Bruce Springsteen was named MusiCares' Person of the Year
All-star concert and fundraiser benefits the Recording Academy's philanthropic arm
The Boss ups ante, offers guitar lesson, motorcycle ride and his mom's lasagna
Among tribute-makers: Neil Young, Elton John, Sting, Patti Smith, John Legend
Each year, Grammy Week offers up a full calendar of events – each one boasting a guest list more spectacular than the next. But this year, the most coveted ticket was Friday night’s “2013 MusiCares Person of the Year Tribute” honoring Bruce Springsteen.
The evening’s entertainment featured six Rock and Roll Hall of Famers, a few critically acclaimed young artists – and The Boss himself.
Neil Young and Crazy Horse turned up the volume with a spirited version of “Born in the U.S.A,” flanked by a pair of cheerleaders with the letter “S” emblazoned on their sweaters. Colombian superstar Juanes put a bilingual spin on “Hungry Heart,” singing verses in both Spanish and English, and John Legend transformed “Dancing in the Dark” into a jazzy piano ballad, which led Springsteen to later remark that “he made me sound like Gershwin. I love that.”
Other standout performances included Mumford & Sons’ banjo-laced cover of “I’m on Fire,” Tom Morello and Jim James’ mesmerizing take on “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” and country superstar Kenny Chesney’s quietly effective rendition of “One Step Up.”
Elton John also opted for simplicity, accompanied only by his piano on “Streets of Philadelphia.” But the most curious vocal of the night was on “Lonesome Day,” where Sting exhibited a raspy growl that suggested he was looking to honor Springsteen by sounding like him.
The evening was part all-star concert, part fundraiser to benefit the MusiCares Foundation, the Recording Academy’s philanthropic arm that provides assistance to members of the music industry.
“We take care of our own,” said Springsteen, invoking the title of a song off his current Grammy-nominated album, “Wrecking Ball.”
When a live auction featuring a signed guitar wasn’t generating enough interest, Springsteen took the microphone and upped the ante, throwing in a free guitar lesson with himself as the teacher, a ride in the side car of his Harley, eight tickets to the E Street concert of their choice, a backstage tour and lasagna made by his 87-year-old mother, Adele. A woman from New Jersey snapped it up for $250,000, then proceeded to kiss Springsteen on his lips.
The 63-year-old music icon was honored for his philanthropic work, as well as his musical achievements. “I am here tonight under totally false pretenses,” he told the crowd of 3,000 packed into a ballroom at the Los Angeles Convention Center. “Any philanthropy I’ve done involves me playing the guitar … and I would have been playing the guitar anyway.”
He then took the stage, launching into “We Take Care of Our Own,” “Death to My Hometown,” “Thunder Road” and “Born to Run.” For his finale, Springsteen called for every musician in the building to join him onstage for “Glory Days.” Neil Young grabbed a couple of drumsticks and banged on a snare, while Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Patti Smith, Sting, Jackson Browne, Emmylou Harris, Mumford & Sons, Ben Harper, Tom Morello and host Jon Stewart joined in the singalong. Also spotted in the audience: Springsteen’s daughter, his mother and Sean Penn.
2013 MusiCares set list:
Alabama Shakes, “Adam Raised a Cain”
Patti Smith, “Because the Night”
Natalie Maines, Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite, “Atlantic City”
Ken Casey (from Dropkick Murphys), “American Land”
Mavis Staples and Zac Brown, “My City of Ruins”Mumford & Sons, “I’m on Fire”
Jackson Brown and Tom Morello, “American Skin (41 Shots)”