Rolling Stone on the VH-1 Honors Concert

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Good Cause, Bad Effect:
VH1 Honors showcase too much of a good thing

Steve Winwood had more than his share of Honorable mentions.

Los Angeles' Universal Amphitheater was chock-full of celebrities and the people who love them for Thursday's VH1 Honors. Considering that the show benefited the channel's Save the Music initiative, which helps fund school music programs, it sounded like an impressive Live Aid-type mega-concert, or at least an adult, VH1 version of one.

The channel did have a good cause, plenty of famous people (Sean Penn, David Spade, Ellen DeGeneres) and plans for the requisite all-star jams. And it was a bit like Live Aid -- only it mostly resembled the concert's last fifteen minutes, where all the musicians took the stage together and rambled through classic rock songs.

The show began on a promising note when Stevie Wonder and Steve Winwood took the stage and played rousing versions of "Higher Ground" and "Gimme Some Lovin.'" Sheryl Crow kept up that mood with "Everyday is a Winding Road" and a duet with Emmylou Harris on the Velvet Underground's "Pale Blue Eyes."

But after The Artist Formerly Known as Prince delivered an impassioned performance of "Holy River," the pace slowed considerably. Steve Winwood joined Chaka Khan on "Higher Love." Next was "Living in the City," performed by Stevie Wonder, George Michael and -- what do you know? -- Steve Winwood. Later, in the show, Winwood sang "Back in the High Life" with James Taylor and Sheryl Crow.

Guess who also played in four of the remaining five songs? (Hint: Steve Winwood). Not to say there's anything wrong with Winwood -- he's a great singer and a talented musician -- but nearly every song featured similar permutations of the same performers. For example, Winwood was on stage for nine songs, Sheryl Crow for four and James Taylor for five. Somewhere in there, it all began to sound like one never-ending jam.

Highlights? Well, Andy Garcia looked pretty happy playing congas on "Family Affair" with Chaka Khan, James Taylor, the Williams Brothers and you-know-who. James Taylor, Shawn Colvin and the Williams Brothers did a gentle, folky version of "Shower the People." And Jakob Dylan sounded pleasingly raspy, as the young-uns in the Wallflowers delivered a crowd-pleasing set that including "6th Ave. Heartache."

Hostess Fran Drescher kept things lively with her many outfit and hairdo changes. The show could have used as much variety.

-- Jill Hamilton

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Page created April 15, 1998.
Last updated April 15, 1998.
© 1997 by the author; reproduce only for non-commercial purposes and with full attribution.