Now in its 43rd year, The Clive Davis Pre-Grammy Gala is famously a party like no other, one that brings together a unique and at times bizarre combination of luminaries under one roof for one night. It’s quite possibly the only place on Earth where one will find Nancy Pelosi, Alice Cooper, Joni Mitchell, Barbra Streisand, Caitlin Jenner and Tim Cook watching Travis Scott perform — which happened Saturday night when the Gala returned to its longtime home, the Beverly Hilton, after a visit to New York with the Grammys last year.
While the party is renowned for its unique performances — Beck and the surviving members of Nirvana covering David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World” in 2017 is a particular standout — for many the real fun of the evening is the people, and the odd combinations of people, one sees there, and Saturday night’s edition did not disappoint. We saw Beck and Kenny G and then Beck and Weird Al Yankovic posing for photos. We saw Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi seated at a table with Barbra Streisand and Ariana Grande/Justin Bieber manager Scooter Braun (Pelosi got a standing ovation when Davis introduced her from the stage). Nearby was apparently the heavy metal table: Alice Cooper, Sammy Hagar and Kirk Hammett and Roberto Trujillo from Metallica; at the next table were Dua Lipa, Diplo and hitmaker Max Martin.
A few feet away, Ciara snuggled with her husband, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (pictured below with Apple Music’s Larry Jackson; curiously, Future, with whom Ciara shares a son, was slated to perform but didn’t end up taking the stage). We saw Maren Morris and Bebe Rexha taking a selfie on Bebe’s phone; Robin Thicke and a seriously dressed-down Pharrell Williams (whose 2013 smash “Blurred Lines” ended up costing them more than $5 million after they were sued for copyright infringement) give each other a bro-hug and pose for photos. We spotted A$AP Rocky in a stunning pink suit and St. Vincent in an equally classy black one. Rita Ora and Evan Ross, both clients of Sarah Stennett’s First Access Entertainment, took a smoke break together. Lisa Loeb and Kathy Griffin caught up. Justin Tranter and Julia Michaels embraced. Elder statesmen Berry Gordy, Quincy Jones and Lou Adler held court. “Howard Stern Show” producer Gary Dell’Abate and Linda Perry recalled an appearance by the Grammy nominee in the ’90s during which the radio host grilled her on being a lesbian on the dating scene (Perry was accompanied to the event by wife Sara Gibert). And that’s just what we wrote down.
The show itself, as it usually does, was a mixture of Clive-anointed classic and new artists, and featured a couple of tributes. A suit-clad Travis Scott opened up the show with a rousing performance of “Goosebumps” and “Sicko Mode” (pictured top); Kylie Jenner arrived just before he hit the stage. Keala Settle raised the roof with her take on “This Is Me.” H.E.R. and Variety cover star Brandi Carlile (pictured above) both gave deeply inspired performances of “Make It Rain” and “The Joke,” respectively. The Time — featuring original members Morris Day, Jerome Benton, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, pictured above — played a killer medley of “The Bird” and “Jungle Love” in homage to veteran R&B executive Clarence Avant (Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos, also in attendance with wife Nicole, is Avant’s son-in-law). Introduced by Quincy Jones, who called him a mentor, Avant then gave a hilarious acceptance speech where he jokingly (we hope) asked audience members for a donation approximately eight times in three minutes.
The evening closed in a bittersweet fashion with a roof-raising tribute to Aretha Franklin — who Davis worked with for many years — that saw Jazmine Sullivan singing “Call Me” before being joined by Rob Thomas for “I Knew You Were Waiting.” Grammy Best New Artist nominees Chloe X Halle capped off the night with an innovative take on Aretha’s 1985 duet with Eurythmics, “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves,” for which they were joined by Carlile, Settle and Motown veteran Valerie Simpson. And with that, Davis thanked the crowd effusively and everyone gradually filtered out into an unseasonably chilly Beverly Hills night.