The invitation read "creative black tie" but the dress code was so informal that rapper Nelly wasn't even wearing his customary Band-Aid.
Tuesday's ASCAP Pop Music Awards ceremony, honoring Elvis Costello and the performing rights organization's most-played songs of 2002, drew a crowd of record executives, entertainment lawyers, song publishers, ASCAP staffers and a smattering of familiar faces to the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Earlier, the amiable Costello and his fiancee, jazz singer Diana Krall, stood near the poolside buffet chatting to all comers.
Along with Costello, who sang "Almost Blue," "Alison" and a ballad from his forthcoming record, performers included Woodland Hills soul great Solomon Burke, delivering Costello's "The Judgment," and Linda Perry, who penned Pink's "Get the Party Started," singing alone at the piano.
Costello, 48, was called to the podium to receive the ASCAP Founders Award by Burt Bacharach, with whom Costello once collaborated. The British singer and composer drew applause during comments that defended performers who spoke out during the war in Iraq.
"We all live in fairly dangerous times in terms of freedom of speech and freedom of expression," Costello said. "A lot of the songwriters that I've admired and learned from are people who spoke in matters of conscience as well as matters of the heart. I think it's essential that we defend that right."
At the 20th annual event, ASCAP (the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) named Puddle of Mudd's "Blurry" its song of the year. Nelly ("Hot in Herre") and Seven ("Always on Time") received plaques for songwriters of the year. Stevie Wonder and Rick James were also in the crowd.