Adele walked away with serious hardware and plenty of industry love at the 54th annual Grammy Awards. The Boss and the E Street Band (sadly minus “The Big Man”, RIP Clarence) kick off the show with a sober but spirited “We Take Care of Our Own”. Host, LL Cool J speaks to the assembled and begins the ceremony with a short prayer in honor of Whitney Houston, who passed away suddenly the night before the awards.
A very brief snippet of Houston performing “I Will Always Love You” is all the video tribute we get and the show lurches a bit at the start before Bruno Mars rocks the stage with “Runaway Baby” and a Whitney shout-out within. With barely 12 hours since Houston died, it’s understandable if the Grammy’s were caught short in getting a proper tribute ready.
Man on the Street, Jack Black, mumbled something about the Foo Fighters maintaining their “indie cred” coming out of commercial. I think that’s a bit of a stretch. If you’re a surviving member of Nirvana, you are indie cred and aren’t maintaining anything. What kind of cred does Jack Black give the Grammy’s anyway? This might explain why Black was relegated to the streets outside of Staples Center instead of inside with the talent.
The Beach Boys tribute with Maroon 5 and Foster The People was…meh. Until the surviving Beach Boys (Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine and Bruce Johnston) join them and pretty much blow the kids off the stage. If M5 and FTP sound this good in their late 30′s they should feel lucky. Chances they are this good in their 60′s? Not high. After so many years hidden away, it’s always cool to see Brian Wilson performing and happy to be there.
Neil Patrick Harris plays it straight announcing the Song of the Year award. When Adele wins, I love that she comes to the stage cackling and chewing gum. The girl can’t be more real. Katy Perry by contrast emerges from the stage and performs a new song, “Part of Me” looking like a cosplay girl who wandered away from the Con. I had to Google the song title because Perry’s singing could not engage my ears or feelings in any significant way.
Stevie Wonder introduces Sir Paul “I’m Getting Married Again Even Though The Last One Cost Me More Than $50 Million But It’s OK Because I’m Richer Than God” McCartney. He performed “My Valentine”, which he wrote for the newest Mrs. McCartney with Diana Krall and Joe Walsh backing up on the piano and guitar. It’s a simple standard, befitting McCartney’s vintage, lovingly played and sung.
The Civil Wars take the stage next and take a moment to appreciate the promising boy from Liverpool for opening for them. They rip through their hit “Barton Hollow” before introducing Taylor Swift. Looking wholesomely sexy playing a banjo, Ms. Swift bangs out “Mean” with a light but direct tone. It’s a bouncy tune but the lyrics are a beatdown of the highest order. Not many artists can pull that off. And Cameraman? The girl is almost 6 feet tall. Why can’t we find an angle that doesn’t block the angelic face of Ms. Swift with the big honkin’ microphone?
You could almost feel the Grammy crowd hold their breath when Adele took the stage and started to sing. This was her first public performance since cancelling last years tour with throat issues and she had set her own bar pretty high. She blew the Staples Center up. In full command of her voice, Adele grabbed the audience by the throat and put her sound right into their souls. The furthest thing from anyone’s mind after that should have been “I think she looks fat”. She’s not fat. She’s fine. The weight of her talent, however, I think no scale could bear.
Suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and literally on his Farewell Tour, Glen Campbell is honored by The Band Perry, doing his “Gentle On My Mind” followed by Blake Shelton covering “Southern Nights”. At times, Shelton seemed to be channeling a young Campbell during his rendition. For the finale, Campbell joined them onstage and rolled into “Rhinestone Cowboy” with vigor, keeping up the momentum. Clearly present and joyful, Campbell stalked the stage and soaked up all the adulation coming at him in waves.
Jennifer Hudson would represent Whitney Houston’s proper Grammy memorial with a powerful and emotional “I Will Always Love You”. Her feelings were quite visible as she guides the song through it’s tricky curves without overpowering it, and in this restraint pays Whitney proper respect. In her prime, you never saw Whitney work to hit any note. Lesser talents look like they’re having a stroke trying to reach the upper levels of Ms. Houston’s vocal register.
The show ends with a McCartney Super Jam medley that included The Boss, Dave Grohl and Joe Walsh. Frankly, I’ve seen McCartney Super Jams before and while it’s cool he’s got the juice to get heavyweights as his back up band, it’s a little played out for me. I would have preferred following up Hudson with a stage full of women (Hellooooo…Adele is sitting in the audience with 6 Grammy’s) belting out “I’m Every Woman” than seeing the old farts futz around up there. Other than that, pretty good showing for the 2012 Grammy Awards.