By Jamie Harvey
One night only. Those three words echoed the sentiment of the fleeting, special moments that represent live music, and that was exactly the theme as the GRAMMY Foundation's Music Preservation Project celebrated One Night Only: A Celebration Of Live Music on Feb. 9 at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Before the show, I chatted with co-hosts Sharon Osbourne and Steve Vai, and performers Jonny Lang and Bret Michaels, about their most impactful live music experiences. "Your first is always important," said Vai, as he went on to tell me the same story he would later share with the crowd, about being 14 and seeing Led Zeppelin at Madison Square Garden. For Vai, that night changed everything. Michaels described the multisensory experience of his first arena show, Foghat, and how it dictated the rock star that he's become today.
Once the show began, the crowd was treated to a retrospective of music through the filters of different iconic music venues: the Apollo, the Opry, the Troubadour, Crocodile Cafe, the Paramount, the Savoy and B.B. King's Blues Club & Grill. Osbourne and Vai gave great laughs as co-hosts, and their respective expertise both behind the scenes and on stage gave a heartfelt homage to live music.
The Colburn Orchestra began the evening, performing an excerpt from Antonin Dvorak's "New World." The performances that followed explored a variety of different spaces in music, all equally fantastical as the night progressed. Trombone Shorty and Dave Koz dazzled in the brass department; the former held a note for so long at one point we wondered if it would ever end. A Fine Frenzy's Alison Sudol delicately played piano and mesmerized the crowd with her angelic voice. Ledisi doled out her stylish soul, followed by the charming Mavis Staples, and a collaboration between Ledisi, Koz and Trombone Shorty that had the crowd on their feet.
Shelby Lynne performed a heartbreaking rendition of George Jones' "He Stopped Loving Her Today." Then singer/songwriter L.P. came out and completely blew my mind. She performed a cover of Radiohead's "Creep" that gave me chills and completely mesmerized the crowd. I have a feeling she garnered a lot of new fans that night.
Vai spoke about musicians getting their start in "holes in the wall" and Osbourne discussed the relationship between artist and fan. Vai related venues to churches where musicians go to worship.
Robert Cray sang us the blues, and Lang played a smokin' blues guitar. Next, Beverly McClellan from "The Voice" sang a killer Janis Joplin cover and Marc Martel, Queen Extravaganza contest winner, channeled Freddie Mercury for a medley to celebrate charity and live music, specifically Live Aid. As he sang "Bohemian Rhapsody," I couldn't help but head-bang along, even if the rest of the crowd did not.
Closing the show was Michaels of Poison fame, who played a set including "Nothin' But A Good Time" and the song that "changed his life," Poison's No. 1 power ballad "Every Rose Has Its Thorn." Upon Osbourne's instruction to get out of our seats, we sang and danced along as Michaels wooed the crowd with his signature split kicks. "This is the closest I've come to winning a GRAMMY," he joked.
Live music memories dominate a lot of the memories I reflect on as the best times of my life. Supporting live music is something important for all of us music fans to do, because, as Vai said, "All music starts as live music."