British soul diva Adele made a triumphant return to the stage at the Grammys Sunday, winning a clean sweep of six awards and a standing ovation, in a show clouded by the death of Whitney Houston.
The 23-year-old Londoner, who has been out of action since October to undergo throat surgery, wowed a star-studded audience with a storming rendition of her worldwide hit “Rolling in the Deep.”
The tune won best song Grammy, to add to Adele’s haul of awards for best record, best album for her breakthrough “21,” best short video, best pop album and best pop artist — wins in all six categories in which she was nominated.
“This record is inspired by something that is really normal .. just a rubbish relationship,” said Adele, adding: “It’s been the most life-changing year.”
“Oh, I got a bit of snot!” she said in her trademark cockney accent, wiping her nose and fighting back tears at the climax of the three-and-a-half hour show, which ended with a Beatles medley led by Paul McCartney.
The other hotly-anticipated comeback of the night was by iconic 1960s California surfer band the Beach Boys, who played together live on stage for the first time in over two decades.
A three-song tribute started with a close-harmony version of “Surfer Girl” by Maroon 5, and then the falsetto strains of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” by Foster the People, against a backdrop of multicolor surf boards.
After a standing ovation, the Beach Boys themselves, all now in their 60s, then took to the stage to play “Good Vibrations,” with famously glum-looking Brian Wilson almost smiling as he hit the high notes with his old bandmates.
But while Adele was the big winner, the show was punctuated with tributes to Houston, the 1980s and 1990s superstar who died on Saturday at age 48 at the Beverly Hilton hotel on the eve of the US music industry’s big awards night.
The Grammy show began with a prayer for Houston from host LL Cool J.
“There is no way around this. We’ve had a death in our family,” he said, adding: “The only thing that feels right is to begin with a prayer for a woman who we loved, for our fallen sister.”
Later in the show, singer Jennifer Hudson — who was presented with a Grammy by Houston in 2009 — gripped the audience in silence with a classy rendition of “I Will Always Love You,” the smash hit from Houston’s film “The Bodyguard.”
“Whitney, we love you,” she said as she closed the performance sung to a piano accompaniment, spotlighted in the dark in a plain black dress.
Here’s a list of the Grammy winners in key categories:
Record Of The Year: “Rolling In The Deep” – Adele.
Album Of The Year: “21” – Adele.
Song Of The Year: “Rolling In The Deep” – Adele and Paul Epworth.
Best New Artist: Bon Iver.
Best Pop Solo Performance: “Someone Like You” – Adele.
Best Pop Duo: “Body And Soul” – Tony Bennett & Amy Winehouse.
Best Pop Vocal Album: “21” – Adele.
Best Rock Song: “Walk” – Foo Fighters.
Best Rock Album: “Wasting Light” – Foo Fighters.
Best R&B Song: “Fool for You” – Cee Lo Green and Melanie Fiona.
Best R&B Album: “F.A.M.E” – Chris Brown.
Best Rap Song: “All of the Lights” – Kanye West.
Best Rap Album: “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” – Kanye West.
Best Country Song: “Mean” – Taylor Swift.
Best Country Album: “Own the Night” – Lady Antebellum.