It was a night of firsts: the first time the annual MusiCares Person of the Year benefit took over a venue so big as the 6,000-seat Radio City Music Hall in New York City and the first time the organization has honored a band: Fleetwood Mac. MusiCares, which supports the music community with assistance with medical bills, substance abuse rehabilitative services and prevention, emergency relief, and even more, has raised nearly $58 million since its 1989 founding and aided 125,000 persons. Friday evening, it added an additional $7 million to its pile — you can donate here — as Lorde, Haim, Harry Styles, Alison Krauss, OneRepublic, and so many more came to pay tribute to the iconic Fleetwood Mac catalog at the pre-Grammy gala.
President Bill Clinton, who used “Don’t Stop” as his first presidential campaign song, and who was accompanied for the evening by his standing ovation-inspiring wife, Hillary — her applause nearly stopped her husband’s speech at one point — presented the group with their award. “‘Don’t Stop’ has been played for me more times than Hail To the Chief,” he told the crowd. “Fleetwood Mac have meant a lot to a lot of people and they can still bring us to our feet, put a song in our heart, and remind us to never stop thinking about tomorrow.”
Below are EW’s biggest highlights from the jam-packed evening.
Lorde’s dance moves are right at home
She’s up for Album of the Year at the Sunday night awards, and Lorde has been making the rounds this Grammy weekend, treating a variety of audiences to some epic covers. Earlier this week, at Jack Antonoff’s annual Ally Coalition Talent Show, she tackled Carly Rae Jepsen, and Friday night she took on Fleetwood Mac. Performing “Silver Springs,” originally recorded as a B-side to “Go Your Own Way” and later released as a single in 1997 via The Dance, with a set design — produced by Don Was, who helmed the entire evening — that appeared to bring the night sky across Radio City’s thousands, the 21-year-old was positively resplendent. “Springs” was written by Stevie Nicks, and when Lorde broke out into dance, as she is known to do, the parallels between the two artists, one an icon and one well on her way, were undeniable.
Little Big Town hit the song jackpot
Who knows how song selections and assignments work at such events — Does everyone pick their own cut? Who gets first pick? Are songs ever assigned? We can guess that it’s not always a pretty process — but what know is that harmony-heavy foursome Little Big Town absolutely won the lottery when they got to perform “Dreams,” off Rumours. LBT performances are almost exclusively presented the same way: The four members stand in a straight line, co-leads Karen Fairchild and Kimberly Schlapman sing from the center, flanked by rhythm guitarists Jimi Westbrook and Phillip Sweet, none of them ever really leaving their mic stand. It’s remarkable, then, and a testament to both their range and the sweetness of their melodies, that each time you see them, it feels special. Friday night was no different. In fact, to use the obvious pun, it was, yep, dreamy.
Miley Cyrus nails ‘Landslide’
Ahead of her Sunday night duet with Sir Elton John, Cyrus served the crowd both sequins and stunning vocals as she performed 1975’s “Landslide,” off the group’s self-titled debut. “I see you all singing along out there,” she said, late in the song, “keep it going!” At just 25, Cyrus has one of the best young rock vocals out there — lined with rasp and impressive in its range. To get to hear her use it, especially as it reignites a classic cut, is always a treat.
Stevie Nicks honors Tom Petty in emotional speech
The Queen of Rock n’ Roll knows she talks too much. She opened her turn at the podium, before Fleetwood Mac’s performance, with the admission, adding that she’d try to keep it quick here. Of course, she didn’t, and no one — not even Mick Fleetwood and Christine McVie, who were jokingly waltzing behind her as she’d begun to really extend her tales. She was at turns hilarious, addressing the room as her class and ruminating on the idea that she should have been a teacher, and at others, devastating. “The loss of Tom Petty has just about broken my heart,” she said. “He was not only a good man to go ‘down the river’ with, as Johnny Cash said, but he was a great father and a great friend. He was one of my best friends. My heart will never get over this.” Nicks recognized the late rocker’s daughter Adria, who was in the crowd, and then addressed how Petty was the MusiCares person of the year in 2017. (His highlight reel of performances and speeches played often throughout the evening.) Nicks said he spoke often of that evening to her in the months that followed. He was sick, and maybe it was because of that, she said. “He was not well and he fought his way through that tour. He should have canceled. He should have just gone home and go to the hospital. But not Tom, he was going to go down that river.”
Nicks had grown emotional at that point, as had her crowd. “I think it is an honor to be together sometimes,” she said as she thanked the fans for the years of support. Her parents are gone, she noted, and many of her friends have died. “I have you.”
Fleetwood Mac thrill with five songs
After a humorous introduction from Harry Styles — the announcer introduced the star as, “Singer, songwriter, and actor…” but then failed to finish the thought by actually naming him, ar which Styles laughed and then handled himself. “I’m Harry,” he said, earning quite a chuckle. After expressing incredulity at even getting to announce the legendary group, he admitted he’s also dumbfounded at getting to share their performance stage. Together, they opened the band’s mini-set with 1977’s “The Chain,” off Rumours, which Styles famously covered for Radio 1 last year. And while there was certainly a dosage of fans who’d hoped the former One Directioner would’ve gotten his own song to sing as the others had throughout the evening, Styles rightly has his priorities in check. He looked thrilled the entire time.
After, sans Styles, the fivesome traveled through “Little Lies,” from 1987, “Tusk,” from 1979, and “Gold Dust Woman” and “Go Your Own Way,” both also from Rumours. As the crowd joined for every word, clapping and shimmying along, it felt like the audience knew how special their evening was. As Nicks noted during her speech, many of her fellow elder statesmen are gone. These opportunities come all too rare. The thousands at Radio City Music Hall didn’t waste theirs. And in the end, as the final notes hung over the crowd and attendees began shuffling out in the crisp evening, President Clinton had already said it best. “The songs that they gave us will outlive all of us,” he reminded during his speech. “Thank God.”
Thank you, indeed.