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Billboard Music Awards to ‘un-cancel the canceled’ in Vegas return

Updated May 13, 2022 - 7:12 pm

As a TV producer, and even a music fan, Robert Deaton is unconcerned about certain components of an awards show.

Viewership figures, for instance. Also, the audience’s reaction to hot-button performers.

“I try not to think about anything that doesn’t involve being the producer. Other people can worry about that,” says Deaton, producer of Sunday’s Billboard Music Awards telecast at MGM Grand Garden (the show is set for 5 p.m. on NBC and the Peacock app). “I don’t worry about the response to the performers. It’s kind of a mindset for me. I don’t think about, for example, what the ratings are going to be. I can’t go there. It’s like, I have to be in the moment at all times.”

Deaton is hard-focused on how to present the performances of such artists as Travis Scott and Morgan Wallen. The two have generated ample buzz as they have been announced in the run-up to Sunday’s show.

Scott is performing on broadcast TV for the first time since his headlining the first night of the tragic Astroworld music festival in November, when 10 fans were killed by a crowd crush. Scott is performing “Mafia” on Sunday.

Wallen (performing “Don’t Think Jesus” and “Wasted On You”) hasn’t performed live in two years, since making his first live appearance. The country star was caught on video using a racial slur outside his home in Nashville in January 2021. He has since apologized for the incident.

Deaton snares a quote from the BMA’s executive producer and rap superstar Sean “Diddy” Combs.

“One of the biggest things that Diddy has said is, ‘I’m here to un-cancel the canceled,’” Deaton says. “I’m looking at them as artists. I’m looking at them as artists who have had great years.”

To borrow a sports term, Deaton says to just check the scoreboard.

“If you look at Morgan Wallen, what his album has done over the last two years — the Billboards is an awards show that reflects data,” Deaton says. “This is not a fan-voted or industry-voted awards show. This is what people have decided what they want to listen to, or buy, or stream, and those two artists deserve to be in the show.”

The Billboards are by definition an awards show, true. But the telecast is also is largely a live-performance spectacle. The BMAs have staged Drake on the Bellagio Fountains for “Gyalchester,” and also rolled out the rain curtain for Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On.” Both performances were from the show’s 20th anniversary show in 2017, at T-Mobile Arena.

Expect some grandiosity at Sunday’s show, too, particularly from the opening, details of which are being kept on the DL. Performers include Silk Sonic (currently tearing it up at Dolby Live at Park MGM, and performing “Love’s Train”), incoming Zappos Theater headliner Miranda Lambert, singing “”I’m Drunk (and I Don’t Wanna Go Home) with Elle King, and who opens her “Velvet Rodeo” residency at Zappos Theater at Planet Hollywood in September); Burna Boy (“Last Last,” “Kilometre”), Ed Sheeran (“2Step”), Becky G (Baile Con Mi Ex/”Mamiii”), Latto (“Big Energy”), Machine Gun Kelly (“Twin Flame”), Florence + The Machine (“My Love”), Maxwell (“Lady In My Life”) Megan Thee Stallion (“Plan B/”Sweetest Pie”), Latto, (“Big Energy”) Rauw Alejandro (“Curame”, “Museo,” “Todo De Ti,”), and Dan + Shay (“You”). This year’s Billboard Icon Award honoree, is Mary J. Blige.

Red Hot Chili Peppers had originally been announced as performers, but the BMAs announced Thursday they had dropped out “due to unforeseen circumstances.”

The show had taken two years away from Las Vegas, performing in L.A. in 2020 and 2021. It was held at T-Mobile Arena in 2016-2017. From 1997-2015, the BMAs were held at the Grand Garden, by far the show’s longest run at any venue.

Deaton says he is happy to be back at the regal, green haunt. He’s glad to be back in Las Vegas, as well.

“I’m into visuals, and I love the way the arena looks, it shoots really well, it’s big and it’s intimate at the same time,” Deaton says. “The relationship to the audience is intimate. And, of course, I am a student of entertainment, so I love everything having to do with entertainment in Las Vegas. I love all the headliners here now, and I’ve tried to be an expert on the Rat Pack and Wayne Newton, and to be in the middle of that history is exciting. That’s why I love coming here.”

Yes, Sir

This week’s “Real Time With Bill Maher” features Maher’s one-on-one interview with rock legend Rod Stewart, who returns his residency at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace this weekend. Maher returns to the Mirage on May 20-21. “Real Time” airs at 8 p.m. Fridays, available to stream on HBO Max. This should be a stream-able summit.

From the groove bureau …

Derek Hough is back at Summit Showroom at The Venetian beginning 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. If you like dancing, or just watching someone at the very top of his game, catch the return of “No Limit.” Best in class, and total class, from this show.

Also, we have heard that dancers have been contacted for Adele’s return, in what is expected to be a pared-down production. We still don’t see this show at Zappos Theater, at least not until we are concerned the show can work around tight scheduling and some tricky production challenges in that room. As we have learned, this superstar does not respond well to production challenges.

Cool Hang Alert

Feel the infusion — feel it, I tell you! — of ’60s and ’70s rock ‘n’ roll with Rock You Up at the German American Social Club of Nevada, 1110 E. Lake Mead Blvd. in North Las Vegas. Its Tim Soldan on keys/bass and vocals; Eden Caz on vocals, Tito Zuniga on lead guitar and John Crosby on drums. Next show is 6:30-8:30 p.m. May 21. Is there a cover? Nein!

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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