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The fabs and flops of the Beatles' CBS special

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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The Beatles stole the show on the CBS special celebrating them Sunday night, Feb. 9.

Big surprise, eh?

Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr in the same room and is a big deal. On stage together is an event, which elevated the last 40-odd minutes of "The Beatles: The Night That Changed America -- A Grammy Tribute" past the already high bar set by the show's previous performances. Even the all-star names involved in those couldn't -- nor would they hope to -- compete with Starr's ebullient "Yellow Submarine" or McCartney and his band doing "Get Back" and "I Saw Her Standing There," and definitely not with the "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" that led to a McCartney-Starr reunion on "With a Little Help From My Friends" and the full-cast "Hey Jude," with acrobats from Cirque du Soleil's "The Beatles LOVE" show flying overhead.

So the Beatles got their due and earned it, too. With a great deal of music and intriguing collaborations that hit more than they missed during the two-and-a-half-hour special (which was taped Jan. 27 in Los Angeles), here's a look at what worked best -- and what fell short of the bar:


Stevie Wonder: The Motown great's funky tape on "We Can Work It Out" was a joyously refreshing on Sunday's show as it was when the he released it as single in 1971.

Joe Walsh, Dave Grohl and Gary Clark, Jr.: Their "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" was a six-string tour-de-force, with Grohl's cymbal-bashing pushing the guitarists into overdrive. Here's betting that, besides the Beatles themselves, Clark gets the biggest sales boost from the special.

John Mayer and Keith Urban: Their individual music creds have taken some bashing in recent years for a variety of reasons, but they laid the haters to waste with a blazing "Don't Let Me Down." Send Mayer to a reality fashion makeover show, however.

Joe Walsh, Jeff Lynne and Dhani Harrison: With Dhani looking so eerily like his father and deftly harmonizing with Lynne, the trio's take on George Harrison's biggest Beatles hit was a beautifully understated tribute.

Alicia Keys and John Legends: Two exceptional voices, two pianos and a moving treatment of "Let It Be." And Keys gets props for avoiding any temptation to over-emote.

Imagine Dragons: The newly minted Grammy Award winners delivered a confidently loose, easy, unplugged-style version of "Revolution" that took its lead from "Revolution 1" on "The Beatles" (aka "The White Album").

Dave Grohl's daughter: Admit it; you melted every time the camera showed her in daddy's lap or watching him rock out with her blue noise-canceling headphones on.


Katy Perry: Give her a big, bombastically produced power ballad and she'll kill it. The stripped-down, delicate arrangement of "Yesterday" was well outside her wheelhouse.

Dave Grohl and Jeff Lynne: Their version of "Hey Bulldog" wasn't awful, but it felt light, particularly during the verses. A near-miss.

Eurythmics: Annie Lennox remains one of pop's most amazing singers, but her delivery of "The Fool on the Hill" tipped too far towards maudlin theatricality, and the sight of her together again with Dave Stewart didn't quite compensate.

Maroon5: Similar to Grohl and Lynne, the quartet's "Ticket To Ride" was workmanlike but not quite up to the standards of the evening's other covers -- and desperately missed the song's trademark duet harmony.

LL Cool J: An affable presence and a capable teleprompter reader -- but this show didn't need one. Monty Python/Ruttles vet Eric Idle did more in his brief segment than LL did the entire show.


There was nothing wrong with either Brad Paisley and Pharrell Williams' teaming on "Here Comes The Sun" or Ed Sheeran's solo "In My Life," but they were nice inclusions amidst more stellar moments. It would have been nice to see the show's producers let Sheeran loose on another song that would have let him use the technology-assisted one-man-band delivery that makes him such a dazzling live performer.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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