There are approximately 56,098 parties in and around Grammys weekend in Los Angeles. But 56,097 of them don’t have Jane Fonda out-twerking Taylor Swift while Robin Thicke wades into the crowd to ask, one more time, what rhymes with “hug me,” or Joni Mitchell giggling with Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett by the doors to the smoking lounge.
Clive Davis’ annual pre-Grammy gala, named for the legendary 81-year-old music mogul who always hosts the night in his also-legendary unhurried style, is known for bringing out scenes like this: a night where the most famous New Zealand teenager in the world performs three fewer songs than John Fogerty, and Miley Cyrus follows the one about feeling like she’s got no panties on with a raw, utterly sincere cover of her godmother’s signature scorned-woman anthem.
Below, a few of the more memorable moments:
* After a totally serviceable acoustic set from Imagine Dragons (frontman Dan Reynolds:”I’m sure a lot of people out there don’t know who we are…That’s fine, we’re just grateful to be here”), Lionel Richie mambo-mambo’d on out to do his Commodores classic “Easy” and then “All Night Long.” Pharrell bounced in his chair like a kid on Christmas, and even the sphinx-faced Rihanna cracked a smile. God bless you, Lionel. Fiesta, forever.
* Macklemore and Ryan Lewis deserve credit for never dropping their enthusiasm no matter how many times they’ve done “Thrift Shop” and “Can’t Hold Us”; these guys are troupers, and they do love fun pants. But it’s hard to step to R. Kelly leading a conga line of traditional-dressed musicians and singers through the ballroom for a self-penned tribute to Nelson Mandela. It was like watching the Broadway version of The Lion King descend on the Beverly Hilton for six minutes, and then dance-walk right back out the double doors again.
* I’m not really sure why John Fogerty got by far the most stage time of the night; he did bring out some fun guests though — Jennifer Hudson, who rolled in on “Proud Mary,” sings like hitting every crazy note is exactly as hard as going to the grocery store, and the Foo Fighters for “Fortunate Son” (Dave Grohl to the front row: “You guys might want to move back a little bit, sorry. It’s gonna get loud.”)
* Busted by Miley: Cyrus, in a Fraggle-jacking white fun-fur coat and slip dress, basically had to reprimand a room full of tipsy millionaires for their semi comatose reaction to “#GetItRight.” And then she straight up killed it with “Jolene” and “Wrecking Ball.”
* Pharrell Williams made “Happy” do exactly what it should, then brought out J.Hud again for “Way I Feel,” and the inevitable “Blurred Lines” reprise with T.I. and Robin Thicke. Jane Fonda was seriously losing it, guys. She loves those lines.
* Lorde, a.k.a. pop music’s own weird, wonderful Grumpy Cat, never acknowledged the audience and definitely wouldn’t smile, but she’s already a way stronger live performer than she was even a few months ago. Her closed-eyes renditions of “Royals” and “Team” were stark and raspy and pretty much perfect.
* The night’s closer: Fantasia Barrino tore into “Stormy Weather” like an actual force of nature. Tornado? Small tsunami? Either way, she found notes in there that no one else has found before, and worked her face into a new, elastic emotion for every one of them. She is a genuine kook, and I want her to win that Tony.