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Bruno Mars brings out ‘Babyface’ in Power of Love spectacle

Updated October 17, 2021 - 6:52 pm

Bruno and Babyface. Now that would be a wild residency on the Strip.

We settled for Bruno Mars introducing Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds at the 25th Keep Memory Alive Power of Love gala Saturday night at Resorts World Las Vegas.

Mars came out to a standing ovation, futilely asking the crowd, “Sit down! Sit down! Please!”

Bruno intro

On a night that summoned songwriters, Mars recalled Edmonds telling him he’d originally written “Every Time I Close My Eyes” for Luther Vandross.

Mars was stunned.

“I said, ‘You did what?’ I am a songwriter, and I understand how hard it is to come up with these chords and make something that’s magical, and I couldn’t believe he would give it away,” said Mars, who has worked with Edmonds intermittently over the past five years. “I promise y’all, if I wrote that song, you would see me going down the street (singing), ‘And every time I close my eyes.’”

Edmonds recorded the song himself and it became an R&B classic. Mars asked Edmonds, “Aren’t you happy it turned out the way it did, and Luther didn’t recorded and you did?”

Edmonds said, “No, you know what, if it was Luther Vandross’s song, would have been a classic for him, because I’m a songwriter first. That hit me so hard. That’s what he does with his music, he’s so selfless.”

Bruno Tweet

Edmonds performed, “Change The World,” which Edmonds produced. The backing vocalist were a veritable roster of all-stars: Demi Lovato, AJ McLean of Backstreet Boys, Shawn Stockman and Wanya Morris of Boyz II Men. As someone said, a gala was held and the Grammy awards show broke out.

A legendary message

Smokey Robinson stepped into the spotlight to close the night, speaking warmly and in modest tones. He’s one superstar who remains down to earth.

“I cannot even begin to express how humbled I am to receive this award,” Robinson said from the stage, upon being introduced by “Blackish” actor Anthony Anderson.

Moments later, Robinson added, “I don’t do what I do to get awards. I do it for the love of it.”

There’s that word again, “love,” which spread through the tented palace designed specifically for the event at Resorts World. Robinson, Edmonds and Genting Group CEO K.T. Lim,whose company owns the hotel, were all honored as the event returned to full capacity for the first time since its event at MGM Grand Garden in March 2020.

About 1,200 guests turned out in a venue that had been “Ruvo-Fied,” for the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health co-founders Larry and Camille Ruvo. White drapes, multicolored lights, LED screens and regal chandeliers filled the venue, which is intended to be a permanent facility.

Before singing, Robinson spoke from the heart, embracing the Ruvo Center’s battle against such neurocognitive diseases as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, multiple system atrophy and multiple sclerosis. He said that medical hardship is universal.

Alzheimer’s and dementia affected Robinson’s own life, and his original band, The Miracles. The 81-year-old (remarkably) Robinson recalled his lifelong friend, Bobby Rogers, from that band. The two were born on the same day (Feb. 19, 1940) in the same hospital in Detroit. The two met at age 14, and grew as professional singers, partners in the Miracles for a dozen years.

In 2013, the year Rogers died, Robinson called Rogers, keeping with the tradition.

“He had no idea who I was,” Robinson told the audience. “He knew nothing about me. Who I was, why I was talking to him. … It was a hurting feeling, to think this had happened to him, after being so close all of our lives. But his wife, Joan, got on the phone after and said, ‘Don’t feel bad about this, because I live with him, and he doesn’t know who I am.”

Robinson’s words brought the message home. He also sang in the voice that has somehow defied time, performing “Being With You,” and “Tracks of My Tears.” His friend Charlie Wilson, formerly of the great funk/R&B band the Gap Band, joined for, “All My Love.”

The show culminated with the night’s lineup of Wilson, Lovato, Tori Kelly, Jordin Sparks, Morris and Stockman, Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. and Kenny Loggins all singing “Get Ready.” Keyboard great Greg Phillinganes navigated the performance and gala to its close, the requisite storm of red-paper hearts. After a 19-month pause, the event showed it still delivers the power.

Around the room

Larry Ruvo repeatedly thanked Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis and Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley for their support. Both were in attendance. So was Gov. Steve Sisolak and, just a few tables away Sheriff Joe Lombardo, seeking to unseat Sisolak while campaigning as a Republican. Sen. Jacky Rosen was also among the elected officials on hand.

Davis allowed he’d had a rough week, with the Raiders losing at home to the Bears, the Aces eliminated from the WNBA playoffs and coach Jon Gruden forced to step down. And this was just as “SNL” was toasting Davis and the team at about the time the gala was closing. But count on Davis to show his resiliency, and he enjoys full support of Las Vegas’ power brokers.

Angie made the show

Larry Ruvo’s 97-year-old mother, Angie, was seated with Lorraine Hunt-Bono and Dennis Bono. Angie Ruvo is Lorraine’s aunt, the late Mama Maria Perry’s younger sister. Amazing to see her again.

Cool Hang Alert

Charter members of the Cool Hang Hall of Fame, Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns are back at Copa Room at Bootlegger Bistro at 7:30 p.m. Mondays. There is no better band or hang than this Vegas institution and hey, you might run into some of Lady Gaga’s band members this week. Hit up the club for specifics.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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