Monday, February 09, 2009

The Grammys - Hits and Misses

Radiohead with a MFing marching band. My head just about exploded. That was one of the most amazing musical performances I've ever seen on television. Thom Yorke was showing better dance moves than Justin Timberlake. (Sure, it was just Jonny Greenwood and Thom Yorke on stage, unless the rest of the band was in the back blowing on trombones. Gwyneth Paltrow said it was Radiohead, so I'm going to call it Radiohead.)

ETA: Here's the video. It's on the YouTubes, so watch it fast or save it to your computer - it'll probably be gone tomorrow.

ETA: Scroll down on this page - there's a link to a rehearsal of the performance. Also some nice pictures.

That was an impossible act to top, and it was the best performance of the night. But there were a few other nice moments.

One of them was not Paul McCartney. Here's the thing. Paul McCartney released an amazing album with his odd little side project, the Fireman. I was so hoping to see him perform "Nothing Too Much Just out of Sight" or "Universal Here, Everlasting Now" and rip the heads off the audience. Instead, he trots out a forty-year-old song, gets Dave Grohl on drums, and pretends it's an Extra Special Performance. So now, instead of recognizing that Sir Paul still has some new tricks up his sleeve, everyone goes back to thinking he's just a has-been. (A brilliant, talented, super-rich has-been, but nonetheless.) Yawn me a river.

The New Orleans tribute was nice. Good to see them bring on L'il Wayne, who's been heartfelt in his love for New Orleans, instead of a safer choice. And what about Mr. Allan Toussaint and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, playing a Professor Longhair tune? The whole thing was pretty impressive and done with a lot of heart.

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss were pretty sweet. Raising Sand was one of my favorite albums this year, and they just sound fantastic live. I'd have rather they did something spookier like "Fortune Teller" or "Nothin'", but it was nice seeing them - and T Bone Burnett - up on the big stage.

T Bone has been one of the hardest-working producers in the music business for, like, twenty-five years now. How many great acts has he produced? Los Lobos, Counting Crows (back when they were a good band), Marshall Crenshaw, the incandescent Sam Phillips (his former wife, by the way), Gillian Welch. Elvis Costello. Bruce Cockburn. Brandi Carlile.

Remember that gorgeous album that k.d. lang and Tony Burnett did? He produced that.

Remember that black and white Roy Orbison tribute performance that you can see once a week on PBS? He was the musical director.

Remember O Brother, Where Art Thou? He produced that soundtrack and wrote the score for the movie.

He also penned one of the greatest and saddest songs about love that has ever been written. The song is called "River of Love" and chances are that you've never heard it. Listen to it now.

T Bone is the real deal. I got to see him live once, in a coffee house in Northampton, Massachusetts. He hadn't slept in three days, never took off his sunglasses, played some of the best songs ever written and told some of the funniest anecdotes I've ever heard from a musician's mouth. I was thrilled to see him get so many honors for this album, a project that nobody else but him could have produced.

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