It’s become a Grammy tradition that a day or two after the big show, executive producer Ken Ehrlich and his team engage in some masochism by filming another televised show in tribute to a legendary performer. Past years have highlighted the Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Frank Sinatra and the Bee Gees, and this year Elton John got the treatment. (Watch the trailer below.)
“Elton John: I’m Still Standing — A Grammy Salute” stars Alessia Cara, Miley Cyrus, Kesha, Lady Gaga, Miranda Lambert, John Legend, Little Big Town, Chris Martin, Shawn Mendes, Maren Morris, Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, and SZA, and will air on CBS on April 10 at 9 p.m. ET. The show also features special appearances from John’s co-writer Bernie Taupin, Jon Batiste, Neil Patrick Harris, Christopher Jackson, Anna Kendrick, Gayle King, Lucy Liu, songwriting great Valerie Simpson and Hailee Steinfeld.
The show featured many memorable moments, not all of which are likely to be included in the broadcast version. Miley Cyrus kicked things off by beginning “The Bitch Is Back” from an aisle in the middle of the crowd (we must admit we were transfixed by the sight of Sony/ATV exec Paul Williams clapping along in his seat, right next to Cyrus, at the start of the song). Ed Sheeran sang a lovely, unusually fast-paced version of “Candle in the Wind.” Sam Smith performed a gentle “Daniel” accompanied by John’s longtime guitarist Davey Johnstone on electric guitar, rather than the electric piano familiar from the recorded version. Alessia Cara sang “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues” with characteristic understated grace; Lady Gaga donned some Elton-esque glasses for “Your Song.” Coldplay’s Chris Martin had to re-start “We All Fall in Love Sometimes” twice: once because “I f—ed it up!,” another time because the accompanying string section missed their cue. (He was quite funny about it: After the second miscue he said, “Let’s make this entire show about this song… and me!”) Deep cuts from John’s early albums, which bear the unmistakable rootsy influence of The Band, were rolled out by country stars Maren Morris (“Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters”) and Miranda Lambert (“My Father’s Gun”). And Shawn Mendes and SZA — who performed John’s 1976 hit with Kiki Dee, “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” — is a duet we never dreamed we’d see.
Less successful were spoken-word renditions of Taupin’s lyrics by “CBS This Morning” host Gayle King (“Someone Saved My Life Tonight”) and “Hamilton” star Christopher Jackson (“Border Song”). The concert was a feat of logistics, as performers, instruments and stage props — Morris, rather bizarrely, performed in front of a giant table set for an opulent dinner — were shuttled on and offstage; the performers were usually but not always backed by John’s veteran band.
John finished off the show with four songs (apparently the one he performed from his latest album, “Diving Board,” did not make the televised show’s final cut), including a version of “Bennie and the Jets” that featured some stunning piano soloing, before being joined by nearly all of the evening’s performers for the titular finale, “I’m Still Standing.”
But all in all, it’s an entertaining show loaded with (mostly) tasteful and surprisingly refreshing reinterpretations of songs we’ve heard hundreds if not thousands of times.
Following is the list of performances featured on “Elton John: I’m Still Standing–A Grammy Salute”:
“The Bitch Is Back” — Miley Cyrus
“Candle In The Wind” — Ed Sheeran
“Daniel” — Sam Smith
“I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues” — Alessia Cara
“Your Song” — Lady Gaga
“Rocket Man” — Little Big Town
“Border Song” — Christopher Jackson & Valerie Simpson
“Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” — SZA & Shawn Mendes
“Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters” — Maren Morris
“We All Fall In Love Sometimes” — Chris Martin
“My Father’s Gun” — Miranda Lambert
“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” — Kesha
“Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” — John Legend
“Bennie And The Jets” — Elton John
“Philadelphia Freedom” — Elton John
“I’m Still Standing” — Elton John & Ensemble