Clive Davis’ Pre-Grammy Gala Returns With Lizzo and Sheryl Crow
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Ask Clive Davis what he thinks about the return of his legendary pre-Grammy gala after a two-year COVID-related adjustment and the music impresario quietly reflects.
“It’s a touching moment more than ever,” Davis said Friday, seated in his suite at the Beverly Hills Hotel, the venue for the Grammys eve event from shortly after its inception in 1976 until the mid of the 2000s. “It’s quite a taste-making and influential event and this year is no exception.”
The 2023 edition of Davis’ star-studded collection of celebrities from music (Earth, Wind & Fire, Olivia Rodrigo), film (Tom Hanks, Sharon Stone) and politics (Nancy and Paul Pelosi) was unveiled at the Beverly Hilton Saturday.
Davis had swapped his relaxed green sweater and cream Friday pants for a smart suit and green “Wicked” tie at Saturday’s party, a celebration of more than three hours of music from all genres and demographics.
Davis’s longtime friend Kevin Costner – the pair bonded in the 90s with Whitney Houston and “The Bodyguard” – presented the recording industry legend with stories about Davis’ perseverance ( “No one was really betting on Clive except Clive”) and a touching reminder of Houston’s death hours before the gala in 2012.
“None of us in this room could save our beloved Whitney,” Costner said before addressing Davis. “But your fingerprints on his life are clean, my friend.”
During Friday’s meet with USA TODAY, Davis agreed that the spirit of Houston continues to permeate the event.
“The memories of Whitney are still there,” Davis said, her voice soft and deliberate. “She played the party at least six times and I had no idea she was planning to surprise me the year she died – and I was with her eight hours before (she died).”
In the ballroom at the Beverly Hilton on Saturday, Davis summoned one of his most beloved discoveries, Jennifer Hudson, to pay tribute to Houston.
Wearing a form-fitting silver strapless dress, Hudson unleashed her massive vocals for a spectacular rendition of “Greatest Love of All.” His fingers splayed and quivering with emotion, Hudson’s voice exploded as it escalated into booming notes.
The show went from rock (Elvis Costello and The Imposters with guest Juanes tackling “Pump It Up”, Lauren Daigle running through Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man”) to pop (Hudson) to hip- hop (Latto twerking through her “Big Energy,” Lil Baby and Lil Wayne sauntering through “California Breeze” and “John,” respectively).
Meanwhile, Cardi B introduced this year’s Salute to Industry Icons award winners – Atlantic Records’ Julie Greenwald and Craig Kallman – in her typical New York style (“I’m not giving this speech because I want ‘they’re giving me a bigger budget for my new record,” she said with a chuckle).
But it was evident throughout the night that Davis, who turns 91 in April, still possesses a deep love of music and the thrill of hosting an event that draws an assortment of celebrities.
“(This) has become a party to celebrate music. There are no winners, no losers. There is no competition,” he said on Friday. “In one way or another, we’re all fiercely competitive, but bonded by our love of music and I’m grateful they’re coming to my stage, my party.”
Some other highlights:
It’s been a busy few days for the Grammy-nominated Italian rock band for Best New Artist. The quartet performed at Thursday’s Spotify event highlighting new artists’ hopefuls and were back to plaster another piece with their crunch rock on Saturday. Davis praised the band’s “swagger” while ushering them into the coveted opening slot — often reserved for an act Davis personally finds alluring — to storm the stage. A sassy “I want to be your slave” was paired with their reading of the Four Seasons’ “Beggin’,” a searing presentation of pure lust.
As the members of Måneskin were taken to their table, Davis called Four Seasons mainstay Valli onto the stage as a nice follow-up. The 88-year-old joked: “Who can say no to Clive?” as he and the house band dove into a dynamic version of Valli’s 1967 solo hit, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” Even though it was early at night, most of the hundreds of people rose to sing along in heartfelt chanting, much like sports fans when Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” blared from a stadium loudspeaker.
Wearing a sparkly blue dress, thigh-high boots and a mega-smile, Lizzo pounced with “Break Up Twice.” She shook her ass at the crowd — to many happy cheers — and imbued the song with a Lizzo-trusted attitude, smiling brightly as she twisted the lyrical knife.
A night after performing his effervescent version of The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” at the MusiCares Persons of the Year Award show, Crow donned a sleek white pantsuit to pay homage to Fleetwood Mac’s late “Songbird,” Christine McVie. Crow clearly felt a deep connection to the music, telling the crowd she felt lucky “to honor someone on whose shoulders I stood.” Sitting behind a piano, Crow first shared a lovely version of “Songbird” — which she’s set to perform at the Grammys during the In Memoriam segment — before pleasing the crowd with the springy “Say You Love Me.”
Get ready for the Grammys: