Monday’s “25 Years of No. 1 Hits: Arista Records Anniversary Celebration” at the Shrine could easily have gone by a much shorter title: “The Whitney Watch.”
With live performances by Carlos Santana, Puff Daddy, Annie Lennox, Sarah McLachlan, Patti Smith and Barry Manilow, the taping for an NBC special was certainly about more than Whitney Houston. (Music industry pros would say it was at least as much about Arista founder Clive Davis’ career moves.) But it was Houston’s arrival, apparent health, singing ability and any signs of misstep that gave the evening its drama.
Houston’s appearance comes after a series of career-bruising incidents. But in true diva fashion, she was able to put all the problems behind her and made a strong onstage presence in a floor-length, gold sequin gown.
She had a six-song set (the longest of the night) that included a rendition of “I Believe in You and Me” directed toward Davis. Also, husband Bobby Brown delivered an onstage glass of water and later danced, while the evening concluded with her saying the enigmatic words: “The record’s not over yet.”
Among those on hand for the taping of the two-hour TV special that began at 7 p.m. and ended at 1 a.m. (there was lots and lots of time to socialize between sets) were: Davis (who called the evening “a lifetime dream come true”), Chris McGurk, Neal Moritz, Ron Silver, Billy Bob Thornton, Kevin Pollak, Steven Seagal, Danny Glover and Jeff Bridges.