Songwriters Hall of Fame Show Review

Being a savvy long-time NYC resident, I was able to finnagle my way into this star studded affair. Being a nobody from Appalachia, I finnagled my way into the very worst seat in the house, right beside the exit door. Luckily there was an upstairs circle of seats where anyone could wander up for a better sightline. There were also the ubiquitous EXTREME CLOSE UP screens flanking the stage, so I could see all I needed to see. And being in the back allowed me to jump up and dance w/ out bothering anyone behind me except the door security dude.
I was momentarily panicked at the Black-Tie rule, as one does NOT wear a prom gown on the subway coming from Queens. So I put on a shiny organza mid-length shift, which turned out to be OK. And I was the only person in aqua in a sea of mostly black.
My impressions are strictly personal, and may not be in chronological order, as I did not take notes or photos, and one couple at my table managed to swipe all the goodie bags, which included my program. God bless ’em, if they need to steal bags of CDs and shampoo samples, I wasn’t gonna stop ’em.
Wynonna Judd was first up to introduce Queen. It’s a good thing Queen went first, as this show dragged on over 4 hrs and people were constantly sneaking out after 10 pm. I was disillusioned to discover that everyone was reading their private, personal, heart-felt comments off a teleprompter. I’m sure Roger and Brian’s thank-yous have been recorded in several previous reviews, so I won’t dwell on that; as I said before I didn’t take notes and don’t want to misquote anyone. I do know that Roger spoke first. Brian was wearing an off-black suit w/ an extremely long jacket, almost mid-calf. Very Rhett Butler.
After the blessedly short acceptance speeches they went center stage for “Crazy Little Thing” with Wynonna taking vocals. The back-up band was Luther Vandross’s, (who we later learned has come out of his stroke coma and is able to speak.) Brian started off an acoustic and switched to Red Special, as usual. Wynonna did her best Elvis. Now we Tennessee girls need to stick together, but I must point out that the original key of this song is not in Wynonna’s comfort range and she tended to bottom out.
Brian took over on vocals for “We Will Rock You.” He inadvertantly switched some words on the second verse, then started that verse over. I suppose that could be smoothly edited out for the TV broadcast, but isn’t there something sorta “aw shucks” endearing about watching a megastar make a minor flub?
This started the show off on a high note, and please realize, that despite my bits of cynicism, the show was truly a once in a life time spectacular. I was often breathless as more legendary talents than I could have imagined streamed on one after the other. My personal highlight was Ray Charles w/ Van Morrison doing “Crazy Love.” I never in my life thought I’d get to see Ray Charles perform.
MC was that little old guy Paul Williams, whose endless stream of self-deprecating short jokes was actually pretty entertaining. I was the sole soul cackling at his “hot walking” comment. He also sang a pleasant “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” as a Duke Ellington tribute.
TV bandleader Paul Schafer came out to play piano for the induction of Little Richard, who did not appear. Solomon Burke sang bunches of Little Richard hits. This was the get up and dance part of the show.
Some kid w/ a pitch problem sang “Against All Odds” for Phil Collin’s induction. One could see the entire audience turning to each other to say “Who IS that?” Then Mr Collins himself sang several of his hit ballads. He did not have a pitch problem.
Some guy sang “Over the Rainbow” in an achingly high key in the Yip Harburg tribute. I kept expecting the someone in the stage band to ask “dude, might we take that down a FIFTH for you?” and Kudos to the tireless stage band. Did those poor souls ever get a break?
Billy Joel was fab at piano and patter doing “Wichita Lineman” for Jimmy Webb’s induction. Mr Webb also did one of his own songs w/ a string section.
Jerry Seinfeld introduced Tony Bennett but didn’t do any jokes (?). Bennett’s whole section was dreamy just DREAMY. He sang “I Wannt to Be Around” and “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” and looked 40 years old.
1st Runner Up to Best Dressed for the evening goes to Pink, who skipped onstage barefoot wearing a 2-tone corset and a girlish skirt that juxtaposed Moulin Rouge and a CK ad. Now I’ve been a Pinkaphile from day one, but her clear voice has never been in any way reminiscent of J Joplin. This girl sat down, sang “Bobby McGee,” and virtually CHANNELED Janis. This was one of the finest vocal moments of the evening. and isn’t Pink just as cute as a basket of puppies?
Alicia Keyes did not perform, but we had the treat of examining her cheekbones while she introduced the DIVA of the evening. Miss Patti LaBelle rose from her central table like an empress, and who was the first person she stopped to shake hands with? Mr. Brian May. Style award definately goes to La LaBelle. She wore a golden gown, complete w/ crinolines, a la 1st Lady of Argentina. Her hair was slicked straight back, as only a fabulous face can carry off, and wound into a structure at the crown of her head. Patti LaBelle’s acceptance speech was rambling, and I think that the audience (and yours truly) was a bit confused by her request that we all quit our playa hatin’. Yet I’m sure that each and every audience member silently vowed to quit their playa hatin’ right then and there. Finally launching into song, Patti Labelle did a new song in which I could detect no melody; but its really all about the vocalese, isn’t it? and vocalize she did. Isn’t she the ORIGINAL vocal gymnast? Following with another “Over the Rainbow.” Patti LaBelle wrapped her pipes around musical phrases like a Cirque du Soleil contortionist on a high wire. This single moment was worth the price of admission.
In the Ho-Hum department, Bwy star Melissa Errico sang a tepid “Didn’t We?” and Henry Mancini’s daughter sang “Autumn in NY” and an overly looooooonnnnng (like this review) video segment showing highlights of Clive Davis’ career, at 12:15 am. This film presentation showed bits of videos we’ve all seen too many times before, and caused a big traffic jam at the exit doors as a mass exodus of audience ensued. Does anyone care what P. Diddy has to say about Clive Davis? can anyone UNDERSTAND what P. Diddy has to say about Clive Davis?
The grand finale was WHO’DA THUNK? Barry Manilow. Now I was never a fan of pop shmaltz, but the orchestrations of this seamless medley were spot on. And I’m ashamed to admit, but I did know every word to the snippets of the many hits that he sang. and he sounded vocally identical to 30 yrs ago. So, yeah, I guess he’s a pretty professional showman. But Mr. Manilow did NOT write the songs that make this old girl sing.
Well I’m sure I’m forgetting lots of great stuff – it was too much to remember and I’ve written way too much anyway – hope you enjoy.


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