On December 8th, the 36th Annual Kennedy Center Honors inducted Herbie Hancock, Martina Arroyo, Shirley MacLaine, Billy Joel and Carlos Santana at a special event attended by the President and First Lady along with other Hollywood and political elites. The tribute concert aired on CBS last night, so RS whipped up a rundown of the night’s essential musical moments:
10. Any proper ceremony attended by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle should include the National Anthem, and while it’s no Jimi Hendrix freak-out, legendary Cuban trumpeter Arturo Sandoval’s clear, purist rendition of the standard was entirely worth catching.
9. After an introduction from jazz singer Tony Bennett, a rendition of Billy Joel’s “Big Shot” by Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco, and a ballad from Eagles singer and drummer Don Henley, the crowd roars to greet best-selling country artist Garth Brooks. Though his voice isn’t in peak form for every tune, he nails “Goodnight Saigon,” complete with a choir of veterans.
8. Introducing inductee Carlos Santana, singer Harry Belafonte — most famous for his hit “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” — riffs on Mexican immigration and how Santana “took [his] job.” Watching Belafonte dance around such a hot-button topic in front of a room half-filled with politicians is painfully hilarious.
7. Bluesman Buddy Guy, a previous inductee whom Santana adores, grooves to his own rendition of Willie Dixon’s classic, “I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man.” It’s even soulful enough to get Michelle Obama moving in her seat.
6. On Santana’s “Everybody’s Everything,” Steve Winwood brings vintage chops to the stage with both his sideburns and his riveting vocals. The song climaxes when legendary percussionist Sheila E., Prince’s former bandmate, takes a timbale solo so fiery she ends up knocking over a cymbal and tossing her sticks to the ground.
5. The heavy rhythms of a 14-piece Santana tribute band, featuring Orianthi Panagaris, Alice Cooper’s acclaimed touring guitarist, begins with Fher Olvera of Latin rock superstars Maná singing a charismatic lead. The show jumps up a notch when Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello steps onstage for “Black Magic Woman,” ramping up a Santana-style guitar solo that culminates with his own signature octave-jumping and turntable-mimicry.
4. After a great bebop set featuring trumpeter Terence Blanchard and pianist Chick Corea among others, bassist Marcus Miller shows up to lead a funkier, hip-hop style segment alongside Beastie Boys’ DJ Mix Master Mike and plenty of keytar action. The flamboyant, early Eighties Hancock vibe is a sight to behold.
3. Topping off an already wild Herbie Hancock tribute, Snoop Dogg rolls up in a velvety tux, holding a blinged-out mic, driving the crowd wild. The O.G. mingles his “Gin & Juice” with Us3’s Hancock-sampling “Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia),” and he even gets a few politicians into the action when he throws in a few call-and-response “heys” and “hos.” Afterward, Snoop humbly turns to Hancock noting, “Thank you for creating hip-hop.”
2. After walking onstage to introduce Herbie Hancock, Bill O’Riley, the infamous conservative political pundit, clears the air admitting, “I know, I’m surprised too.” The host gives an earnest introduction to the multi-talented inductee, and afterward he makes sure to shake Snoop Dogg’s hand — the unlikely juxtaposition of the two figures suits Hancock’s diverse tribute perfectly.
1. Concluding the night, the elegant Rufus Wainwright sings a showstopping rendition of “New York State of Mind” followed by an immensely soulful “Piano Man,” where he’s joined by the veterans once again, along with Brooks, Bennett, Henley and most of the audience.