At the Clive Davis pre-Grammy gala, stars Frankie Valli, Lil Wayne rouse an A-list crowd

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 4, 2023: Jennifer Hudson performs at the Pre-Grammy Gala at the Beverly Hilton on February 4, 2023 in Beverly Hills, California. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Jennifer Hudson performs at Clive Davis' pre-Grammy gala Saturday at the Beverly Hilton. (Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

Say this for Clive Davis’ annual pre-Grammy gala: It might be the only party in Los Angeles where Frankie Valli is as likely to spark a singalong as Lil Wayne.

Both men set off the star-packed ballroom Saturday night at the Beverly Hilton — Valli early in the evening with a zesty rendition of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” Wayne a few hours later with his louche rap hit “Lollipop.” Did the 88-year-old pop smoothie and the raspy-voiced hip-hop eccentric mingle backstage, maybe trade war stories (or plot a viral TikTok duet)? Who knows. But each seemed to delight in the fact that he was reaching — and pleasing — the other’s audience.

Male singers in black suits perform onstage
Frankie Valli, center, performs at the pre-Grammy gala Saturday. (Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

Held in person for the first time since 2020, Davis’ signature Grammy weekend event — which the 90-year-old record exec presents in partnership with the Recording Academy — drew its usual blend of far-flung A-listers from the overlapping worlds of music, movies, politics and tech. Tom Hanks and Joni Mitchell and Metallica’s Lars Ulrich were there, as were Smokey Robinson, Lil Nas X, Apple CEO Tim Cook and former U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), who was accompanied by her husband, Paul, just months after he was attacked in the couple’s San Francisco home. Both got an enthusiastic round of applause as Davis introduced them from the stage.

Also in the crowd: Olivia Rodrigo and Demi Lovato, the latter of whom posted a video on Instagram of the former wilding out to “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”

The ostensible purpose of the invite-only party was to bestow the academy’s Industry Icon award on Julie Greenwald and Craig Kallman, who in their joint role running Atlantic Records have scored successes with Lizzo and Brandi Carlile — both nominated for album of the year at Sunday’s Grammys ceremony — and Cardi B, who warmly described Greenwald as “a boss-ass bitch” as she toasted the duo in comments she read from her phone.

Three men and a woman partake in an awards presentation onstage
Atlantic Records Chief Executive and Chairman Craig Kallman, left, Clive Davis, Atlantic Records Group Chief Executive and Chairman Julie Greenwald and Recording Academy Chief Executive Harvey Mason Jr. (Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

Yet the night’s real point, of course, was the hobnobbing and the performances by Davis’ hand-picked array of acts new and old. Among the current hitmakers were the Italian rock band Måneskin, which kicked off the show with its cover of the Four Seasons’ “Beggin’” — big night for Valli! — and Lizzo, who belted her “Break Up Twice,” which prominently interpolates a classic tune by onetime Grammys fave Lauryn Hill. Latto dropped by for a quick run through her boisterous pop-rap hit “Big Energy,” and Lil Baby cooled the air with his woozy “California Breeze.”

Veterans on the bill included Elvis Costello, who did a rowdy version of his “Pump It Up” with help from the Colombian rocker Juanes, and Sheryl Crow, who paid tribute to the late Christine McVie with affectionate performances of Fleetwood Mac’s “Songbird” and “You Make Loving Fun.”

A woman in a white suit sings and plays the piano
Sheryl Crow pays tribute to the late Christine McVie at the pre-Grammy gala Saturday at the Beverly Hilton. (Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

To honor his late protégé Whitney Houston, who died in 2012 at the Beverly Hilton just hours before that year’s gala was to begin, Davis had another of his protégés, Jennifer Hudson, sing “Greatest Love of All.” As usual, Hudson smashed it, though it also made you wonder why Davis has never found a song that big for Hudson to make her own. The Houston remembrance also included a lengthy and somewhat macabre appearance by Kevin Costner, who regaled the crowd with thoughts from his time working with the singer on “The Bodyguard” before turning to Davis to say something he said he’d never told him before.

“Maybe this isn’t the room for it, but I don’t want to miss the moment,” Costner said. “Neither one of us, in the end, could protect your beloved Whitney. But your fingerprints on her life are clean, my friend.”

Heavy energy for an otherwise jubilant occasion.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.