On Monday April 16, Dave Navarro and Billy Morrison presented “Above Ground,” an event to raise awareness and money for mental health and MusiCares, at the Belasco Theater. The night was filled with special guests, legendary music and even Steve-O (of Jackass fame) getting away with a few tricks.
Upon entering the Belasco lobby, a large, glowing Warholian piece that included the faces of Marilyn Monroe and Mao stood center. Other tables displayed pieces up for grabs in the silent auction, such as a framed photo of The Beatles’ infamous Abbey Road album cover with three canceled checks. Inside the theater, a drum circle finished up. Canvases of Marilyn Monroe and Lou Reed sat propped on the stage.
The night was an ode to the music community. Musicians exhibited their love and respect for the community that they’re in by honoring two of Navarro and Morrison’s favorite albums: Adam and The Ant’s Kings of the Wild Frontier and The Velvet Underground’s The Velvet Underground and Nico. The sets were split by an auction intermission, also allowing people to finish placing bids for the silent auction occurring in the lobby. Just after 9 p.m., in old film fashion, “Please Stand By” flashed on the screen. Red lights filled the stage clustered with seven musicians and dotted with computers projecting the same images as the background. Scantily clad women in harnesses floated above.
Morrison carried his fairly one-sided banter, whether with the crowd or his co-emcee. He made sure each guest was greeted with a warm welcome, often repeating the name of the guest as to ensure proper applause. He was happy to be there. Toward the end of the first set, he said: “People are like, ‘Why do you fucking do this stuff?’… Because I love music.”
Such enthusiasm for the evening was reflected by Slipknot’s Corey Taylor, who appeared for three Adam and the Ants songs. Before “Kings of the Wild Frontier,” Taylor mentioned, “I’m just stoked to be here.” When Morrison joked it was past Taylor’s bedtime, Taylor shot back that at least he knew the album tracklist, as they skipped a song. The same energy could be seen in Mark McGrath, who sang “Don’t Be Square (Be There).” He was highly kinetic on the stage and remained as backing vocals for “Kings of the Wild Frontier,” continuing his grooving at the back of the stage.
The first set closed with “Physical,” which signaled a turn to the silent auction hosted by Dr. Drew and Bob Forrest, former frontman of Thelonious Monster. The auction was a success. Highlights included a Navarro-signed guitar going for $2,500 (after Steve-O balanced it on his chin) and a Lou Reed poster signed by Morrison going for $2,400. Forrest took the time to acknowledge the what the night was about: “Musicians were way ahead of the curve on taking drugs.” Later, Drew elaborated that “what the music community has done for the music community is a model for what America should do for America.” For more evidence, Steve-O added, “If it wasn’t for rehab or sober living, I wouldn’t fucking be here.”
A full drop of the stage-wide curtain indicated the beginning of The Velvet Underground and Nico set. Despite this part of the night being more mellow overall, two silver cube balloons floated among the crowd. Macy Gray kicked things off with “Sunday Morning,” so coolly complimented by her pleasingly raspy voice. Courtney Love followed with “I’m Waiting for the Man.” She only began after acknowledging her dues: “Let’s give it up to MusicCares! They put me through rehab at least once!”
After “Femme Fatale,” also featuring Love, Morrison talked about the album. “This album had some serious female energy,” he said, alluding to Nico. He continued, explaining female energy was especially essential to the next song, Navarro’s favorite. For “Venus Furs,” Siobhan Fahey sang in an appropriately dark, sensual manner.
Jerry Harrison sang the final song on the album, “European Son.” However, Morrison interrupted anyone that was getting ready to walk out the door: “We can’t end a gig with that song.” He decided it would be best to finish with “White Light/ White Heat.” And in the fashion of Rock n Roll Hall of Fame performances, the musicians that had been featured over the course of the night made their way to the stage– there were five guitar players! It seemed to please Morrison, as he lead the way. He jumped on an amp as the song finished out: “I like you guys.”
But it was Navarro with the real last line of the night. As people started to file out, he said, “It’s OK to ask for help.”
Kings of the Wild Frontier
- Dog Eat Dog
- Ant Music
- Feed Me to the Lions (with Billy Idol)
- Los Rancheros (with Franky Perez)
- Ants Invasion (with Corey Taylor)
- Killer in the Home (with Jesse Hughes)
- Kings of the Wild Frontier (with Corey Taylor)
- The Magnificent Five (with Donovan Leitch)
- Don’t Be Square (Be There) (with Mark McGrath)
- Jolly Roger (with Corey Taylor)
- The Human Beings (with Steve Isaacs)
- Press Darlings
- Physical (You’re So) (with Billy Idol)
The Velvet Underground and Nico
- Sunday Morning (with Macy Gray)
- I’m Waiting for the Man (with Courtney Love)
- Femme Fatale (with Courtney Love)
- Venus in Furs (with Siobhan Fahey)
- Run Run Run (with Billy Idol)
- All Tomorrow’s Parties (with Macy Gray)
- Heroin (with Billy Idol)
- There She Goes Again (with Billy Idol)
- I’ll Be Your Mirror (with Lili Haydn)
- Black Angel’s Death Song (with Franky Perez)
- European Son (with Jerry Harrison)
- White Light/ White Heat (with Billy Morrison)