Paul McCartney Is Honored, and Puts On a Big Show, TooBy JAMES MCKINLEY, JR.
There are not too many accolades left for Paul McCartney to win, but the tribute an all-star line-up of musicians paid him Friday night in Los Angeles when he was named the MusiCares Person of the Year must rank among the most heartfelt.
Mr. McCartney was the guest of honor this year at the annual gala for the charity, which is operated by the same organization that oversees the Grammy Awards – the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. The dinner was held in a convention hall next to the Staples Center, where the Grammy Awards will be given out on Sunday.
Not only did a dozen top-flight musicians – many of them nominated for Grammys — perform Mr. McCartney’s songs, but the former Beatle thrilled the audience of about 2,800 people with two numbers from his recently released album of standards and a live rendition of the climactic medley near the end of the Beatles 1969 album Abbey Road. By the time Mr. McCartney sang the famous words “And in the end, the love you make is equal to the love you take,” the crowd of V.I.P.s were on their feet.
The dinner raised more than $6.5 million for the organization, which provides financial aid, drug treatment and medical care to indigent musicians, Neil Portnow, the president of the recording academy said.
The show was full of memorable performances. Foo Fighters did a hard-rock version of “Jet,” a hit from Mr. McCartney’s post-Beatles era with Wings. Katy Perry, wearing a giant rose-shaped hat, performed “Hey Jude” with acoustic instruments. Norah Jones gave “Oh, Darling” a honky-tonk flavor. Alison Krauss and Union Station did a bluegrass arrangement of “No More Lonely Nights.” Coldplay performed a joyful “We Can Work it Out” in an acoustic arrangement.
Other performances included Tony Bennett swinging a jazz version of “Here, There and Everywhere,” James Taylor singing “Yesterday,” and Alicia Keys delivering a soulful “Blackbird,” accompanying herself on the piano.
But the performance that brought the crowd to its feet and seemed to capture the rock and roll spirit of the early Beatles came from Neil Young and Crazy Horse. Mr. Young, his long grey hair spilling out from under his white hat, launched into “I Saw Her Standing There” in a loose, free style, letting the guitars ring as he sang the teenage anthem with a snarl and launched into a post-modern guitar solo in which the melody jumped, stuttered and seemed to cry out in pain. Simply put, the song rocked, sounding as if it could have been recorded yesterday.
“Paul!” Mr. Young said after he finished, raising his hand in a salute, while the crowd applauded wildly.
Accepting his award later, Mr. McCartney singled out Mr. Young as he thanked the musicians for their tributes. He said they had all found nuances in his songs he never knew were there. “For me obviously, it’s fantastic to hear all these fantastic artists singing my songs and making them sound so beautiful,” he said.
Eddie Izzard, the comedian, kept the audience in stitches in between acts with an spoof of Mr. McCartney’s biography that was riddled with absurd errors. According to Mr. Izzard, Mr. McCartney’s father was Jacques Cousteau, his mother was Catherine Hepburn and he grew up in a town called Liverpool in Ireland, or perhaps Russia, or maybe Scotland. Muhammad Ali was a member of the early Beatles who played flute and Mr. McCartney got the idea for starting Wings from Fidel Castro, who started his own band called “Beaks.” Everything in Mr. Izzard’s history happened in 1962.
At the end of his monologue, Mr. Izzard explained that people always spout a lot of nonsense at charity events, so he thought a little more nonsense would not hurt.
“For Paul McCartney, words are not needed,” he said. “The music speaks for itself.”