Dave Grohl At Musicares

How the hell does Dave Grohl know Lionel Richie?

That’s what I said to Felice, employing an f not an h, as Mr. Grohl strode to the front of the stage.

It’s become a ritual, two nights before the Grammys, they honor a superstar and rake in a ton of dough for Musicares, to help musicians, and we all know musicians need help, especially after Katrina, this is one thing the Grammy organization does right, and kudos to them for it.

And this clusterfuck, and that’s truly what it is, is one of the highlights of my year, because I can do twelve months of business in one night, everybody goes, from Jason Flom to Quincy Jones to Gary Dell’Abate… I’d be lying if I told you I was paying attention to the performances.

Because radio used to be segregated. As big as Stevie Wonder was in the seventies, many black acts toiled in the trenches of black radio, never crossing over. Some had hits on AM, but the Blaupunkt in my car stopped getting that band and I missed it not a whit. Radio ruled the decade and it all happened on FM, where rock dominated and the Commodores were someone you saw in the record store.

Until MTV, which democratized music, put the blacks up against the whites. Michael Jackson triumphed and then pop and hip-hop trounced rock and at this point the white sound has been marginalized, oh what a long strange trip it’s been (actually, Bob Weir was sitting at Bill Silva’s table, I talked to the latter, not the former).

Which is to say I’m not steeped in the Lionel Richie canon. I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for “All Night Long,” but that was the eighties, a perfect pop song that you couldn’t get out of your head, kind of like “Still The One” back in ’76. Some tracks are undeniable.

And some tracks can’t be covered by others. Florence of the Machine rearranged “Dancing On The Ceiling” to the point where it was neither here nor there, fish nor fowl, soul nor rock. The Band Perry employed exquisite vocals, why are all the best singers in country these days, and it satisfied but it did not elate.

And that’s when I went to the bathroom. That’s where all the action takes place during the show. After all, there are two tiers of people in attendance, the insiders and the wannabes. The wannabes sit in the back, enthralled, thrilled they’re inside the building, but like Harry in the movie with Sally the insiders ask how long it will be before they can leave, which they do, in droves, before the end, missing Bob Dylan’s once in a lifetime speech last year and Lionel Richie’s moving message this year. Richie came alive, gave props to Motown and Berry Gordy, for educating him and pushing him, one number one was not enough, what did Lionel have in the pipeline? Furthermore, Lionel said to give it all, you can’t take anything with you, funny how only the aged seem to know this and the industrialists think they can defy this, are you listening Sumner Redstone?

But when I was ensconced back in my seat Mr. Grohl took the stage. The hope of a generation, the Gen-X’ers, Mr. Rock and Roll, so overexposed that when he goes away it seems like he’s still here.

But by poking fun at himself for his attendance he calmed the waters, salved the reaction, and told of Lionel sending him a huge muffin basket after Dave fell off the stage and broke his leg.

And Dave was walking quite well, which is quite a statement, as you age you heal much more slowly, and Dave is deep into his fifth decade.

And I assumed Dave would not sing. Not everybody does. There are tributes and introductions and what could be worse than a matchup of Dave Grohl and Lionel Richie music.

But then the band started to play, and like Adam Sandler in the “Wedding Singer” Dave spread his arms and started to sing.

The song was “You Are.” I only know the title because Jimmy Kimmel recited it after Dave was done. But I knew the song. That’s what’s happened in the decades since the musical segregation, all the great hits of yore have seeped into our consciousness, they’re in the air, at weddings, bar mitzvahs, celebrations of all sorts. So when someone starts to sing a hit you smile and sing along.

But you’re never any good. That’s what separates the professionals from the amateurs, their pipes, their talent.

But it turns out Dave Grohl doesn’t sing so well either. It was Kurt who had the pipes in the group. But that works in rock and roll, as long as you stay in your range, Dave sounds perfect in “Learn To Fly,” but on “You Are”..?

He camped it up. He was us.

And unlike the pretenders plying the boards before him, Dave has experience, he’s a professional, he knows it’s about a performance, engaging the audience, creating a bond.

That’s rock and roll.

And that’s what Dave Grohl did last night.

He stood on stage singing a song we all knew and made it about all of us, we were suddenly in it together, we stood and clapped in joy!

You remember exclamation, when you were not there to take selfies, to produce a record of your attendance, but to have an experience and bond with the performer?

That’s what Dave did last night. He created a moment.

I’ve got so much love

That’s what Dave has. For the music, for the business, for the performance, that’s what he conveyed last night with a smile on his face.

You are the sun
You are the rain
That makes my life this foolish game

It’s about songs, the elixir of life that smooths the bumps and keeps us going. They get stuck in our head and never escape. And when we hear them…

Tell me it’s true
I can’t believe you do what you do

These are our heroes, writing and performing these songs.

And my love you’ll see
We’ll stay together, just you and me

There were better voices on stage. Singers who bludgeoned us with their talent. But Dave Grohl entranced us, by being smooth, by evidencing his humanity, knowing that it’s not about getting it perfect, but getting it right.

You had to be there.

Ain’t that what live performance is all about?

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