LOS ANGELES – The Foo Fighters captured five Grammys and Adele won six, including the song of the year trophy for “Rolling in the Deep,” at a Grammy ceremony that had the difficult task of celebrating music’s best while mourning the loss of one of their greatest, Whitney Houston.
Houston’s death on the eve of the awards forced a delicate balance between the exuberance of the show’s winners and performances with the loss.
Adele, who owned the year’s best-selling album with “21,” was triumphant in her first performance since vocal cord surgery forced the cancelation of a tour and months of vocal rest. As fans wondered whether her voice would still soar, she answered with her performance of her hit “Rolling in the Deep” and received a rousing standing ovation from the crowd.
The song also won her one of the night’s most prestigious awards, song of the year, as well as one for best pop vocal performance.
“I can’t believe I’m getting emotional already,” she said after picking up the latter award. “And seeing as it’s a vocal performance, I need to thank my doctors, I suppose, who brought my voice back.”
The night’s other big winners, the Foo Fighters, noted that they made their album “Wasting Light” in a garage.
Among the evening’s performances was a dance-heavy number by Chris Brown, a performance by Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen, who kicked off the show by performing his new song “We Take Care of Our Own,” a rousing song that references the troubles of the nation.
But soon after the show opened, a somber LL Cool J, the show’s host, appeared in black, and told the audience: “There is no way around this. We’ve had a death in our family.”
He led the audience in prayer to “our fallen sister, Whitney Houston.
“Heavenly father, we thank you for sharing our sister Whitney with us,” he said. “Though she is gone too soon, we remain truly blessed to have been touched by her beautiful spirit.”
Houston died on the eve of the Grammys at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, where she was preparing to attend a pre-Grammy party. Before the death of one of pop music’s most important figures, the pre-Grammy buzz focused on whether Adele – 2011’s top-selling artist and set to make her first public performance on the show since having vocal cord surgery – would be the queen of the Grammys. Although Kanye West led all nominees with seven and Bruno Mars and the Foo Fighters tied Adele with six nominations, she was favored to sweep all of her categories.
While Houston’s death cast a shadow over the night’s winners, it did not obscure them. Among them was Chris Brown, who was performing on the stage for the first time since he dropped out of 2009’s broadcast; his attack on Rihanna the night before led to both their absences, and an assault charge and a career low for Brown.
But 2011 marked a comeback for Brown, and he was rewarded with two planned performances during the show, the first time he and Rihanna performed at the same event since the attack (she sang solo and with Coldplay during the ceremony). Brown also won best R&B album.
The Grammys did their best to keep a tone that balanced the many moods of the night: The Foo Fighters performed in a tent outside the Staples Center, where the awards were being held, amid a throng of bouncing fans. But moments earlier, Alicia Keys and Bonnie Raitt paid tribute to Etta James, the legend who died last month.
There was also a tribute to the recently reunited Beach Boys that featured Maroon 5, Foster the People and Mike Love, Al Jardine and Brian Wilson, the three remaining members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band, all pitch-perfect as they brought the group’s California rock sound and harmonies back to life.