“It’s been a whole evening of do-gooders,” Melissa Etheridge said to the audience gathered at the Wilshire Ebell Theater Thursday night. Etheridge was one of a dozen performers who performed at the Grammy Foundation’s 17th annual Legacy Concert.
The event had a theme of “Concerts for a Cause” and opened with a medley of the Five Stairsteps’ 1970 single, “Ooh Child” and the Youngbloods’ 1967 hit, “Get Together”, featuring Rozzi Crane, Oren Waters and current American Idol contestant Riley Bria. Many of the artists selecting songs tied to large charity concerts like George Harrison’s, “Concerts for Bangladesh”, “Live Aid” and “Farm AID.”
Aloe Blacc set the tone for the evening with a stately rendition of “We Shall Overcome”, a reference to the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the civil-rights event, during which Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream Speech.” Blacc also performed his own “Love Is the Answer” and sang “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” with Etheridge playing guitar.
Two founders of Farm Aid, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, performed with John Mellencamp singing “Longest Days” and Willie Nelson singing “We Don’t Run” and “On the Road Again.”
“Walk the Moon” alluded to the “Live 8” and “Live Aid” concerts by covering The Killers’, “All These Things That I’ve Done” and David Bowie’s, “Heroes.” The group also brought out guitarist Waddy Wachtel, who played in the night’s house band, and Deborah Cox to sing the Rolling Stones’, “Gimme Shelter.”
Electric violinist Lindsay Stirling paid tribute to All-Star charity singles, “We Are the World” and “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by pairing the two songs in an inventive instrumental medley. The Plain White T’s performed “True Colors” as a last-minute substitution for Cyndi Lauper, who had to cancel a planned appearance due to a family emergency.
Robin Thicke performed two songs associated with recipients of the Person-of-the-Year award from MusiCares, a charitable program run by the Recording Academy, first singing Sting’s, “Fragile”, then bringing Erica Campbell out for a duet of Stevie Wonder’s, “Higher Ground.”
Etheridge then closed the show by performing, “I Need to Wake Up”, her Oscar-winning song from the documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth”, and the song that gave the concert its name, Bill Withers’, “Lean on Me.”
The Grammy Foundation, an arm of the Recording Academy, was founded in 1988 “to cultivate the understanding, appreciation and advancement of the contribution of recorded music to American culture,” according to the Grammy website. Among its efforts are programs designed to further music and arts organizations and to preserve cultural heritage.