We left off with the Dixie Chicks winning Best Country Album – a fine and rootsy choice. The Recording Academy was much less frivolous in its voting this time around, perhaps reflecting the precarious and volatile state of the industry: “We’d better get this ‘quality’ thing down right this time to prove we have a handle on something. Let’s see, who really deserves it this time?”
Next we saw an odd medley of members of the NY Philharmonic doing a mambo from West Side Story, then backing Coldplay in what could have been the evening’s biggest disaster: pretentious English knobs, backed by the full force of establishment orchestral pomposity on a very long mini-symphony with eccentric spelling: “Politik.” But instead it worked. Singer/pianist Chris Martin’s naked, plaintive voice wove the elements together beautifully, for some reason sending me all the way back to Procol Harum’s Edmonton Symphony Orchestra album from 30 years ago, which bizarrely seems to be out of print. That one is ripe for the digital remastering, kitchen sink “enhanced” approach. Get on it Universal.
So anyway – Coldplay-con-orchestra was riveting, although I became concerned that the drummer’s maniacal pounding of his cymbal would send the disc into a lethal flight, decapitating orchestra conductor Michael Kamen. Now THAT would have been reality TV.
Then there was the spectacle of Harvey Fierstein in flamboyant drag from his Broadway role in Hairspray – I can only assume he is playing the Divine character – who made quite a threesome with Rod Stewart and Robin Williams (Best Comedy Album) as they staggered off the stage, leaning on each other like a trio of particularly colorful middle-aged drunks.
I want to like Avril Lavigne: she rocks, she writes her own songs, she is 18, she has attitude, her band is good. But she was very blah performing “Sk8er Boi,” a song with no particular melody or hook, and her voice was undistinguished. It’s not that she sucks or anything, and she IS only 18, but I was not impressed. How’s that for my Simon Cowell impression?
It seems pretty clear that CBS laid on the “ixnay on the olitics-pay” because there were only a few fleeting references to the war. The most obvious was when little dufus Fred Durst made this statement: “I think we are all in agreeance that this war should go away as soon as possible.”
First, Fred: way to dress up for the show. Aren’t you a little old for the slacker/skake punk look at a formal awards show? Come on Fred, you’re part of the industry, holding an A&R position with Interscope and dating Britney Spears and all. Splurge a little, buy a shirt with buttons or something.
Second: “agreeance” is not a word. You sound like a dipshit. And, asking the war to “go away as soon as possible” is vague. Does that mean you want it to start, and for us to win as soon as possible? Or, more likely, does it mean that you would like to be able to go back to playing ostrich and not have to think about living in a world where a large number of people want nothing more than your destruction and are willing to die themselves in the process, caring very little for life in any of its manifestations? That’s what I thought.
No wonder the industry is in such disarray: giving mush-brained puds like Fred Durst positions of authority. “Whoa – look at those tattoos: that guy must have tons of fierce integrity, let’s hire him.”
Robin Williams, amped about his Grammy win or back on the cocaine, then gave a ripsnorting intro for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Wife Patti looked fine, a rock ‘n’ roll chick in a real rock ‘n’ roll band – the finest in the land – although my wife Dawn doesn’t get what Bruce sees in her.
Bruce doesn’t want some movie star – he wore that suit and it didn’t fit – he wants someone who understands him and has an appreciation for the New Jersey working class Joe who became one of the biggest stars in rock history, but never really gave up his roots kind of vibe. Patti is Wendy in “Born to Run,” the single mother in “I Want to Marry You,” Mary of “Thunder Road.” She’s a lusty wench with a gleam in her eye and a guitar in her hands, a rockin’ redhead he can trust and make a real home with, even on the road, because Bruce’s road goes on forever.
The band blew through “The Rising,” making it sound at home in the Bruce canon, something not many new songs have done in the last 15 years. Bruce struck his rock ‘n’ roll stance: boots firmly planted shoulder-width apart, leaning slightly back. A stance of maximum power and stability for either karate or music. A stance that says “this is serious but nothing could be more fun,” with his lifelong friends and family up there with him, each a vital cog in the E Street machine, each feeling the weight of rock history upon them but loving every second of it. There is nothing like the Boss and the Band – the majesty of their command can’t really come through in one song but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
Speaking of wanting to like something: ‘N Sync then performed an a capella tribute to 2003 Legend Award winners the Bee Gees, the emotional context of which greatly heightened by brother Maurice’s recent untimely and unexpected death. ‘N Sync tried very hard and sang with something approaching reverence, but their pop-R&B style was ill-suited to the brothers Gibb’s sparkling, shimmering anglo-Australian harmonies. The sad truth is that ‘N Sync just isn’t that good.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when Maurice’s timid, grateful son came up to accept the award in his father’s stead, with widow and daughter weeping in the front row. The world now knows – if it didn’t before – that this man is loved and missed terribly by those who knew him best.
By then I was in bed, watching the rest of the show on a tiny TV on the other side of the room, drifting in and out of consciousness. I thought I saw Aretha Franklin and her twin inside a single outfit, connected at the hip to Bonnie Raitt, who said something about “building peace.” Well, yeah, after the war, honey.
I was really almost gone to the Land of Nod when all of a sudden I heard what sounded like the Clash….. THE CLASH? I sat up and snapped to attention: it was Elvis Costello, Bruce Springsteen, Dave Grohl, and Little Steven, lined up, armed with guitars, tearing through “London Calling” with all their collected might, sucking in all the air their lungs could hold to spit out the enigmatic words of impending disaster in glorious tribute to the Clash, the late Joe Strummer, and themselves. It was magic, then I fell asleep and dreamed beautiful rock ‘n’ roll dreams where no one dies or grows old and the energy never fades….
My own sweet rock ‘n’ roll redhead covers a lot of Grammy ground I somehow missed.