Show offered collaborations, surprise guests.
From the opening number, the Grammy Awards were a musical spectacle with plenty of the "one of a kind moments" the Recording Academy had been promising in the weeks preceding last night's (Feb. 8) event. Distancing the show from its past as an extended commercial for nominated albums and songs, the 48th annual edition boasted intriguing collaborations, surprise appearances and two massive tributes, if few actual award presentations.
To inaugurate the night, "virtual band" Gorillaz appeared in 3D animated form, delivering their best pop collaboration-winning song "Feel Good Inc." complete with a live appearance by veteran rap act De La Soul. With bored looks on their faces, singer/guitarist 2D, bassist Murdoc, keyboardist Noodle and drummer Russel (who at one point nodded off) then backed Madonna on the acoustic opening of her single "Hung Up."
Dressed in a purple corset and bodysuit, she strutted the stage, visually weaving behind Murdoc and in front of 2D before joining her own band and a troupe of dancers on the other side of the stage to complete the song.
The three-and-a-half-hour show featured more than 25 performances, including an impromptu rendition of "Higher Ground" by Alicia Keys and Stevie Wonder prior to their presentation of the night's first award. Wonder dedicated the song to the late civil rights crusader Coretta Scott King, who recently passed away.
A rumored appearance by the reclusive Sly Stone came to fruition, as John Legend, Joss Stone, Fantasia, Devon Lima, Maroon 5, Ciara, will.i.am, Steven Tyler, Joe Perry and Robert Randolph paid tribute to him, backed by the Family Stone. Following a medley of "Family Affair," "If You Want Me To Stay," "Everyday People" and "Dance To the Music," the platinum-mohawked Stone joined the ensemble for a brief jam on "I Want To Take You Higher," but left the stage before it was complete.
Another stage-filling event came at the show's conclusion via a tribute to New Orleans. Big Easy natives Allen Toussaint, Dr. John and Irma Thomas were joined by Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt, U2 guitarist the Edge and Sam Moore, and a backing band that included Costello's Imposters. Among the offerings was a run through the late Wilson Pickett's "In the Midnight Hour," sung by Moore, Springsteen and Thomas.
Rap giant Jay-Z and Linkin Park revisited their "Collision Course" mash-up with "Numb/Encore," working in the Beatles' "Yesterday," during which Paul McCartney walked on to join the performance. Earlier in the evening, McCartney performed his own "Fine Line" and a raucous the Beatles' "Helter Skelter."
Kanye West and Jamie Foxx delivered the night's most playful performance, employing a marching band and dance troupe for a collegiate-themed delivery of "Gold Digger" and "Touch the Sky."
Closely packed on a small stage, U2 blazed through "Vertigo," lost at least once behind thick smoke effects. Slowing it down for the old favorite "One," the group was joined by R&B diva Mary J. Blige, who covered the tune with Bono on her latest album, "The Breakthrough."
Other pairings included Christina Aguilera and Herbie Hancock ("A Song for You") and Keith Urban ("You'll Think of Me") and Faith Hill ("The Lucky One"). There were also plenty of solo performances, led by John Legend, who sat alone at a grand piano for an impassioned version of the Grammy-winning "Ordinary People."
Fellow best new artist nominee Sugarland followed with "More Than This," which suffered from feedback and stray voices from the crew clearing Legend's set. Other solo performances came from Coldplay ("Talk"), Kelly Clarkson ("Because of You"), Mariah Carey ("We Belong Together") and Springsteen ("Devils & Dust").