For more than 30 years, legendary record man Clive Davis has thrown his celebrity-studded pre-Grammy bash, an annual convergence of old Hollywood, music legends and rising stars. This year’s guest list was no different. In the ballroom at the Beverly Hilton last night, youngsters like Taylor Swift, Katy Perry and Kings of Leon (half of them, at least) rubbed elbows with Joan Collins, Jane Fonda and the gala’s guest of honor, Barbra Streisand. The downside was that none of these stars ended up onstage — aside from some inspirational R&B turns by Maxwell and Mary J. Blige, the evening’s other performances fell flat. By the time Jennifer Hudson serenaded Streisand with “People” and “The Way We Were” — five hours into the night — nearly all the stars had left the building.
After guests scarfed salads and overcooked chicken breasts, the Black Eyed Peas opened the show with “Boom Boom Pow” and “I Gotta Feeling,” but the constant pogo-ing from Peas hype men Taboo and Apl.de.ap couldn’t energize the ballroom. Fergie announced, “Do you mind if I mess up the neighborhood?” as Slash launched into the opening licks of “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” Fergie slapped on a leather jacket to sing Axl’s part and grinded up on the guitarist (she lost points for botching the lyrics, singing “Where do you go now” rather than “we”). Will.i.am took offense to the crowd sitting on their hands, and berated them. “Usually Fergie and Slash onstage would have brought down the house,’ he said. “These are some elite motherfuckers, and y’all are acting like motherfuckers.”
After some words from Grammy honcho Neil Portnow, who announced that Clive’s gala is now officially sanctioned by the Grammys, and a few lame attempts at humor by Ryan Seacrest, Davis spent a good 10 minutes introducing Streisand, who wore a look of horror when Ke$ha emerged in the middle of the ballroom, slugged a belt of red wine, and launched into her Number One jam, “TiK ToK.” (Crickets could be heard chirping after that number.) In between performances, Clive name dropped those in attendance: Jay-Z, Berry Gordy, Smokey Robinson, Robbie Robertson, Jamie Foxx, Wyclef Jean, Ne-Yo, Adam Lambert, Ricky Martin, Mos Def and astronaut Buzz Aldrin. When Stephen Colbert’s name was announced, he leapt to his feet and fist-bumped tablemates Jon Bon Jovi (who brought his 16-year-old daughter) and Sheryl Crow. Elsewhere in the ballroom, the Kings’ bros Nathan and Jared Followill (up for four Grammys tonight) mingled with the two Jonas Brothers who aren’t named Nick. But the real WTF friendship was between Slash and Kelsey Grammar, who hung out hard on the smoking balcony.
In past years Clive’s gala has hosted headline-grabbing performances by Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, and last-year’s much-buzzed comeback by Whitney Houston. This year’s team-ups — Harry Connick, Jr. duetted with Carrie Underwood, Santana re-teamed with Rob Thomas to cover Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” — were nearly overshadowed by the return of Rihanna, whose appearance at the Davis bash last year was followed by her infamous altercation with Chris Brown.
The night may have run long, but Davis was unamused by the room’s lack of stamina. As he introduced Hudson to a half-empty house, even he took a shot at some of his guests. “It’s less than three hours of music,” he said from the stage. “If you can’t take it, you’re in the wrong business.”
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