Performers: Aerosmith, Tony Bennett, Clint Black, Garth Brooks, Natalie Cole, Steve Cropper, Digable Planets, Sheila E., Gloria Estefan, Aretha Franklin, Lynn Harrell, Whitney Houston, Alan Jackson, Billy Joel, Wynonna Judd, B.B. King, Itzhak Perlman, Vernon Reid; Arturo Sandoval, Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Clark Terry, Jody Watley, Steve Winwood, Pinchas Zukerman.

Performers: Aerosmith, Tony Bennett, Clint Black, Garth Brooks, Natalie Cole, Steve Cropper, Digable Planets, Sheila E., Gloria Estefan, Aretha Franklin, Lynn Harrell, Whitney Houston, Alan Jackson, Billy Joel, Wynonna Judd, B.B. King, Itzhak Perlman, Vernon Reid; Arturo Sandoval, Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Clark Terry, Jody Watley, Steve Winwood, Pinchas Zukerman.

Presenters: Oleata Adams, Cecilia Bartoli & Placido Domingo; Bono; Toni Braxton; Mary-Chapin Carpenter; Shawn Colvin; Celine Dion; Melissa Etheridge; David Foster; Kenny G; Lena Horne; k.d. lang; Meat Loaf; Dolly Parton; Bonnie Raitt; Lee Ritenour; Jon Secada; Spin Doctors; SWV; Don Was; Vanessa Williams; Trisha Yearwood.

Long, yes. Pretentious, often. But the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences’ Grammy Awards show was seldom boring.

The Grammy ceremony took on a surreal air Tuesday night, with highlights ranging from a sponsoring beverage’s unveiling of their new slogan “Get Vertical With Mountain Dew” to the plug being pulled on a rambling speech by Frank Sinatra, accepting the Recording Academy’s Grammy Legend award (see related story). Host Garry Shandling apologized for the cutoff after the commercial break, then later quipped, “I just got a call from Lorena Bobbitt: ‘Even I wouldn’t have cut off Frank Sinatra.’ “

Later in the show, the opening number of a musical tribute to composer Curtis Mayfield, featuring Bruce Springsteen, B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt and Living Colour’s Vernon Reid, was curtailed to make room to announce a series of non-telecast awards.

On the other hand, NARAS president Mike Greene got to speak at length, about music’s role in education or something, as did U2 lead singer Bono, reciting a lengthy tribute to Sinatra before presenting the Legend honor.

For many, the highlights of the show were those segments featuring Bono and Sinatra. Bono pledged to “the youth of America” to “continue to abuse our position and fuck up the mainstream.”

Sinatra rambled a bit in his speech: “That’s the best welcome I ever had. … This is like the bases are loaded, you’re at bat and you don’t know what you’re gonna do.”

Fourth-year host Garry Shandling opened slowly, having tried out many of the jokes in his monologue on David Letterman’s show the night before, but warmed up as the evening wore on.

Musical performances were generally solid, with sound the evening’s standout technical achievement.

Show, remarkably, came in just under three hours.

36th Annual Grammy Awards

(Tues. (1), 8-11 p.m., CBS)

Production

Videotaped in New York City by the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences and Pierre Cossette Prods. Executive producer, Pierre Cossette; producers, Ken Ehrlich, Walter C. Miller; supervising producer, John Cossette; coordinating producer, Tisha Fein; director, Walter C. Miller; script, Buz Kohan , Judd Apatow, Jeff Cesario; lighting designer, Bob Dickenson; sound designer, Murray Allen; audio mixer, Ed Greene; music director, Jack Elliott; production designer, Robert Keene.

Cast

Host: Garry Shandling.

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