For the first time in three years, Clive Davis’ pre-Grammy gala brought together some of the biggest names in the music industry for a night of special performances, timely tributes and moving speeches. As always, the star power at the Beverly Hilton soiree was mind-boggling, with everyone from Tom Hanks to Cardi B to Max Martin to Joni Mitchell in attendance on Saturday night (Feb. 4).
“You come back each year, bonded by the love of music,” Davis declared to the capacity crowd while kicking off the ceremony. The party had not taken place since 2020 due to the pandemic; although the 2022 Grammys were held in Las Vegas last April, Davis had opted not to move the gala from its Beverly Hills home.
As such, the 2023 gathering was the first to take place since the 10th anniversary of Whitney Houston’s shocking death in 2012, just hours before that year’s pre-Grammy party. Houston received multiple tributes on Saturday night: Jennifer Hudson performed a show-stopping rendition of “Greatest Love of All,” while actor Kevin Costner kicked off the evening by introducing Davis and regaling the audience with stories of their professional and personal bond with Houston thanks to The Bodyguard.
“We were both struck by Whitney the first time we ever saw her. …. Whitney would be our common ground,” said Costner, who co-starred in The Bodyguard with Houston as Davis was helping guide her music career. The Yellowstone star’s tribute to both Davis and Houston turned emotional: “Neither one of us, in the end, could protect your beloved Whitney,” a choked-up Costner said. “You were a miracle in her life. Thank you for being her bodyguard, Clive.”
Later, Sheryl Crow took the stage to perform “Songbird” and “Say You Love Me” as a tribute to Christine McVie, the Fleetwood Mac legend who passed away last year. And as a toast to the 50th anniversary of the birth of hip-hop, Lil Baby and Lil Wayne were giving back-to-back sets that included the former MC waxing poetic on “California Breeze” and the latter bouncing around the stage with Swizz Beatz on “Uproar.”
Long-running Atlantic Records leaders Julie Greenwald and Craig Kallman were honored as part of the Recording Academy’s Salute to Industry Icons, and before each of their acceptance speeches, Lauren Daigle, the contemporary Christian music star and recent Atlantic signee, performed the Dusty Springfield classic “Son of a Preacher Man” (a top 10 Hot 100 hit for Atlantic). And Cardi, one of the biggest superstars on Atlantic’s roster, introduced Greenwald and Kallman by discussing how instrumental they had been to her success.
“I’m here tonight because I want thank them for believing in me,” Cardi told the audience. “Julie, as a woman who has a family and a career, you’re such an inspiration. When I was crying, you told me it would be okay, and that we were gonna get things done. You’re such a boss-ass bitch and such a wonderful mother. You’re the one who told me I could have it all, and for that, I truly thank you.”
As always, Davis’ gala served as a platform for both emerging talent and established stars, with performances from Lizzo and Elvis Costello and the Imposters (with special guest Juanes) taking place in between sets from Grammy best new artist nominees Latto and Måneskin. After Måneskin barreled through their smash cover of the Four Seasons’ “Beggin’,” Frankie Valli took the stage to play “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” resulting in the evening’s biggest audience sing-along. And Myles Frost, the star of MJ the Musical on Broadway, closed out the performances with spot-on renditions of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and “Rock With You.”
Also back for the pre-Grammy party were Davis’ shout-outs to the music superstars in attendance — Janelle Monae, Olivia Rodrigo, Luke Combs, Machine Gun Kelly, Demi Lovato and Chance The Rapper were among those to be mentioned from the stage and receive rounds of applause. Yet the biggest ovation of the night came for both Nancy Pelosi, the former Speaker of the House and perennial Davis party guest, as well as her husband Paul, who was the victim of a home invasion attack in October but received roars of support on Saturday night.
Check out the setlist for Clive Davis’ 2023 pre-Grammy party:
Måneskin – “I Wanna Be Your Slave,” ” Beggin'”
Frankie Valli – “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”
Lizzo – “Break Up Twice”
Sheryl Crow – Christine McVie tribute “Songbird,” “Say You Love Me”
Jennifer Hudson – “Greatest Love of All”
Elvis Costello and The Imposters with Juanes – “Pump it Up,” “Peace, Love & Understanding”
Lauren Daigle – “Son of a Preacher Man”
Latto – “Sunshine,” “Big Energy”
Lil Baby – “Forever,” “California Breeze”
Lil Wayne – “John,” “Lollipop,” “Steady Mobbin,” “Uproar,” “A Milli”
Myles Frost – “Billie Jean,” “Rock With You”