HOLLYWOOD — It was truly a backstage dressing room to behold, a scene that perhaps only Kanye West could pull off. There were music video directors, spoken-word poets, rappers such as Bushwick Bill and even Tom Cruise. That’s right, the real Tom Cruise, as in “Top Gun,” “Mission: Impossible,” standing-on-Oprah’s-couch Tom Cruise. Isn’t Hollywood a kick?
Avalon Hollywood was packed late Monday night into early Tuesday (February 7) morning as West, the multiple-nominated man that everyone wanted to see, kicked off the short week of Grammy festivities with a live set.
In such a small venue — well, smaller than the places that Ye sold out last year during his “Touch the Sky” trek — there was really no space for West to pull out all of the bells and whistles, such as his stage set designed by a team of Europeans or a costume fitted with angel wings. But Kanye performed with the same energy he gives a stadium packed with 60,000 people, and he managed to find room in the club for a full string section and, of course, DJ A-Trak.
West started off with money in the bank, “Diamonds” and “Touch the Sky,” while fans and celebrity supporters including Cruise, Paris Hilton and Jay-Z looked on from various VIP posts.
Kanye playfully boasted that he was the Grammys’ most nominated person of the last two years, scoring eight nods for the upcoming awards (click here for the complete 2006 Grammy nominees list). West also thanked the spectators for their support and said whether or not he takes home any golden gramophones Wednesday night, he’s already won because they pump his music. And he gave props to party sponsors Rolling Stone for giving him a chance to express himself artistically (with a magazine cover shot that had many in a tizzy) and not just publish another photo of him in blazer.
During Kanye’s brief break from rapping, A-Trak showed the crowd why he’s won all of those DJ trophies. After some technical difficulties, Trak put his weight on things, slicing up Lil Wayne’s “Go DJ” record while the crowd marveled.
“Damn,” said a very impressed Cruise, who was standing on a balcony above the stage surrounded by people such as Stephen Baldwin. “I remember when they used to just do drum solos.”
When West returned to action, John Legend sat at a keyboard in the middle of the stage and begin playing the chords to “Heard ’Em Say.” It was totally stripped down at first. With no drums or bass, West rapped over Legend, who played the piano and sang Adam Levine’s chorus.
“Great song!” Tom Cruise said aloud while the two G.O.O.D. Music teammates played.
“Wow!” Cruise yelled when “Heard ’Em Say” came to an end.
Later, Talib Kweli joined West onstage to perform “Get By,” and ’Ye took time out to let the crowd know that he had some high-profile friends in the audience, including Jay-Z.
“I have to stunt,” West said, “because this doesn’t happen every day.”
He then introduced Cruise, who was a little shy but smiled and waved to everyone when the spotlight and camera-phone flashes hit him.
Kanye closed with another bread-and-butter hit, “Jesus Walks,” leaving Tom to say “un-f—ing-believable!” as he filed out with everyone else.
The show’s over, but there’s still plenty of Grammy goodness right here on MTVNews.com. Check out photos of the hottest green-carpet and onstage moments, find out what went down at the celeb-packed parties, and share your thoughts on the performers, winners and losers.
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports .