Hey kids. You know I’m not one for showing off my bias, but the band I saw most last year (and yes, my 2010 In Review is forthcoming) is up for the cover of Rolling Stone. I know I slag the mag a lot, but this could turn it around for me (for the next four to six months or until my free subscription runs out).
We’re opening with a tribute to Aretha Franklin. It makes me temporarily worried that she has died. She is being introduced by LL Cool J.
Usher’s date is Justin Bieber. They are sitting in the front row. You can see Justin from any overhead shot because he is wearing a white tuxedo. Everyone else is wearing black. Everyone.
Aretha is being saluted by the quintet of Jennifer Hudson, Martina McBride, Yolanda Adams, Florence Welch and Christina Aguilera. Everyone is singing hard enough to fuck up their wigs, which intense. Christina is notable for going first and singing the longest, by far. Florence Welch is notable for totally holding her own with America’s foremost divas. Jennifer Hudson is notable for showing off her new body in a very short suit jacket and leggings.
The crowd cam goes to Rihanna who is wearing white Christmas tree garlands hot glued to a tube of illusion netting.
The nominees for Pop Duo or Group are all people I don’t like, and the award went to Train. Katie is fast forwarding.
OMG. RICKY MARTIN IS WEARING A BLACK JACKET AND SHINY SILVER JEANS. He is gay now, so they have him introducing Gaga. She comes out of a womb and everyone is wearing sheets of latex, it looks like. The dancing is weird and good, but not sexy. The thing that fascinates me about Gaga is her complete disinterest in looking hot. Oh, she’s running to an organ. And playing that big scary piece that they always play in Vincent Price movies.
Lenny Kravitz comes out to introduce Muse and he is wearing a half a bolt of random suede draped around his shoulders. The crowd camera cuts to Elvis Costello, who is skeptical. Muse is doing the version of “The Resistance” from their stage show, only there are actors running around below them and fake fighting or something. It’s awks. Dear Grammys: Let Muse be Muse. Trust me, their show is big enough to stand on its own.
Bruno Mars, B.o.B. and Janelle Monae are performing together. Whoa! I have not seen Bruno Mars lately. He’s got this old school Little Richard pompadour.
Let me let Katie take this part. “THAT IS B.O.B. IN A MONOCLE. THAT IS B.O.B. IN A MONOCLE. THAT IS B.O.B. AND HE IS WEARING A MONOCLE.”
When we get to Bruno Mars’ section of this, they start showing it in black and white, because they’re “taking us back.” It’s mostly talking and really swinging, like a Rudy Vallee song, but in reality it’s “Grenade.” When Janelle sings, Bruno hops on drums and B.o.B. grabs a guitar. This is kind totally adorable. She also crowd surfs in the middle of her song. It cuts afterward to Cyndi Lauper, who is hollering from her seat.
They show the early youtube videos of Bieber. He’s onstage with his guitar and Usher strolls out talking about how they met in a parking lot. It is the uber creep. Then Ninjas come out playing marching band drums. He performs while gymnasts and fire breathers run around. Then Jaden Smith comes running out in leopard pants and they rap while Jaden’s mom sings along and is adorable. Why they didn’t bring out Willow, who is actually opening for Bieber. Then Usher brings a bunch of dancers in blue suede suits and then there is dancing and it is good dancing, because it is Usher. Then Bieber dances with him, and that is very good too.
I’m already thinking about the new thing. Pauley Perrette and some guy come out to present with what’s left of Paramore. Hayley Williams is wearing a dress that is black netting across the midriff and hot pink marabou around the thighs. It’s worse than it sounds. They give the best rock album award to Muse, obviously.
The CBS parade of stars continues with Donny Wahlberg presenting with Selena Gomez. Donny is wearing sunglasses and Selena looks bored. This is a Bieber category, Best Pop Album, but the award goes to Gaga for The Fame Monster. It’s technically an EP, but whatever! She’s got a black plastic dress with molded boobs and a molded butt!
