BEVERLY HILLS - TheGrammy Awardsmay have wrapped themselves around a catchy slogan - Music's Biggest Night - but the night before Sunday's awards could well lay claim to the title.
Clive Davis' annual pre-Grammys party Saturday at the Beverly Hilton hotel offered up yet another comically dazzling constellation of stars who were treated to performances by the likes of Lorde,Miley Cyrus,John Fogerty,Jennifer Hudson,Lionel Richie,Pharrell WilliamsandRobin Thicke. Not to mention a nearly obligatory appearance by those thrift-shop lionizing guys from Seattle,Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.
But Las Vegas rockersImagine Dragonssummed it up well when, after opening the night with acoustic versions ofIt's TimeandRadioactive, lead singer Dan Williams said, "I'm sure a lot of people out there don't know who we are ... that's fine, we're just grateful to be here."
A quick scan of the crowd revealed ane plus ultraname-check of recording giants, includingSmokey Robinson,Rod Stewart,Russell Simmons,John Legend,Jamie Foxx, Rhianna,Quincy Jones,Berry Gordy,Neil Diamond,Kris Kristofferson,Gladys Knight,Herbie HancockandOzzy Osbourne. In fact, it's the kind of place where a business luminary like Apple CEO Tim Cook, who was on hand with his iTunes chief Eddie Cue, could walk past a phalanx of photographers and be completely ignored.
Among some memorable pre-show moments as the famous hoard gathered in the lobby ...
- Storied managerElliot Robertsyelling "Joan!" as he ran up to greetJoni Mitchell, who was patiently waiting in line to collect her prized ticket (one can imagine the conversation with the flummoxed young public relations employee: "Is that J-o-a-n-i-e?" "No it's J-o-n-i") ...
- Metallica drummerLars Ulrichwaiting to hit the red carpet standing alongsideJane Fonda, when he turns to her and says, "You and I were next to each other on a red carpet six months ago, and here we are again, this is insane!" ...
- Beach-loving rockerSammy Hagarlamenting that he "couldn't wear his flip-flops" to the party, instead sporting leopard-skin loafers ...
- And ex-Nirvana bass playerKrist Novoselic, already a giant, towering over the rest of the crowd with a massive top hat.
The 4-1/2-hour gala featured a mix of music and often long tributes by the host, who rightly could call everyone in the room by first name.
After the wide-eyed and grateful Dragons came Richie, who offered upEasy Like Sunday Morningand a crowd-pleasingAll Night Long. Then came a break to introduce the evening's lone honoree,Universal MusicchairmanLucian Grainge, who took home theSaluteto Industry Icons Award. The obligatory tribute video cleverly turned the often tedious tradition on its ear by featuring endless clips of musicians - Sting, U2,Jon Bon Jovi,Katy Perry, Swift, Stewart and Osbourne - all turning Grainge down on his request that they appear in his tribute video.
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis were up next performingThrift ShopandCan't Hold Us.But even more impressive than the out-of-nowhere hits was Macklemore's heartfelt riff on what it means for "independent artists like us to be in a room like this, with 17 chandeliers ... we made it here making our music in rooms no bigger than 500 square feet, and most of us don't see chandeliers like this. And that dessert you're eating, I haven't had any yet but it looks amazing."
After Davis asked - and got - the crowd on their feet and singingHappy Birthdayto a smilingAlicia Keys,R. Kellytook the stage with a small army of African drummers and dancers in a recently composed tribute to the lateNelson Mandela. Then John Fogerty plugged in his goldLes Pauland fired upBorn on the BayouandCenterfield, before stopping to gush from the stage, "Where's Taylor...? Taylor, I have a 12-year-old daughter who just loves you, we all do. You're going to win one of those things (Grammys) tomorrow." Taylor put her hands on her cheeks and mouthed, "OMG!"
But Fogerty wasn't finished. In what proved to be one of the night's longest sets, he then brought on Hudson who shreddedProud Maryin a way that would make Tina Turner proud, and to wrap things up got some help from Dave Grohl and his Foo Fighters to blast away onFortunate Son.
Davis introduced Cyrus by saying "this next performer told me she'd been coming to my parties ever since she was 15 and always wanted to perform, and I said 'Consider it done,' so here she is ..." Cyrus, wearing a thin, white midthigh-length dress and a furry pink coat, didGet It RightandJolene, before asking to do one more song and launching intoWrecking Ball.
Although there was an opportunity for a twerking reunion with Robin Thicke, the two took to the stage separately. After Pharrell Williams first got the crowd on its feet with his infectiousFrozen-derived hitHappyand kept them there by bringing up Hudson and T.I. on Hudson'sI Can't Describe (The Way I Feel), it was Thicke's turn to falsetto his way throughBlurred Lines.
If there was a breathlessly awaited ingenue moment, it was provided by the teenage New Zealander Lorde, who was all emotion and Kate Bush-like dance movements (and almost no crowd chatter) during her ravishing performances ofRoyalsandPure Heroine.
After Davis returned once again to his podium to praise Lorde, he grew hushed as he told the thinned-out crowd, "I'm the keeper of the flame for Whitney Houston ... she was the greatest ...and I don't want the world to forget that." At that, he teed up a three-song Houston medley from the 1994 American Music Awards. As Houston sang from the past, those still in the same hotel where the singer died mere hours before Davis' 2012 party could only stare and applaud.