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It was a night of surrealistic performances, even for the most jaded executives filling the Los Angeles Convention Center for the 22nd annual Musicares Person of the Year dinner and tribute concert. The guest of honor: Sir Paul McCartney, the former Beatle-turned solo star, activist, influencer and all-around good guy.
Indeed, the love in the air was palpable, and not just because a troupe from Cirque Du Soleil’s Beatles-inspired Love show kicked off the night with an enthusiastic dance number (to the tune of “Get Back”). Perhaps Elvis Costello put it best in a video package when he said, “The Paul McCartney we all know [is] beloved, admired, respected and admired some more… It’s all been about love. And aren’t we terribly fortunate that he only uses his dastardly power for good?”
The ear-to-ear grins began early on the red carpet where the likes of Neil Young, Bonnie Raitt, Yoko Ono, Katy Perry, Tony Bennett, James Taylor, David Foster, Herbie Hancock, Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks and many more arrived to toast McCartney and perform his songs.
Said Dave Grohl, whose band Foo Fighters took on the Wings hit “Jet,” which featured the Eagles’ Joe Walsh on guitar: “Paul’s rock songs are what the Foo Fighters have always aspired to be — uptempo, melodic, catchy beautiful rock songs. There are plenty of those to choose from Paul’s catalog.”
And so they did. Neil Young turned up the distortion on his guitar and slaughtered The Beatles’ classic, “I Saw Her Standing There” (“C’mon, Pauly!” he yelled from the stage), Coldplay took it down with “We Can Work It Out,” Katy Perry belted “Hey Jude” from the center of the room carrying a magic wand and wearing a giant pink flower-shaped headpiece. The pop star also donated $250,000 to MusiCares, the organization that helps down-on-their-luck musicians with financial assistance in times of need.
Other highlights included Bennett’s jazzy “Here, There and Everywhere” and Norah Jones’ sultry take on “Oh! Darling.” It was her second time performing for Sir Paul. Late last year, she joined Grohl at Kennedy Center Honors for an unforgettably rousing rendition of “Maybe I’m Amazed.”
As THR talked to the participating artists, many remarked how McCartney’s songs sound like they’re simple, but when you try to play or sing one of them, you realize they’re much more complex than what meets the ear. Corinne Bailey Rae, the British singer who sang “Blackbird” at a 2010 White House function honoring Sir Paul (and appears on a forthcoming McCartney tribute album), explained: “A lot of his songs appear to be sort of logical but he has these melodic leaps that he makes sound easy, but when you get to sing them, it’s actually quite a stretch — he’s a real vertical writer.”
Of course, the highlight of the night was when McCartney himself took the stage and he did so twice, both at the beginning of the evening (he joined the Cirque cast for “Magical Mystery Tour”) and as the event’s closer, when he sang two songs from his new album, Kisses on the Bottom, “My Valentine,” which he dedicated to wife Nancy Shevell, and the classic “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter.”
The more than 2,000 guests feasted on an all-vegetarian dinner, as dictated by McCartney, that included the main dish of roasted vegetables in puff pastry. All bread served was gluten-free as well.
Among the executives shelling out thousands of dollars for prime seats: Sony’s Howard Stringer, Doug Morris, L.A. Reid and Rob Stringer along with Sir Richard Branson, David Foster, Les Moonves, John Sykes and dozens more.
Many left the Convention Center repeating a similar mantra: “Best. Musicares. Ever.”
See a clip from the event’s opening performance below:
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