Days before his party, Clive Davis told Billboard that the opening performance of his annual pre-Grammy gala would “make headlines all over the world.” Presumably, he was referring to a David Bowie tribute that would have had Lenny Kravitz performing “Fame” but was ultimately canceled after the singer fell ill. However, the one that actually happened — Beck playing “The Man Who Sold the World” with the surviving members of Nirvana — was one for the ages.
“We ran through the song a few times and got it down,” said Dave Grohl. “I was the one who cued [the musicians] when to stop, but I just didn’t want it to stop, so we played it again and again and again even though it all sounded fine.” Given the crowd’s response, he wasn’t alone.
Now in its 40th year, the gala (also known as music’s second biggest night of the year) once again proved Davis’ uncanny ability to assemble an eclectic array of power players. Among the attendees: Golden Globe winner Michael Keaton; Oscars host Chris Rock, who was seated next to Caitlyn Jenner and Chris Brown; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi; Quincy Jones; Motown founder Berry Gordy; Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel; Melissa Etheridge; and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. Also spotted were Ellie Goulding and Lana Del Rey, who chatted alongside table-mates Beck and songwriter-producer Max Martin as Oscar nominee Sylvester Stallone posed for photos with Christina Aguilera. Zayn Malik and Harry Styles also showed, with Styles spending most of his time next to his manager Jeffrey Azoff, son of the evening’s Salute to Industry Icons honoree Irving Azoff.
On hand to set the stage for Azoff’s award presentation were legendary bands — and the management veteran’s longtime friends — Chicago and Earth, Wind & Fire. The latter’s performance of hits including “Shining Star” and “That’s the Way of the World” doubled as a memorial to late co-founder Maurice White and sent Jamie Foxx rushing to the front of the stage to film it while pumping his fist.
Recalling the “44-year wild ride” he had with the late Glenn Frey and the Eagles, Azoff choked up during his acceptance speech, saying, “It was beyond anything that we could ever have imagined.”
And though Carly Simon’s performance of “You’re So Vain” was a last-minute addition, it was Barry Manilow who surprised the revelers, bouncing back from a brief hospital stay to celebrate the 40th anniversary of his classic “Mandy.”