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Performances at the Grammys

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I came late to the Grammies (given a choice, I’ll take the Simpsons over much anything else that’s on TV), so I’m picking up about a half hour into the show. Apparently I missed Prince, Dave Matthews and several others.

As an overall observation, the backdrops for the performances were well done. If only the same could be said for the technical issues. For a show all about music, you would think they’d have the sound rock solid. Such was not the case, though.

The White Stripes — I’ve never been all that big a fan of their work; going for them is a raw intensity, going against them is a raw intensity. They did a medley of some of their tunes, with pretty good results.
Martina McBride — I think I’ve caught snippets of this song on the radio from time to time. The arrangement of the performance tonight seemed to be more stripped down in general, but also with a full string section swelling during the middle section of the tune.
Alicia Keys — Alicia was introduced by Patti LaBelle, and she played well, with the exception of a little diva-esque oversinging. To be honest, I didn’t recognize the tune (it was a Luther Vandross song), but it came off well
Celine Dion — You know, if it wasn’t for me wanting to be complete, I would have turned the TV off. I’d rather listen to two dogs humping than Celine. So, imagine my sheer delight when the CBS audio feed completely dropped out during the opening of the tune (replaced by several audio techs struggling to get the backup online). Unfortunately, they fixed the problem. Richard Marx accompanied Celine (so glad to see that he is getting work). Luther’s song was very touching; even Celine couldn’t kill it (I wonder how much of a threat they had to issue to keep her from doing his trademark over the top singing shtick). For what it’s worth, here’s to hoping that next time it’s Luther who belts it out.
Sting and Sean Paul — These two did the Police standard Roxanne. If I didn’t know any better, I think that Sting was using the original Fender jazz bass that he used for that album. Sean Paul came out and added a heavy dancehall aspect to the song. Since the Police pretty much always had a heavy reggae feel to their music, this fusion worked.

Justin Timberlake — To me, it seems like a bad thing when the singer has to ask people to get into the music. Also, given that Timberlake’s primary asset seems to be his dancing, why would he choose to spend his one shot at this audience sitting behind an electric piano? Anturo Sandoval sat in for a bit of the song, doing a trading licks thing with Timberlake. It’s just me, but I would have so much rather listened to Sandoval for an entire song than Justin’s, um, crooning.
Black Eyed Peas — I caught these guys performing on SNL a while back. This was a better show. Perhaps having more real estate in which to move around let them be more active on stage.
Beyonce — The stage show was, um, unusual. Again, her forte in the past has been dancing and very high energy dance music. So she decides to go with a slow, showy, way over the top song? Even if it’s the title track of the album, I think there would have been better choices.
Earth, Wind & Fire, Outkast, Robert Randolph, George Clinton and Funkadelic — I’ve always loved EW&F. This performance was Shining Star, and they did a bang up job; great energy. Phillip Bailey probably was ragging out his voice just a bit on the higher end. Outkast did their hit tune I Like The Way, and EW&F jumped in harmony. Robert Randolph turned a country instrument (pedal steel guitar) into a funky explosion of gospel tinged passion. As much as I love Clinton and Funkadelic, they sounded ragged out and tired on Tear The Roof Off. It was good to see Bootsy having fun, though. And, if they ever do this again, please someone muzzle Samuel Jackson.
Foo Fighters with Chick Corea — This was a match that I would have neither thought of nor made. Corea’s laconic style and the Foo Fighters’ aggression would have seemed to naturally clash. But what do I know. The result started as a very laid back version of the Foo Fighters’ song Times Like These. After the first verse and chorus, the song reverted to the more normal Foo Fighters version. Unfortunately, that left Chick Corea trying to fit in his playing to their tune. And it was not a good marriage.
Sarah McLachlan — McLachlan performed well. I have a soft spot for her and have liked her work for the better part of a decade, so I’m a little biased. Allison Krauss sat in on violin. I’m not real sure as to why; the intrepid Grammy sound engineers struck again and Krauss could not be heard when she played. And could just barely be heard when she sang.
Outkast — Outkast came back to perform their other tune, Hey Ya!. This rendition seemed particularly soulless and empty, though. Even adding the marching band towards the end of the performance only highlighted how little there was actually going on. I have no idea what was going on with the whole Native American theme, though.

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About Casper

  • Robert Randolph and the Family Band stunned me. I have both of their CDs so I know how good they are, but tonight they just smoked. Hopefully, they made some new fans.

  • I had never heard of Robert Randolph before tonight, but I fully intend to check them out soon….

  • Jonathan

    I despised sting and sean paul toghether. It sucked a big one.

  • casper, check out the Randolph reviews here on blogcritics. i did one and The Theory did another.

    i loved the cd but hoooeee!, they totally smoked on the grammys last night.

  • I thought Sarah McLachlan’s performance was one of the better ones on the show. Most of them seemed pretty lackluster, and I figured she’d suffer the same fate, but I was pleasantly surprised. She looked incredible, too . . . sexy and classy – something very rare to see at these award shows.

  • i wouldn’t call prince & beyonce lackluster…that was a blast (unless you don’t happen to like prince, i guess)

    sarah m’s performance was good but was marred by the crazy soundmix: electric guitar louder than allison krauss’s violin…just plain stupid.

  • See, I didn’t get anything out of the Prince/Beyonce thing. I expected fire, excitement, and power, and I didn’t hear it. But I also didn’t hear it in most other performances, either. Maybe everyone was worried that if they showed any signs of life Prince might approach them with his Watchtower pamphl-ozines.

    While I agree that Krauss’s violin was nearly non-existent, the song sounded remarkably like it does on the album. Why Krauss was needed on there, I don’t know, and it’s too bad they didn’t offer her some volume so we could find out why . . .

  • Eric Olsen

    The P-Funk, EW&F, Randolph, Outkast merging was inspired.

  • duane

    It had potential. Randolph and company kicked ass. But it wasn’t funky. EWF was actually funky, except for the chorus of “Shinng Star.” Nice job by EWF. P-Funk, who should be funky, came off as looking like they should have rehearsed at least once. Having several hundred people on stage, including a violinist, does not funk make. Outkast was decidedly not funky. I expected something funky, given Samuel Jackson’s longwinded peptalk about funk. I’m left wondering if any of these people really know what funk is. Even the Chili Peppers can funk it up better than these guys did. I wonder if Tower of Power is still working.

  • As a matter of fact, Tower of Power is still working. And touring for that matter….

  • duane

    Bump city at bumpcity. Thanks, Casper.

  • mofo erectus

    A bit late to comment maybee but I’d say having several hundred people on stage freaking out IS pretty damn funky pals. This performance of the P wasn’t outstanding maybe, but a two minute slot on TV fluff like the Grammys isn’t a major outlet for the P Funk thang. In their four hour plus concerts the Funk Mob can still smoke the competition with what they do. An wait till you see Lili Haydn’s violinplay at a P Funk concert before you write it off. There is NOTHING that Funk can not render … Funkable!

  • mofo erectus

    Nice to know Tower Of Power are still kicking their thing tho…