Grammys show proud moments, big and subtle
Posted by Mark Bialczak February 09, 2009 12:23AM
At 51 years old, the Grammy Awards show still has the moxie to surprise and delight us.
There were moments of power, passion and grace as the music world gathered in Los Angeles tonight for the big show broadcast on CBS.
Some of the best moments were colored in gigantic, brash strokes.
When Sir Paul McCartney brought out his voice, bass and pop star appeal to share "I Saw Her Standing There" with the guitar and rock fury of Foo Fighter Dave Grohl, that was a big moment. When rapper Lil' Wayne showcased his swagger with the soul of Robin Thicke, the elegance of Allen Touissant and the pure joy of trumpeter Terence Blanchard marching with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band in tribute to New Orleans, that was a huge moment. When the USC marching band added its pomp, percussion and horns to the alternative rock genius of Radiohead, that was a stupendous moment.
But not all of the best times tonight came sized extra large.
More subtle thrills kept the night hopping, too.
Rapper Jay-Z owned the joint when he sidled out to join Coldplay front man Chris Martin for a simple and spine-tingling tandem on "Lost."
Justin Timberlake showed his star power by stepping in for Chris Brown to help out the Rev. Al Green in the soul king's knockout segment. (The folks at CBS didn't bother to tell the world why Brown and his girlfriend, Rihanna, didn't appear as announced. But by the time the event was an hour old, the Net was buzzing with reports of how Brown had a brush with the L.A. law for alleged domestic violence.)
The traditional encore segment, in which the Grammys pays tribute to musicians who died in the last year, was capped by a gorgeous tribute to rock 'n' roll pioneer Bo Diddley. Generations and styles meshed seamlessly as blues legend B.B. King, rocker John Mayer and country star Keith Urban played their guitars in a gorgeous ode to Diddley's famous beat.
Of course, not all was perfection.
That's the beauty of the Grammys, too, when the stars aren't aligned just right. Tonight, poor Nick Jonas, as talented of a teen he is, obviously forgot the lyrics at his first call to join in with the legend Stevie Wonder on "Superstition."
Speaking of teens, it was one up, one down when Taylor Swift was joined by Mylie Cyrus on Swift's hit "Fifteen." Swift's lovely guitar and striking voice showed why she's quickly become a favorite of country fans of all ages. Cyrus, meanwhile, showed why she's become a favorite of teen and tween pop fans. Billy Ray's daughter seems to be a nice enough young woman, but she's not in Swift's league.
And where else can you watch Neil Diamond try to prod a tuxedo-gown crowd to sing along, "so good, so good," like millions of fans have over the past 40 years to his pop (and pop culture) hit "Sweet Caroline" but the Grammy Awards.
Most years, Grammys honcho Neil Portnow's speech might signal a good time to hit the rest room. Tonight, however, he was the guy to connect the dots between Barack Obama's election to president and what that means for the arts. Portnow told the crowd that as a senator, Obama won two Grammys for recordings of books he'd written. "As a creative community, it means he's one of us," Portnow said. Then he called for the president to create a new cabinet position, secretary of the arts.
"Having a Grammy winner in the White House is an inspiration," Portnow said.
Having music all around us is an inspiration, and the Grammys reminds us of just how much every year. Here's to music in the schools. And music in the corner bars. And in the theaters and hockey rinks and stadiums. And on computers and iPods and CD players. And on the Grammys once a year.