Performers: Arrested Development, Patti Austin, Tony Bennett, Peabo Bryson, Cirque Du Soleil, Eric Clapton, George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars, Natalie Cole, Billy Ray Cyrus & the Sly Dog Band; Celine Dion, En Vogue, Peter Gabriel, Handel’s Messiah — A Soulful Celebration, Edwin Hawkins, Tramaine Hawkins, Al Jarreau, k.d. lang, Chaka Khan, Los Angeles Master Chorale, Marilyn McCoo, Martin Pearlman, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Arturo Sandoval & the GRP All Stars, Sounds of Blackness, Marty Stewart, Travis Tritt, Vanessa Williams.
Presenters: Tony Bennett, Boyz II Men, James Brown, Lindsey Buckingham, Mary-Chapin Carpenter, Natalie Cole, Gloria Estefan, Melissa Etheridge, Kenny G, James Galway, Vince Gill, Herbie Hancock, Billy Idol, Janet Jackson, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, B.B. King, Patti LaBelle, L.L. Cool J, Lyle Lovett, Marky Mark, Sergio Mendes, Lorrie Morgan, Bonnie Raitt, Jon Secada, Pam Tillis, Tina Turner.
Other than Eric Clapton’s sweep of the awards, the telecast of the 35th annual Grammys might best be remembered as the first in years (maybe ever) to come in on schedule.
Despite some impressive production values, show lacked excitement — in performances, or the kind that comes with spontaneous moments like “Unforgettable” songwriter Irving Gordon’s diatribe last year against contemporary singers, specifically Michael Bolton.
Host Garry Shandling, back after relinquishing host duties last year to Whoopi Goldberg, provided many of the show’s high points, with introductions not entirely respectful of the show, the performers or the music business establishment.
And there was his vamping with Tina Turner at end of show in an effort to stretch — suggesting that the two collaborate on what Shandling referred to as “That ‘Bitch’ song” (Elton John’s “The Bitch Is Back,” for which Turner was nominated this year).
Show began with big production number starring extravagantly costumed Peter Gabriel joined by various dancers and members of the Canadian Cirque du Soleil troupe.
Visuals that must have impressed the Shrine Auditorium crowd were largely lost on the small screen, however, even to that relatively minor segment of the audience who knows who Gabriel is.
Another example of what should have been a highlight was the collaboration between Red Hot Chili Peppers and the unidentified P-Funk All-Stars led by George Clinton; onscreen, number appeared to be just a jumble of costumes and wigs, musically undistinguished. One could sense senior demographic group quickly scanning for alternative programming.
Performers alternated between live and seemingly lip-synched presentations, with some singers — En Vogue among them — not even pretending to use a microphone. One of the most exciting moments came late in the show with the annual token jazz number, a blistering version of “Cherokee” featuring a front line of trumpeters led by Arturo Sandoval.
Token classical number pitted the Los Angeles Master Chorale against all-star and largely black vocal ensemble (including members of Take 6, Al Jarreau, Linda Hopkins, etc.) for a version of “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s “Messiah”– guess who won.
Presenters did their stuff largely by the numbers, many of them having trouble with the TelePrompTer; highlight was Irish flutist James Galway’s idiosyncratic pronunciation of several names in a classical category.
Another technical glitch occurred when a light bulb apparently burst during acceptance by Eric Clapton’s producer, Russ Titelman, and sound of musical numbers varied from excellent to barely acceptable — still acknowledging a terrific on-the-fly achievement by the sound crew.
Lengthy segments toward end of show were devoted to numbing speech by National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences topper Mike Greene, and by presentation and acceptance of “Grammy Legend Award” to Michael Jackson, seen earlier in audience seated next to date Brooke Shields.
The singer was introduced by sister Janet in deifying terms, and won a laugh by posing with her –“I hope,” he said, “this puts to rest another rumor that has been in the press for too many years.”
Recipients of NARAS Lifetime Achievement award were named, though only Little Richard and Ahmet Ertegun were at the Shrine to take a bow from the audience; quite a slight to the absentee Bill Monroe, Pete Seeger and Chet Atkins, all still living.
Tech credits were generally solid.