Fifty years ago, the Beatles played the Ed Sullivan Show — an event that's remembered as the beachhead of the British Invasion, and something that changed American popular music forever. On Sunday night, CBS and the Grammys celebrated with a "Salute to the Beatles," filmed a day after last month's Grammys, on the same stage. (Watch a clip above)
The tribute started out with a video biography that would look at home in any awards show. But the show quickly became something else: A concert of (mostly) Beatles songs, performed both beautifully and not so beautifully by a motley collection of musicians.
Take the pairing of Pharrell (of Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" fame) and country star Brad Paisley. An unexpected duo, perhaps, but their version of "Here Comes the Sun" fell on the successful side of the ledger. On the other hand, Katy Perry's rendition of "Yesterday" — one of the most-covered songs in recorded history — just felt flat.
John Legend and Alicia Keys nailed "Let it Be." You can tell, among other reasons, by the audience reaction; Sir Paul looked positively elated after the performance.
(Larry Busacca/Getty Images for NARAS)
The Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl — after a touching intro capturing the Beatles' broad, multigenerational appeal — tackled a less-well-known rocker, "Hey Bulldog," with ELO's Jeff Lynne. It's a great song, and they do a fine job with it:
Imagine Dragons turned "Revolution" into a sort of poppy roots rocker. The Eurythmics did a fine job with "Fool on the Hill," turning the quirky song into a surprisingly energetic crowd-pleaser.
And while it was great to see Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart back together, their talents may have been better served with a song like "Rain" or "And Your Bird Can Sing":
The Grammy salute, "like that Ed Sullivan show a half century ago, belonged to the Beatles themselves," says Jon Pareles at The New York Times. Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney both did three-song sets, with Ringo — in keeping, oddly, with the spirit of the night — doing two covers, Carl Perkins' "Matchbox" and "Boys," by the Shirelles, before turning to "Yellow Submarine."
(Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
McCartney stuck with Beatles tunes — "Birthday," "Get Back," and "I Saw Her Standing There."
Paul and Ringo closed the show with "Hey Jude," a song Paul wrote for John's son Julian. "Fifty years after conquering the United States, Mr. McCartney and Mr. Starr didn't come across as self-congratulatory, or weary, or simply going through show-business motions," says Pareles at The New York Times. "Somehow, they've held onto what they brought in 1964. They were still having fun." So was the audience. Not bad for a pair of septuagenarians.