Hollywood – There was no questioning where the love was Friday night as star-studded functions leading up to Sunday’s Grammy Awards continued around Los Angeles.
Artists such as the legendary James Brown, Justin Timberlake, Pink, Carlos Santana and the Black Eyed Peas came together for a old-fashioned jam session at the Avalon Hollywood nightclub.
Half tsunami-relief concert, half party to celebrate the launch of the Peas member Will.I.Am’s new label, I.Am.Music, the show started off with enough energy to light up Times Square for weeks and ended with an even more electric charge.
The Peas kicked the night off with extended renditions of their hits “Let’s Get It Started” and “Hey Mama,” incorporating back flips, jumps, clown dancing and improv singing to keep the audience’s interest piqued. When the Peas exited, Will, who also held down hosting duties, introduced John Legend.
“Some cats can’t sing, but he’s the real McCoy/ Know he’s going to give you something you can enjoy,” Will freestyled.
Legend slowed the pace with another he-got-skillz display at the piano and mic, bolstering Will’s claims by belting out “Ordinary People,” a song he co-wrote with the Peas frontman.
The new school then made way for legends as Herbie Hancock came out to replace Legend on the piano for a short set with the house band. Hancock then played the ultimate game of name-drop when he told the crowd he wanted to introduce a friend of his, Carlos Santana.
Immediately Santana’s guitar licks consumed the room as he added onto a funk groove that Herbie and the band were playing. Will, standing in the sonic epicenter, expressed his approval by scrunching his face as though he smelled a dirty diaper. Hancock then took all the way back to the days when MTV was just an infant, performing “Rockit” while jumping from piano to keyboard and then back to piano, giving his classic a jazzy tinge.
Santana and Hancock later handed the reins over to Macy Gray for a brief spell before the spotlight was passed to the combination of Floetry and Earth, Wind & Fire. The two groups formed one harmonious whirlwind and collaborated on the latter’s “Shining Star.”
Later, with Will.I.Am once again the only person holding a mic, the dreadlocked music man began beatboxing and Justin Timberlake casually walked out, bobbing his head.
With the drummer banging his sticks to assists Will’s b-boy soundscape, J.T. sat at the keyboard and started a call-and-response with the crowd. “Say ‘Woo, woo!’ ” Timberlake told them as he began playing. “Say ‘Oh la, oh la aaayyy!’ ”
“SeÃ±orita” followed, and as the record closed out, the Peas’ Fergie and Floetry came out to sing the ladies’ part of track’s call-and-response. “It feels like something’s heating up/ Can I leave with you?” J.T. told the fellas to sing.
His female peers had their own lyrics for the honeys in the audience. “I don’t know, but I’m thinking ’bout/ Really leaving with you,” they sang.
That was just the start of Timberlake’s show-stealing collaborations. Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine came out, and he and Justin shared center stage and lines on “This Love.”
Once the stage cleared again, Will began repeating, “Ain’t it funky,” foreshadowing the arrival of James Brown – but not until after Raphael Saadiq came out to play some bass.
“You ain’t never gonna see nothing like this again in your life!” one audience member excitedly told his friend, sounding a bit like Chris Tucker on helium.
“Come here, sister… Papa’s in the swing,” Brown began singing before pushing the mic stand almost to the ground, spinning around and then bringing it back up in mere milliseconds. “He ain’t too hip about that new breed, babe/ He ain’t no drag/ Papa’s got a brand new bag.”
Then Timberlake re-emerged and traded lines with the Godfather of Soul. “Come here, mama, and dig this crazy scene/ He’s not too fancy but his line is pretty clean/ He ain’t no drag/ Papa’s got a brand new bag.”
“You gotta rock with the funk, if you wanna have a good time,” Brown began singing shortly after. “You gotta shake with the funk if you wanna have a good time.”
The concert closed out with a stream of singers heading back to the stage – Floetry, the Peas, John Legend, Musiq, Nikka Costa, Pink and India.Arie, who started a cipher of melody.
“Old pirates, yes, they rob I/ Sold I to the merchant ships,” she sang. “Minutes after they took I/ From the bottomless pit/ But my hand was made strong/ By the hand of The Almighty.”
Pretty soon, each of the singers was adding their flavor to Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song.”
“Won’t you help to sing/ These songs of freedom?” the collective sang in unison with the audience. ” ‘Cause all I ever have/ Redemption songs/ Redemption songs.”