LOS ANGELES — The Foo Fighters captured five Grammys and Adele won four, including the song of the year trophy for "Rolling in the Deep," at a Grammy ceremony that had the difficult task of celebrating music's best while mourning the loss of one of its greatest, Whitney Houston.
Houston's death on the eve of the awards forced a delicate balance between the exuberance of the show's winners and the impact of the loss.
Adele, who owned the year's best-selling album with "21," was triumphant in her first performance since vocal cord surgery forced the cancellation of a tour and months of vocal rest. As the world wondered whether her voice would still soar, she answered with her performance of her hit "Rolling in the Deep," and received a rousing standing ovation from the crowd.
The song also won her one of the night's most prestigious awards, song of the year, as well as one for best pop solo performance.
"I can't believe I'm getting emotional already," she said after picking up the latter award. "And seeing as it's a vocal performance, I need to thank my doctors, I suppose, who brought my voice back."
Adele's CD "21" also won best pop vocal album. The night's other big winners, the Foo Fighters, noted that they made their album "Wasting Light" in a garage.
Among the evening's performances was a dance-heavy number by Chris Brown, performances by Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen, who kicked off the show by performing his new song, "We Take Care of Our Own."
But soon after the show opened, a somber LL Cool J, the show's host, appeared in black and told the audience: "There is no way around this. We've had a death in our family."
He then led the audience in prayer to "our fallen sister," Whitney Houston.
"Heavenly father, we thank you for sharing our sister Whitney with us," he said. "Though she is gone too soon, we remain truly blessed to have been touched by her beautiful spirit."
He introduced a clip of a glowing Houston singing one of her best-known songs, "I Will Always Love You."
A tribute to Houston featuring Jennifer Hudson was to take place during the main ceremony.
Houston died on the eve of the Grammys at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, where she was preparing to attend a pre-Grammy party.
Still, while Houston's death cast a shadow over the night's winners, it did not obscure them. Among them was Brown, who was performing on the stage for the first time since he dropped out of 2009's broadcast; his attack on Rihanna the night before led to both their absences and an assault charge for Brown.
But 2011 marked a comeback for Brown, and he was rewarded with two planned performances during the show. It was the first time he and Rihanna performed at the same event since the attack (she sang solo and with Coldplay during the ceremony). Brown also won best R&B album.
"First and foremost, I gotta thank God, and thank the Grammys for letting me get on this stage and do my thing," he said. "All my fans, I love you. We got one. Thank you."
The Grammys did their best to keep a tone that balanced the many moods of the night. The Foo Fighters performed in a tent outside the Staples Center, where the awards were being held, amid a throng of bouncing fans. Moments earlier, Alicia Keys and Bonnie Raitt paid tribute to Etta James, the legend who died last month.
Glen Campbell, who announced his retirement last year after disclosing he had Alzheimer's disease, also performed with The Band Perry and Blake Shelton.