David Letterman appears on pre-tape to give a Top 10 List (I thought we were over those as a people) and introduces Mumford & Sons, whose banjo player is wearing a trucker cap and a tux and spends the whole time simulating coitus with his banjo. But they are fun and intense as heck. Right after them is the Avett Brothers, who look asleep in comparison. This whole thing is under-rehearsed. The curtain in the middle comes up and Bob Dylan shuffles out with his bluegrass band clustered around him like they’re Nation of Islam bodyguards. Bob has to clamber over an upright bass. But the boys in Mumford and Avett look like they’re gonna pee with excitement over playing backup for Bob Dylan. The crowd cam cuts to J.Lo, who looks murderous with rage.
This year, they’re doing Lifetime Achievement awards as one little announcement. They don’t even go into accomplishments. Lea Michele and a very confused Green Bay Packer introduce Lady Antebellum.
Miley Cyrus and the Kings of Leon (minus the one who actually lives in LA) present Best Country Album. Caleb Followill looks like his mom is making him do this.
Cee-Lo is performing in a sort of psychedelic Elton John rooster costume, on a set like that looks like a kids show set on Mars. But his backing band and dancers are all muppets. The second verse is done by Gwyneth in a catsuit cut down to her navel, pink feather earrings and six inch heels. She climbs up on his bejeweled piano and they just sing at each other. It’s actually really adorable, like they’re drunk and singing karaoke.
I like Katy Perry’s eyeshadow. Beyond that, eh. She is on a swing with a giant train that is a screen on which they show video of her actual wedding. This would be a really fitting tribute if Russell was dead. Russell is not dead, so it’s kind of creepy. The crowd cam catches Nicole Kidman singing along to “Teenage Dream.”
John Mayer and Keith Urban play acoustic guitar and Norah Jones sings Jolene. Norah has obviously listened to this a lot, because she sounds EXACTLY like Dolly. Also, this is kind of a 60 second tribute to Dolly, who was listed in the lifetime thing, but doesn’t appear to be there, and now they’re presenting Song of the Year. “Fuck You” is listed as “(The song otherwise known as ‘Forget You’.)” Lady Antebellum wins. Katie says that’s incorrect and I have to agree.
Rihanna is performing in a skirt that is about eight feet across and really raggedly cut away to reveal yellow underskirts.
People who died, the Grammy’s philanthropic efforts, a James Brown sort of performance by Mick Jagger, who gets progressively more decrepit over the course of his five minute song. Barbra Streisand sings in about 700 yards of raisin colored netting. Eminem is given an award and still looks hostile. How can you look hostile while on stage holding a Grammy?
In other places, The Black Keys won the album for best packaging. That is amazeballs. This is the package:
Rihanna is back again, booty dancing in front of a big bonfire with Drake. Because she’s Carribbean. If you forgot.
Lady Antebellum has fucking swept this thing. I think that it’s that the rappers have split the rap vote and the rockers have split the rock vote, but without the presence of Taylor Swift, the country vote is locked.
Jason Segel seems genuinely excited to be introducing Arcade Fire. For some reason, their lighting design is just very bright lights flashing at the audience, so they are hard to see. William Buttler did not get the memo that they weren’t wearing coveralls today. There are also kids on BMX bikes riding around and they have cameras on their heads, which they show on TV. I think the Fire is rebelling against being adopted into the mainstream, since they play “Month of May” in these flashing lights and have filled in the background with random hooting.
YOU GUYS! Arcade Fire won the Album of the Year. They give a short speech, then run back to the instruments they just put down and play “Ready to Start.” It seems unlikely that it’s spontaneous, but it might be. Win Butler can’t stop smiling. It is adorable. Katie is feeling real emotion, which she was not expecting to, but it’s so cute. They are so happy! Then there are tacklehugs. Best Grammy moment everrrr.
The National is a pretty cool venue, an old theater repurposed for live music. Its calendar seems to be largely indie rock (and GWAR), which makes the fact that there is a whole section of $5000 season ticket seats kind of confusing.
David Bazan is the opener. The very existence of an opener bums out the 11 year old boys behind me. I’ve heard Mr. Bazan’s name around quite a bit, but never heard his music. It’s bluesier than I thought, but I think that’s largely down to his kinda growly voice and the way his bass player is turned up way too loud. Anyway, it sounds more like dude music than anything I’ve heard in ages. Also, I barely look at him because his drummer is excellent, fast but precise.
He prefaces a song by saying, “This is headphone music.” Worst intro for a song ever. I’m deeply glad I have a seat, because swaying or whatever to this downtempo jam would be awkward.
