Leave it to Paul McCartney to upstage his own tribute, breaking tradition for a MusiCares honoree on Friday night by opening the show with a rousing rendition of “Magical Mystery Tour,” a fitting introduction to the McCartney songbook that would assume new definition with every artist who appeared onstage. Alicia Keys, accompanying herself on piano, turned “Blackbird” into a personal anthem of empowerment; Coldplay performed “We Can Work It Out” as if it were a plea for world peace; and Katy Perry tapped her inner torch singer with a breathy version of “Hey Jude.”


The pre-Grammy MusiCares Person of the Year event raised $6.5 million for musicians in need, eclipsing the record $4.7 million established by Barbra Streisand last year, and the adoring throng of showbiz heavyweights who crowded into the West Hall of the L.A. Convention Center were not disappointed. With McCartney laying down the gauntlet, the Foo Fighters flexed some hard-rock muscle on “Jet”;  Neil Young and Crazy Horse downshifted to a loping, grungy gate on “I Saw Her Standing There”; and Norah Jones’ smokey delivery on “Oh Darling” helped prompt McCartney to comment later about “all these fantastic artists putting nuances on songs that I didn’t know were there.”


Eddie Izzard, the MC for the evening, proved characteristically irreverent, crafting a fancifully absurdist bio of McCartney that involved the singer-songwriter playing the xylophone “upside down because he was left-handed” and Muhammad Ali as the fifth Beatle. McCartney bookended the marathon evening by closing with material from his latest LP, “Kisses on the Bottom,” about which Elvis Costello, in a filmed comment, said “could be the alternative title for this evening’s festivities.”