The classic met the contemporary at the 50th Grammy Awards Sunday night (Feb. 10) in Los Angeles, with performances from talent that included some of the most beloved songs of the past decades.
Top winner Amy Winehouse performed via satellite from London near the end of the show, in what was a triumphant return to form after spending the past several weeks in rehab.
Alicia Keys opened the telecast with “Learnin’ the Blues,” a virtual duet with Frank Sinatra on a white screen in the background. The show then segued into Carrie Underwood embodying the bad-girl revenge anthem “Before He Cheats” while wearing a black cat suit and knee-high boots on a stage set with wrecked cars in the background.
Jimmy Jam introduced his fellow bandmates in The Time, which reunited on stage for the first time in 15 years. They opened with “Jungle Love,” switching over mid-song to a slightly down-tempo, pyrotechnic laden version of “Umbrella” by Rihanna, who then continued with “Don’t Stop the Music.”
Tom Hanks introduced a tribute to the Beatles, saying, “the rock and roll of John, Paul, George and Ringo has become, without question, a revolution. Together, these four men made music that changed the history of our planet. Tonight, we honor the power of the Beatles, and the power they still create in our lives.” Cirque du Soleil’s “Love” performers twisted and turned through “A Day in the Life,” while 15-year-old Timothy Mitchum and Carol Woods, members of the cast from the Julie Taymor-directed film “Across the Universe” sweetly intoned “Let It Be.”
An electrode-laden and electrifying Kanye West teamed with Daft Punk on “Stronger,” in what turned out to be a rocking homage to futuristic cornball classic movie “Tron.” West then segued into a quiet, heartfelt “Hey Mama,” in tribute to his recently deceased mother. Later, a subtle Fergie, accompanied by John Legend on piano, sang “Finally” on a stage that extended to the center of the Staples Center.
Cher introduced Beyonce and Tina Turner, noting that she knows a star when she sees once because “I’ve been singing since Lincoln was president.” Beyonce started out with a mix of “Deja Vu” to introduce eternally fit and fabulous Turner, who sang “What’s Love Got To Do With It” and “Better Be Good To Me.” The two then joined in a choreographed, silver-clad duet of “Proud Mary” (John Fogerty, who wrote the song, gave the duo a standing ovation).
The Foo Fighters launched into “The Pretender” with “My Grammy Moment” winner Ann Marie Calhoun, a violinist who was selected from among hundreds who submitted auditions on YouTube to be featured in the orchestral arrangement. Brad Paisley was the only country performer besides Underwood, offering up “Ticks” from his newest album, “5th Gear.”
As part of a gospel medley, Aretha Franklin and Bebe Winans performed “Never Gonna Break My Faith”; the Madison Bumble Bees then did a reprise of the song. The Clark Sisters, three-time winners in the pre-telecast, performed “You Brought the Sunshine” with Trin-i-tee 5:7, and the sequence then moved into Israel and New Breed’s “With Long Life.” It ended with the fully energized ensemble performing “Old Landmark,” which brought the audience to its feet.
Performing on a stage much bigger than the iPod screen that helped her break through to the mainstream last year, Feist’s stripped-down “1234” gave her a chance to try some vocal acrobatics. After a little freaky on-stage flirting, Keely Smith and Kid Rock launched into “Old Black Magic,” accompanied by Dave Koz on sax. It was natural territory for Smith; not so much for Kid, but he was a sporting performer.
Keys returned in a pairing with guitarist John Mayer on “No One,” while Chinese pianist Lang Lang and album of the year winner Herbie Hancock played the hell out of “Rhapsody in Blue,” dueling-piano style, for six minutes.
Andrea Bocelli and Josh Groban took on “The Prayer” in a tribute to Luciano Pavarotti, and Fogerty (“Comin Down the Road”), Jerry Lee Lewis (“Great Balls of Fire”) and Little Richard (“Good Golly Miss Molly”) injected a little rock’n’roll into the latter portion of the broadcast.
The grand finale was billed as a tribute to the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” with the Cirque du Soleil performers, but it only appeared briefly as the end credits began running. Viewers could see the audience streaming from the arena while the performance was still going on.