Jim Adkins of Jimmy Eat World comes out to sing an even slower jam. Dude is trim. It looks like he’s been on P90X.
This place has cupholders! Convenient.
Jimmy Eat World appeals to 20-year-old me by opening with “Bleed American.” Downside: the flashing lights are giving me a migraine. Or a seizure. Bonus upside: there’s one girl in the fancy seats who’s losing her mind. She was freaking out and dancing to David Bazan, so I thought she might be a fan of his, but she is flinging her hair and flipping her hair around now. Luckily, she’s not sitting near anybody except an epically long-suffering boyfriend.
Oh man, when they announce “Coffee & Cigarettes”, she jumps up, then flops on her back in her seat and kicks her feet in the air. What the hell? She’s amazing.
Why are these 11 year olds screaming for “The Middle”? That song came out when they were 2.
My headache is almost unbearable. They keep just turning on the strobes for minutes at a time and the strobes are pointed at the balcony. Look at them here. The top is the floods and the bottoms are strobes.
Huh, who knew that “Hear You Me” was a fan favorite. It’s the only one I’ve been able to hear the crowd singing on.
Mom, do you know why I’m never having kids? Because we’re 50 feet from the stage and the 11 year old boy behind me has been screaming for “The Middle” for the last 30 minutes.
For the record, I think it’s a bad idea when a band closes the set with something jammy. It’s just inviting people to skip the encore in favor of beating traffic.
Ok, I feel a little bad for the 11 year old. The band closed the show with the rollicking one-two punch of “The Middle” and “Sweetness,” but his mom took him home half an hour ago.
The Verdict: I’m kind of elated that songs I loved turned out to be fan favorites. And Jimmy Eat World is more energetic than ever. The new stuff is good, but I’m still hoping for a show where they play all of Bleed American like they did for Clarity last year.
The first thing I notice is the hordes of beardy, bro-y Brooklyn men, confirming Rae’s suspicion that this show was largely industry.
Panic has … boys, I thought we’d changed. For the better. I thought we’d grown. But there are white carnation wreaths. And dancers? Or something. Like ten or fifteen girls and one dude in headdresses and fake steampunk. It’s like a Regretsy fever dream. ( <– Not a compliment.)
They spent tons of label money on dancers, wreaths, tablecloths and candelabras, but didn’t pick between sets music, so the guys at the soundboard are playing their favorite, the entire Electric 6 oeuvre.
There are nine roadies/crew/etc on stage. Jess points out that there weren’t that many when we saw the Scissors here.
They have just unveiled a six foot high white carnation funeral wreath on the stage. I hope that shit is rented. I realize now that the dancers are not dancers. They can’t get to the stage. They are merely decorative. This is why the industry is dying. The four piece they’ve been playing as since the “divorce” (lead singer/etc Brendon Urie, drummer Spencer Smith, former The Cab guitarist Ian Crawford and The Brobecks’ Dallon Weekes on bass) is tight and, most importantly, they look like they’re having fun.
During “Northern Downpour,” a sort of anthem of Panic v2.1, Brendon admits to crying a little. There’s one of our number who says the same, but I won’t say which.
Brendon does his cover of “Science Fiction Double Feature” alone. He keeps giggling when people from the audience shout out the appropriate live theater response and this feels more intimate than anything I’ve ever seen Panic do. Bands like this, ones that seem to spring fully formed from a cloud of hype, going from their garage to arenas in a matter of months, often lose the ability to be able to connect with a crowd in a small space, as anything but idols. I can’t vouch for the other half of Panic v2.1 (the half that was briefly The Young Veins), as they felt disconnected during their shows, but this half is a wonderful small venue band.
From the new album, they played the two singles (“The Ballad of Mona Lisa” and “New Perspective”), dancerock wonder “Let’s Kill Tonight” (to which I couldn’t help dancing. Mom, you’re gonna love it), and the full version of the previously hinted at “Nearly Witches,” the only extant song from Panic’s never released second album (it was a musical and deemed irreproduceable on stage). For the new songs, they made awesome use of their violinist, who plucked and tapped and made her violin produce all sorts of sounds I didn’t expect.
Verdict: I fell in love all over again. If you were previously put off by this band, try ‘em again.
Note: Bowery Ballroom’s “you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here” album is apparently Elvis live in Vegas.