Hey Soul Mates,
Check out your boy. Yes, I did look that damn suave at the Grammys last night. Look, the tickets very clearly said "black tie." What could be less rock and roll than black tie? Not wearing "black tie." Frankly, the hipsters and the club girls just looked silly. Maybe I'm getting sartorially conservative, but you must be clean for the Grammys.
We arrived early in the afternoon. A beautifully mild afternoon in downtown L.A. and not a sign of the predicted rain. I wanted to experience the whole nine, so we got there in time for the "Pre-telecast" ceremony. This is where 97 of the 108 gramophone statuettes are awarded. It was much more entertaining and endearing than the actual broadcast. The winners were genuinely moved, were not limited in their speech time and came in all stripes.
Now, very few of the acts I voted for won. But the day did start off with a bang as OK Go won best short form video for the treadmill hopping video for Here It Goes. One-for-one, but that was about it. I think I pegged about 7 winners. I must tell you at one point I felt absolutely horrible for someone who did not win. Unlike the larger event in the Staples Center, seating at the Convention Center for the pre-show festivities was open, that meant sixth row, just inside the middle aisle. Close to all of the action.
Halfway through, one of my heroes, Stax legend and nominee Sam Moore of Sam & Dave and his coterie, arrived and plunked himself down right across the aisle. I waved to him, gave him a big thumbs up and he smiled heartily and waved back. As his category (best traditional R&B vocal performance) was announced we made eye contact again. Sam beamed as I crossed all fingers. But dammit, George Benson and Al Jarreau won. They play jazz! Anyway, I was so dejected I wanted to cry for Sam. Mr. Moore remained fairly stoic and I was glad for that. I wanted to talk to him afterward as he left once his category was awarded. But I was so upset, I figured I'd stay put. Sam, just know I was feeling you!
Other notable folks in attendance at the pre-game festivities included Weird Al, Ike Turner, Keane, Carrie Underwood, the Chilli Peppers' drummer Chad Smith, Peter Frampton, Keb' Mo, American Idol's Randy Jackson, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Lynn Redgrave, Jonny Lang and Kirk Franklin. A veritable musical who's who. The best acceptance speeches came from Grammy winners Ruby Dee (spoken word album) and comedian/curmudgeon Lewis Black (comedy album). The Hawaiian winners did an impromptu vocal performance with layered harmonies in Hawaiian that brought the house down.
There were several standing O's; for another Stax veteran, Irma Thomas and the most beloved recipient of the evening, Tony Bennett. When he passed us going down the aisle for his Grammy, I was blown away. He's much smaller than I reckoned. But I must respect an artist who at 80 topped the pop album chart! The audience was tickled when he thanked Target for being the best sponsor he ever worked with. Cute and sincere.
I won't say much about the national broadcast, which was fairly pedestrian. You saw it with your own eyes on TV. But "being there" was superb. The Police were amazing to see. Their performance of the now standard Roxanne was quality, if vaguely hesitant. This was a group I thought the world of in their prime and figured I'd never see them in person. They were the highlight and they opened the show.
The audience as a whole, seemed surprised at the Dixie Chicks perfect 5-for-5 evening. And this was the crowd that voted for them. Odd that the boo-birds appeared after the Chicks won the big prize of the evening. I was not and am still not a fan of their music, but their performance on the show was impressive. Needless to say, I was again bummed that the artists I voted for were shut out on TV.
I was anticipating seeing several acts in person for the first time, but no one had what the show's producers like to call "their Grammy moment." Gnarls Barkley did an interestingly bombastic, but ultimately dulling version of their ubiquitous hit Crazy. Smokey Robinson was fine on Tracks of My Tears and I actually enjoyed Christina Aguilera's tribute to James Brown on It's a Man's, Man's World. She was hitting and holding notes that were thrilling. I still think CBS should've opened up the checkbook and given Prince anything he wanted to pay homage to James.
Sadly, too many acts took the opportunity to lull the audience to sleep with ballads or midtempo material. Earth, Wind And Fire were utterly wasted backing up Ludacris and Mary J. Blige. During the commercial breaks, we were treated to highlights of past performances (U2, Usher and James Brown, Eminem and Elton John, Prince and Beyonce, Gorillaz & Madonna), all of which were more exciting than just about anything we saw last night. Plus, several acts seemed to lip-sync, which should be outlawed.
The Grammys would do well to feature more uptempo performances for the audience in attendance and the viewing audience. That and add another 4 or 5 categories to award on the big broadcast. It felt like the same 5 or 6 nominees were up in each category with little variation. In years past, they've televised Producer of the Year, best video, best rock performance by a group, etc. Those could provide some colorful acceptances and fresh faces to say the least.
Trivial notes: I've now seen both Al Gore and Bill Clinton at Staples Center. Will Ferrell (not in attendance) and Chad Smith were separated at birth. Oh, and the presenters weren't always announced before they took the stage. So how did I know it was Scarlett Johannsen with Don Henley at the end of the night? No other legit female celebrity has that top half and I said as much out loud.
The whole experience was inspirational. Seeing all of the winners and being among peers all day long got me psyched for our sessions this coming weekend. 2008 I'm determined to be there, on the list of nominees who's awards are televised. Watch me! Watch us!
Thanks for reading. Have a great week and a Happy Valentine's Day.
Love, Power, Peace