The best performances at the 2018 Grammy Awards, from Kendrick to Kesha

The night was full of powerful and poignant live moments

The Grammys calls itself the biggest night in music, and if we’re judging by the sheer amount of performances they pack into the event, they might be right. The 2018 Grammys tonight (January 28) saw some of the biggest names in pop, hip-hop, R&B, and beyond take to the stage to provide the entertainment between the prizes being dished out. Here are the best performances of the night.

Body Count

Rap icon Ice T and his heavy metal band were one of the first acts to perform, taking to the stage during the pre-telecast ceremony. Their rendition of ‘Black Hoodie’ was the first performance of the night with an unmissable political message, with Ice T crying out “Don’t shoot, don’t shoot!” and naming victims of police brutality including Trayvon Martin, while the Californian metallers riffed out behind him.

Kendrick Lamar & U2

The celebrated rapper is no stranger to hard-hitting, incredible Grammys performances, and this appearance was no different. Joined by an army of soldiers and, later, U2‘s Bono and The Edge, he ran hard through ‘XXX’, ‘DNA’, New Freezer’, and ‘King’s Dead’. “This is a satire by Kendrick Lamar,” read the screen behind them at one point, and comedian Dave Chapelle was on hand to bring some on-point humour into the mix. “I just wanted to remind the audience that the only thing more frightening than watching a black man be honest in America is being an honest black man in America,” he told the audience to huge laughs. Kendrick’s opening performance ended with each of his dancers collapsing to the ground as simulated gunshots rang out one-by-one. As the music stopped, the crowd rose in a standing ovation – and rightly so.

Lady Gaga

After Kendrick’s stunning opener, Gaga took things in a completely different approach. Playing on a piano made to look like angel wings, and accompanied by Mark Ronson on acoustic guitar, her performance of ‘Joanne’ and ‘Million Reasons’ was stripped-back, but no less powerful for it, her voice on the latter track as spine-tingling as ever. During the brief interlude between the two, she also dropped in a Time’s Up shout-out – the initiative is being repped at the ceremony by stars wearing white roses.

Childish Gambino

With the help of his band, Donald Glover made Madison Square Garden feel like a smoky jazz club, delivering a performance of ‘Terrified’ that was stoic, smooth, and incredibly soulful. He might be busy with acting at the moment, but this appearance will have you jonesing for his musical return.

Bruno Mars & Cardi B

‘Finesse’ is a banger, and tonight it sounded even more joyous – largely because of Cardi B‘s storming performance. The emerging heir to the throne of New York hip-hop opened the track with a cool and sassy verse, before later popping up again to intersperse part of her recent own gem ‘Bartier Cardi’ into proceedings, forcing Mars and his dancers back along the stage as she did so. A star is born.

Rihanna & DJ Khaled featuring Bryson Tiller

DJ Khaled kicked off his and his collaborators’ performance by announcing: “They said I’d never perform at the Grammys. They played themselves.” That may be so, but let’s not pretend anyone but Rihanna was the absolute star of this piece. Looking like resort flapper RiRi, the singer brought  killer dance moves, power, and a hint of seething energy to ‘Wild Thoughts’ – all while looking like she was having the best time. An absolute queen.

Kesha, Cyndi Lauper, Camila Cabello, Julia Michaels, Bebe Rexha, and Andra Day

There was no more emotional performance at the 2018 Grammys than Kesha‘s. Introduced by Janelle Monae, the singer was joined by four women from music’s new generation, and one legend to perform ‘Praying’ – a song inspired by her legal battle with Dr. Luke. “I needed this song in a very real way,” she wrote on Twitter before the ceremony, but her performance alone could have told you that if she hadn’t. As the song continued, Kesha’s voice got more powerful, more rageful, like she was exorcising her demons in front of millions. Somebody pass us the tissues.

SZA

The five-time nominee missed out on all of her potential awards, but her performance of ‘Broken Clocks’ was still stunning. Proving why she was given so many nods this year, and became the sleeper hit of last summer, SZA (aka Solana Rowe) was full of strength and supreme cool as she made her debut Grammys performance.

Logic, Alessia Cara & Khalid

The trio’s song about dealing with feeling suicidal (the title is the phone number of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the US) came immediately after the In Memoriam section of the night, which itself ended by remembering Linkin Park‘s Chester Bennington. The song itself wasn’t the most powerful moment of the performance, but Logic’s passionate speech at the end of it, in which he referenced Trump’s “shithole countries” comments about Haiti and Africa and urged for a unified world, while Khalid and Alessia Cara stood strong by his side.