wasn’t a particularly memorable set, in that most any party DJ could have done about as well, but it fit the outdoor, festive vibe well.
After a refreshingly short intermission of less than 10 minutes, Thicke – in the spotlight lately because of Miley Cyrus’ bizarrely sexual dance with him at MTV’s VMA Awards show - took the stage to strange, talk show-like instrumental music, over which he shouted gospel-style lines like “Can I take you to the mountain?” His bass-heavy set with a full band made more of an earnest attempt at a proper live performance than Pharrell did, but the crowd’s response was initially luke-warm in comparison, possibly because many of his hits - “Give It 2 U,” “Wanna Love U Girl,” “Take It Easy On Me” – feature lots of falsetto vocals, which can get lost in an outdoor venue. Particularly sleepy was one of Thicke’s biggest hits, “Lost Without U,” which is simply not a sunshiny party song.
But Thicke quickly perked things up with “Shakin’ It For Daddy,” his lively duet with Nicki Minaj, and a serviceable version of Al Green’s soul classic “Let’s Stay Together,” which had the crowd crooning along blissfully.
Pharrell then joined Thicke onstage for the moment everyone was waiting for, the duo’s monster hit “Blurred Lines,” a deliriously happy ending even without Cyrus.
Photo courtesy of Fontainebleau Miami Beach