Christmas came early for "Voice" fans, not to mention for Muppets fans, on October 10, when "Voice" coach Cee Lo Green taped his "Cee Lo & Friends" holiday special at Las Vegas's Planet Hollywood resort and brought out some very special friends indeed. In fact, it was practically a Christmas miracle when a whopping 20 Team Cee Lo contestants, along with the legendary and beloved Muppets, joined Cee Lo onstage for a massive group singalong of "All I Need Is Love," an original track from his forthcoming Christmas album, Cee Lo Green's Magic Moment.
photo courtesy of Erik Kabik / www.erikkabik.comAnd let me tell you, I can't imagine a more magic moment than seeing all my favorite Red Zoners (Cee Lo's current 14 team members from "The Voice" Season 3, plus six illustrious alums from seasons past) getting festive with Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Fozzie, Animal...and even those crotchety Muppet hecklers Statler & Waldorf, who were stationed in their own balcony inside Planet Hollywood's Showroom theater, grumpily quipping that "Christmas has hit a new Lo."
Nakia with Fozzie (photo: nakia.net)"Are there any true 'Voice' fans in the audience tonight?" Cee Lo asked at the start of the show, while dressed in a lacquer-shiny, Britney-worthy red vinyl Santa suit that he jokingly claimed he'd purchased at a Vegas S&M store. Revelers cheered in response. "It's the best variety show on TV. Numbers don't lie!" he bragged. Cee Lo then added, "I really wanted to show my commitment [to my 'Voice' contestants]. I really love those guys and what's happening with us. That's what Christmas is all about."
True to his word, Cee Lo gave several of his past "Voice" cronies a chance to shine on this not-so-silent night. First Season 2's Jamar Rogers and James Massone joined him for a rousingly soulful version of "This Christmas," followed by their Season 2 castmate Tony Vincent--a veteran of the musicals American Idiot and We Will Rock You--who fully tapped into his theatrical experience for a wonderfully campy "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch," augmented by rave-style laserbeams and a Phantom-masked live DJ.
Niki Dawson, James Massone, Tony Vincent, Cee Lo Green, and Vicci Martinez in Vegas (photo: Twitter)Representing Season 1 were original Red Zoners Nakia, who joined Cee Lo for an upbeat but bluesy take on "Run Run Rudolph" while looking notably slimmer and cleaner-cut, and then finalist Vicci Martinez, who reunited with her Season 1 Battle Rounds opponent Niki Dawson. Vicci and Niki's Battle Rounds duet of Pink's "Perfect" is still hailed as one of "The Voice's" most phenomenal battles ever, and together again in Vegas, Vicci and Niki were perfectly matched on their "Cee Lo & Friends" performance of Joni Mitchell's "River." It was, well, pretty much perfect.
The spirit-of-Christmas camaraderie between all of "The Voice" alums was definitely a cheerful sight, especially considering that many of these contestants from different seasons had never even met before. Nakia and Tony in particular seemed to have become fast friends, clad in matching red holiday-wear and joking and socializing with fans before the show:
In addition to the "Voice" and Muppet cameos, world-class crooner Rod Stewart dueted with Cee Lo on "Merry Christmas Baby," and soul star Eric Benet was a surprise guest on "Silent Night." And at the end of the revue, the entire "Voice" cast, along with a few scantily-feathered showgirls, hit the stage again for a finale of Cee Lo's not-exactly-Christmassy "F*** You." But it was the censored version, of course, and really, "Cee Lo & Friends" was a surprisingly tame and traditional affair, heavy on perennial-favorite carols and brimming with tidings of comfort and joy. Cee Lo's above-mentioned "S&M store" comment was really the only PG-13 eyebrow-raiser of the night, so rest assured that when the full "Cee Lo & Friends" special airs on television later, it'll be suitable viewing for the entire family--just as "The Muppets" and "The Voice" have always been.
Vicci & Cee Lo at Planet Hollywood (photo: Instagram)"Cee Lo & Friends" wasn't just a teaser of Cee Lo's "Loberace" 2013 Vegas residency at Planet Hollywood (which will kick off February 27, while Cee Lo is on hiatus from "The Voice") or of the Magic Moment album, which comes out October 30. It was also a fundraiser for the charity Keep Memory Alive, which benefits the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center For Brain Health. The concert special will premiere November 30 on the TV Guide network and on the Warner Sound's YouTube channel, with portions of the show airing on "The Voice" as well. It'll be the musical gift that keeps on giving!
Here is the setlist from "Cee Lo & Friends":
"Santa Claus Is Coming To Town"
"This Christmas" (with Jamar Rogers & James Massone)
"What Christmas Means To Me"
"The Christmas Song" (dedicated to audience members Kermit & Miss Piggy, who were celebrating their anniversary)
"You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch" (with Tony Vincent)
"Run Run Rudolph" (with Nakia)
"Merry Christmas Baby" (with Rod Stewart)
"River" (with Vicci Martinez & Niki Dawson)
"Mary, Did You Know?"
"Silent Night" (with Eric Benet)
"All I Need Is Love" (with The Muppets & "Voice" contestants)
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- A look at "The Voice" Season 3's Team Cee Lo
- More Erik Kabik concert photography