What do Lewis Black and Prince have in common? If you said "nothing," then you weren't at the 21st annual Pollstar Concert Industry Awards Feb. 17 at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live to see the comedian and four-time CIA host pull off the biggest surprise appearance since the Purple One graced the awards show stage in 2004.
Well, maybe the second-biggest - if you count the arrival of the baby T-Rex from "Walking With Dinosaurs," which tried to take a bite out of presenter Shelly Berman on stage and later uproariously mingled with guests at the awards after-party.
It was that kind of night.
The show kicked off with the sound of marching band music coming from the rear of the house as the drums and horns of Here Come The Mummies made their way down the aisles to the stage for a raucous performance. They were followed by illusionist Mike Super who, in addition to getting off some of the funniest lines of the night, pulled road warrior extraordinaire Jake Berry from the crowd for a little "voodoo magic."
Black's visage soon appeared on the house video screens to introduce first-time host Kathleen Madigan, who won raves from the audience of what Black fondly called "you pricks" - and one of the toughest in the biz. And the show was in full swing.
Award winners ran the gamut from the expected to the surprised, with U2 winning the hardware for Major Tour of the Year and Creative Stage Production, and first-time winners John Valentino of AEG Live (Talent Buyer of the Year) and Rena Wasserman of Nederlander Concerts (Facility Executive of the Year).
Both gave heartfelt speeches, with Valentino giving a nod to his mentor, the late Jon Stoll, and Wasserman thanking Bill Graham, Gregg Perloff and her sister, Sherry Wasserman. There was still plenty of fun to come. Berman was nearly upstaged when the curtain behind him raised to reveal the rambunctious reptile.
The giant puppet, operated by an actor inside the larger-than-life-sized costume, nearly knocked Berman off his feet before ambling back behind the curtain. Baby Rex returned later to wreak havoc and, to the chagrin of bartenders, open a few beer taps in the lobby after the show.
But the show is for the winners, and plenty of happy people left with not just trophies but the acclaim of their peers. The full list can be found by clicking here.
Among the many highlights were High Road Touring's Frank Riley giving perhaps the shortest speech in the awards' history with a simple "Thank you" for Boutique Booking Agency of the Year. Brian Hill really did win Third Coast Booking Agent of the Year, no matter what the trophy said. An emotional Hill thanked his family and colleagues at Paradigm for an exceptional year. CAA also had another great performance, again winning Booking Agency of the Year, and music chief Rob Light also accepted the award for U.K. Booking Agent of the Year on behalf of Emma Banks, whom he said was "off on her first ski trip."
Andy Mendelsohn received his award for Personal Manager of the Year from client Nathan Followill of Kings of Leon, which also won the hardware for Best New Touring Artist. In one of the most amusing acceptance speeches, Followill thanked RCA Records and "the fuckin' dinosaur backstage that scared the shit out of me."
But that dinosaur probably didn't do half the damage that Black did, emerging from the curtains and letting loose with a thunderous cascade of invective for those who thought it was safe to head for the after-party bars.
The Pollstar Awards favorite paid homage to the hilarious Madigan, saying anyone who still wasn't trying to book her after the evening's star turn was "fuckin' stupid!" And that was no surprise at all.