On Friday, February 13, 2009, the newly-opened Grammy Museum in downtown Los Angeles hosted An Evening with Annie Lennox, featuring an interview and performance with the legendary singer-songwriter in their intimate amphitheatre. I was lucky enough to be one of the 200 guests to attend, and it was definitely a memorable and exciting evening for everyone.
The evening started with a VIP reception hosted by the Grammy Museum on the rooftop terrace, where complimentary hors d’oeuvres and drinks were served, and fans got to mingle with each other while admiring the stunning L.A. skyline at night. I was able to meet a few of the fans that I have seen or conversed with on the forum boards, including Rod Reynolds, Mike from New Zealand, and Stacey (“Blue Moon” from MySpace) and her cousin Jennifer (also a big fan). Everyone was really nice and we all got a chance to share past Eurythmics and Annie Lennox concert and music memories.
At 7:45 p.m., the doors to the amphitheatre opened and everyone began to take their seats. I was lucky enough to be front row center, just a few feet from the piano and the two chairs that were set up for the interview and performance. A large screen behind the stage showed some of Annie’s solo video clips as we waited for the show to start, including “Walking On Broken Glass”, “Little Bird” and “No More ‘I Love You’s’”. A little after 8:00 p.m., Robert Santelli, President of the Grammy Museum, came onstage to welcome everyone to the event and said a few words about Annie’s distinguished career and how happy the Grammy Museum was to have her there that evening. Mr. Santelli told us that there would be an interview with Annie first, conducted by him, followed by an audience Q&A, and then a brief acoustic performance by Annie. He mentioned to the audience that the event was being filmed for the Grammy archives, and to please be cognizant of that when selecting questions to ask Annie.
Following Mr. Santelli’s introduction, the lights went down and a few of the SING Campaign videos were screened for the audience, including the SING Anniversary video. The audience was visibly moved by these very affecting videos and I think they did a good job of driving home the issue of the HIV genocide that is occurring in Africa, something which may not have been fully realized by a lot of people.
After the SING Campaign videos were presented, Mr. Santelli introduced Annie, who came in from the back of the theatre, and walked down past us in the front row. She stopped to smile and acknowledge the audience and then took her seat on the stage next to Mr. Santelli. Annie looked gorgeous dressed in her black Fedora, palm-patterned dress, fishnet stockings, and stunning black high-heeled shoes.
The interview then began, and Annie was very engaging and humorous, even interacting with audience members who shouted out things relevant to the topic at hand. She was relaxed and playful but didn’t have any problem speaking her mind and offering her opinion on various subjects. First up was a discussion of the SING Campaign and about Annie’s impressions of the HIV genocide in Africa, which she has witnessed firsthand in her visits. Her commitment to this issue is undeniable, and I really think that there were a lot of people in the room who came to know the situation in Africa better that evening, thanks to Annie and the SING Campaign.
The interview then moved on to touch on a variety of subjects, including the early days of the Tourists and then Eurythmics’ and Annie’s solo career as well. Annie discussed candidly such issues as Tourist member Pete Coombes, who was struggling with heroin addiction during the run of the band, her initial meeting with Dave Stewart, and how she helped him to cope with his then-drug problem. She talked a little about how Eurythmics was born, noting that she and Dave went a bank in London to secure a loan of a few thousand pounds. Apparently Dave was so persuasive in his presentation to the loan manager that he gave them the money right there on the spot. Annie mentioned how Dave would use a newly-purchased video camera to film her in a variety of poses and expressions, apparently presaging the video work to come from duo.
Another topic touched on was the celebrity obsession in today’s culture, and how with all the real problems going on in the world it seems that we are more obsessed with celebrity hairstyles and all of that than the real issues that deserve attention. Annie made a very good point about paparazzi, noting that if there can be legislation to keep men and women away from each other (or “restraining orders” as someone in the audience noted), why can’t there be legislation to keep paparazzi away from artists and performers, especially the younger more vulnerable ones. Annie noted that she has never been one to embrace the celebrity lifestyle, and how she thinks that living such a lifestyle 24/7 can come with a price. She mentioned that she likes being “underneath the radar” and is not a red carpet type of person, making public appearances only when necessary to bring awareness to her artistic endeavors or humanitarian campaigns. She recounted an incident when her daughters were young where she came out of her house only to find paparazzi set up at opposite corners of her street with their huge cameras and telephoto lenses trained at her, and she said to herself in that instance that her daughters were not going to grow up like this and noted that she had done an effective job of shielding them from the public eye.
Another topic was Annie’s “gender bending” image from the early days, and her now-legendary appearance in male drag on the Grammy Awards in 1984. Annie noted that when Eurythmics began, she didn’t want her image to be like other female singers of the time, and so she adopted a more masculine and powerful look to counter that, as well as to support equality between her and Dave Stewart. Annie stated that her image at that time had more to do with breaking down stereotypical female conventions that actual sexuality issues and confessed that the whole press reaction to her image was bewildering to her and Dave. The appearance at the Grammys in drag was intended to poke fun at the whole media frenzy regarding her appearance.
Annie also noted the difference between audiences in the U.K. and the U.S. She said people here in the U.S. seem to be more demonstrative in their affection for her, something which you don’t really see in the U.K.
Following the interview, the audience was invited to ask questions of Annie. The questions for the most part were intelligent and articulately presented, and Annie interacted nicely with the audience members. Some of the topics touched on were her video work, advice to aspiring artists and performers, and the spirituality of her lyrics, which led to Annie’s candid answer about how she feels about organized religion, which she feels has strayed from its founding purpose of fostering kindness and compassion amongst people.
The final part of the evening involved an electrifying acoustic performance from Annie at the piano. She started with a soulful rendition of “A Thousand Beautiful Things” (from her album BARE), and then went into a driving and bluesy rendition of “Little Bird”, of which the opening chords reminded me a little of “Love Is Blind” from her most recent album SONGS OF MASS DESTRUCTION. Annie then closed her performance with a spellbinding version of “Here Comes the Rain Again” from the Eurythmics album TOUCH.
Then, with a smile and a wave, Annie left the stage to thunderous applause and a standing ovation. Mr. Santelli thanked Annie for her participation and the audience for attending, and bid everyone a good night. The lights came up and the audience began to leave, even if they didn’t want to, or were ready to…all in all, it was a magical evening for everyone in attendance and not something we’re likely to forget for a long, long time.
Check out the fabulous photos below, taken by Rod Reynolds. Visit his website here.
An Evening with Annie Lennox The Grammy Museum Los Angeles, CA Friday, February 13, 2009