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Gibson Through the Lens Reception with Stevie Wonder @ The Sunset Marquis 07/30/08

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This post is written in three parts: Event reporting and photography by Elise Thompson; Photography exhibit review by Bob Thompson and concert review by Sarah Ardalani. Let's hear it for teamwork!

When people dream about glamorous Hollywood parties, they must imagine something like Gibson's event at the Sunset Marquis Hotel and Villas on Wednesday night. To celebrate a major expansion and upgrade, The Sunset Marquis is hosting a photography exhibit, "Through the Lens", a collection of 70 iconic rock photographs of guitarists with their Gibson guitars. It is the first time this collection is being shown in the United States.

The opening reception for the photography exhibit was as swanky as it gets, and as exclusive. There may not be a more beautiful venue in LA with lush outdoor gardens, shaded patios, and a beautiful pool area. The hotel decor was enhanced by the framed glossy photographs that seemed to be hung in just about every available corner.

The guest list was exciting and varied, with rock musicians rubbing shoulders with Hollywood stars and some of the best photographers in the business. Really, where else are you going to see Klaus Meine of the Scorpions bear-hugging Justine Bateman while Sweet looks on from the veranda? Featured photographer Neil Preston and director Cameron Crowe were hanging out together most of the night -- maybe they are pals from the old Rolling Stones days. Other guests included Shayne Lamas (The Bachelor was not spotted), club promoter Ivan Kane, actor James Denton, photographer Robert Knight (who is supercoool) and an assortment ranging from perfectly coiffed Hollywood wives to the leather-clad rockers of The Black Label Society.

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The evening started out with DJ Rawdon spinning while guests enjoyed the champagne bar and passed hors d'ouvres (satays and a variety of boldly flavored "doots" heavy on the caviar, foie gras and gherkins). On the upper terrace a wine bar and elegant tables of artisinal cheeses and appetizers were laid out. Along with an open bar and the cool night breeze, it was a beautiful night for the beautiful people (Elise Thompson)

The photos themselves are tremendous, many of them iconic images that have peered down from many a bedroom wall for the last thirty years -- David Bowie grinning madly in a ruffled top with a Les Paul; Pete Townshend wearing a jacket lined with actual light bulbs; Jimmy Page and his doubleneck, bathed in the smoke of hell - while other photographs appear to have been taken specifically for this exhibit. Most of the musicans pictured have been identified with their chosen Gibson model for life, such as Angus Young and Tony Iommi with their ever-present SGs, although the occasional "Strat guy" like Jimi Hendrix could be spotted moonlighting for the cause. It's pretty much all of the famous stars you'd expect to see in a Rolling Stone gallery of famous guitarists, with the younger generation represented by Billie Joe Armstrong, Dave Grohl, and Jack White exclusively. Some of the original artists such as Robert Knight and Neal Preston were in attendance, and couldn't resist snapping candids of each other all night. (Bob Thompson)

Even though the drinks and food were free flowing and the displayed photographs beautiful, the main reason attendees showed up to the event was to see special performances by Jeff Beck of the Yardbirds and the legendary Stevie Wonder.

Off to a late start, the concert didn't begin until 9 PM with a small show by the Skeleton Crew (yeah, we don't know who they are either.) The music played could be described as very easy-going and new-agey. Although nice, guests were ready to get their faces rocked.

After the Skeleton Crew came a special performance by John Oates of Hall & Oates fame. He mostly played music from his new album, but graced guests with one Hall & Oates song, an acoustic version of "She's Gone." At the end of his set, he brought on Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top to sing along on a song from his upcoming album, 1000 Miles of Life.

Finally, after Mr. Oates, the amazing Stevie Wonder came on stage to accept a check that Gibson donated to his charity foundation, The Wonder Foundation, which provides funds to Hurricane Katrina victims. Following the acceptance, Stevie took his place at the piano and began to magicly woo every person in site. He started off with "Overjoyed" which proceeded to melt every one's heart. Stevie played one more song, and then teased viewers with a snippet "Superstition" as he swiftly left the stage.

After Mr. Wonder's performance, it was already 10 PM, the estimated "end" of the event and there was no Jeff Beck in site. Because of this, most attendees left the Sunset Marquis hotel and proceeded to retrieve their cars from the valet. Even though it would have been great to hear some serious rock 'n roll, how can one follow good ol' Stevie? Oh right, you can't. (Sarah Ardalani)

The photo exhibition will be open to the public August 1-24th.