Dave Grohl, Stevie Wonder Sing Lionel Richie Hits at Joyous MusiCares Show
Dressed in a long flowery gown, Rihanna offered a punchy but soulful “Say You, Say Me,” even if the drums behind her came on a bit strong.
Pharrell and the Roots led a Richie medley that drew from several songs and featured guest vocalists, beginning with Gary Clark Jr., who found some sweaty funk within the Commodores’ “Slippery When Wet.” Not all the guest singers made the moment larger, but the full group onstage instantly coalesced during the brassy hard funk of 1977’s “Brick House.” More was to come.
“Sit the fuck down,” Kimmel snarled with a smile, ending a lengthy pause between acts. “Stevie Wonder is waiting for you to finish your conversation.”
When Wonder sat a keyboard for his appearance, the singer made the teary pop of “Three Times a Lady” into an excited, searing vocal overcome with anxious joy. Yolanda Adams brought the night into the inspirational on Richie’s “Jesus Is Love,” her voice rising and falling with the emotion of the moment, balancing subtlety and power. Richie was the first to stand up and applaud.
As talent for the tribute was being announced in recent weeks, Dave Grohl was among the most unexpected. Standing onstage in a dark suit and sneakers, Grohl told the audience that when he broke his leg in a fall last year, he got word that Richie was sending a muffin basket, and it was a big one. Then there was a call from Richie making sure he got the basket.
Grohl’s response to a night of Lionel Richie reinterpretation was to sing the solo hit “You Are” completely straight. It wasn’t naturally within his style or range, but it was delivered without irony. Grohl sang like he meant every word, and was maybe enjoying the contradiction of a committed rocker performing an Eighties romantic pop ballad. Then he blew a kiss on his way off the stage.
“How great was that?” Kimmel asked. “One of the guys in Nirvana just sang ‘You Are.’ Those must have been good muffins, Lionel.”