Millions of viewers from around the world tune into the annual Grammy Awards, but not everything that happened at last night’s ceremony in Los Angeles was caught on camera. For ticketholders at the Staples Center arena, and for others backstage, there were other memorable Grammy moments to see and hear.
1. Who maxed out the Grammy Applause-O-Meter?
Inside the arena, the Grammy experience is a little different from what’s on TV, and the live audience is an immediate barometer on what is popular at the moment. J.Lo got a big ovation, Nick Jonas less so, and host James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke with Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” had much of the room spontaneously singing along. While John Travolta’s “Where did he get all that bling?” joke fell flat, he won the crowd over by admitting the teleprompter text was too small for him to read and he winged it like a pro. And when the nominees for Best Rock Song were announced, mention of Metallica got one dude high up in the cheaper seats to roar a manly, metal yell all by himself: “Yeeeaaaaahhhhh!“
2. Neil Portnow responds to already-infamous Greg Kurstin cut-off.
Adele won five Grammys on Sunday, and during the telecast made a point of bringing producer/songwriter Greg Kurstin onstage with her to pick up each trophy. After Adele thanked the Academy (and Beyoncé) during her Song of the Year speech, she naturally turned the mic over the Kurstin, but the spotlight went dark and his mic was cut out, eliciting loud boos. Even worse, this meant the following presenter, Solange, faced heat she didn’t deserve. After the show, Grammy President Neil Portnow noted the show was overtime by 10 minutes this year, and time was precious. “The director who has to call those shots is doing the best they can,” he said in response to a question from Rolling Stone. “Sometimes those things happen.” Fortunately, Adele still had more awards to win, and brought Kurstin back out to give his remarks. Said Portnow. “In the end it all came out OK.”
3. Blackstar band picks up Grammys on Bowie’s behalf.
He got less attention than Adele, but the other big winner of the night was the late David Bowie, who also won in five categories (including Best Rock Song) for his final album, Blackstar. Most of those trophies were handed out in the pre-telecast portion of the Grammys, and were picked up by Bowie’s backup band from that album. Backstage, saxophonist Donny McCaslin stood with the same band (now touring the West Coast), and noted that there was never talk of mortality during the New York sessions. “Around the time the record came out, David was writing new music. We were going to go back in the studio in January and start recording.” Since Bowie’s death from cancer, the Blackstar group has included the album’s “Lazarus” and vintage Bowie cuts “Warszawa” and “Look Back in Anger” in their sets. “We’re not ever going to be a Bowie tribute band,” said McCaslin, “but I do feel it’s appropriate to play some of his music as part of our set because working with him had such a profound impact on us as a band.”
4. The Time kick Bruno Mars’ ass … musically.
Prince got the night’s most stirring tribute with a dual performance by the original lineup of the Time with Bruno Mars. Early in his career, Prince constructed the Time around singer Morris Day, who said last night backstage: “He’s just one of the best musicians that ever lived.” The original members of the Time reconvened – including Jerome Benton, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis – to perform the hits “Jungle Love” and “The Bird,” then were joined by Mars, who sang and played lead guitar on a startlingly faithful “Let’s Go Crazy.” Later, the Time members gathered backstage, where Day said of Mars: “He ripped it up. I thought it was perfect. I don’t think there is another artist who could have pulled it off.” The band agreed, but Jimmy Jam wasn’t about to surrender the night to the younger player. “We still kicked his ass!”
5. Judy Collins honors Leonard Cohen; Cage the Elephant shout out Chance.
The Grammy Awards is much bigger than what can be seen on TV. With so many categories in play, the Academy starts handing out trophies hours before the broadcast even begins. This year’s pre-telecast highlights included Judy Collins paying tribute to the late Leonard Cohen by performing his classic “Suzanne,” a song she’s sung for decades. Also during the pre-show, the Grammy for Best Rock Album was awarded to Cage the Elephant for Tell Me I’m Pretty, and while the band picked up their trophies, singer Matt Shultz made a point of praising Chance the Rapper, who also had a big night with several wins. Backstage later, guitarist Brad Shultz explained they were moved by watching the rapper’s overjoyed reactions to his wins: “We’re music people first, and we’re just as much listeners as we are writers. When you see somebody that you connect to, you automatically root for that person. We’ve been big fans of Chance.”
6. Patton Oswalt takes on Fox News.
Comedian Patton Oswalt is not afraid to tangle in the media, spewing forth a steady stream of hilarious and pointed Twitter jokes and anti-Trump invective. After picking up his award for Best Comedy Album (for his Netflix stand-up special Talking for Clapping), he appeared in the press room backstage. When a reporter from Fox News identified herself, he couldn’t help himself, and playfully shot back at the right-leaning news network with a Lord of the Rings rebuke: “How are things in Mordor? What’s going on there? Any new rings getting forged? You must be upset that Gollum escaped. That must be driving you guys nuts.”