BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Clive Davis’ annual pre-Grammy gala was an evening that included a saucy and touching tribute from Cher, sizzling performances from the likes of Mumford & Sons, Cee Lo Green and Jennifer Hudson, and the typical array of dazzling superstars in attendance.
But the moments sure to generate the most buzz came from Whitney Houston and R. Kelly: both gave performances that bordered on bizarre, with two entirely different results.
Kelly owned the evening with an electrifying set that had stars from Akon to “Glee” star Jane Lynch on their feet, as he sang his retro hit “When A Woman Loves” and also dabbled through his rich catalog of hits that includes songs ranging from “Step In The Name of Love” to “Your Body’s Calling.” His started his mini-concert off with the odd choice of the national anthem, though soulfully rendered, then in another puzzling moment, teased a bit of the “Price Is Right” theme.
But Kelly had the A-list crowd riveted as he ran through his own classics; by the time he ended his set with his soaring “When a Woman Loves,” he was receiving a standing ovation.
Whitney Houston, the evening’s last performer, also got a reverential response from the audience as she came on stage, looking dazzling in a silver-sequinned dress.
But her once majestic voice, though at times showing flashes of her former brilliance, sounded weary and hoarse as she creaked through a tribute to her famous singing cousin, Dionne Warwick.
“I didn’t have to look for the ‘American Idol,’ because she was in my home,” said Houston of the classic performer.
During a couple of moments, like her brief performance of “Alfie,” she seemed to veer from the rehearsed plan, and meandered on the stage. As a finale, she brought her legendary relative onstage as they both sang Warwick’s “That’s What Friends Are For.”
Afterward, Houston seemed like she wanted to get back on the mic, but Davis, who discovered Houston, grabbed her and joked: “I found you when you were 19; I’m still your boss!” He then bid the audience goodnight, ending that possibility.
Davis’ pre-Grammy gala has long been one of Grammy week’s most exclusive invites, and the crowd this year once again included superstars and legends from all fields: Warren Beatty, Miley Cyrus, Diddy, Katy Perry, Usher, Neil Young, John Mayer, Serena Williams, Sara Silverman were just a few of the boldfaced names in attendance.
They were treated to rousing performances from Grammy nominees Janelle Monae and Mumford and Sons, as well as Mary J. Blige, Jennifer Hudson and “Glee’s” Matthew Morrison. Green performed the uncensored version of his Grammy-nominated hit “(Expletive) You,” as the crowd loudly sang along to the chorus.
The Recording Academy-event was also dedicated to David Geffen, who was given the academy’s President’s Merit award. The co-founder of Dreamworks is also a legendary and influential music figure and played a pivotal role in the careers of acts ranging from Joni Mitchell to Nirvana.
Longtime friend Cher, dressed in a sequined mini-dress, paid tribute to Geffen in a touching yet irreverent speech:
“When David asked me to do this I just wanted to kill myself, but you can’t say no to him,” she joked.
After lauding him for qualities ranging from his warm heart to his business acumen, she said: “I actually have no idea what this (expletive) award is, but whatever it is, I’m sure he deserves it.”