Last night's 50th annual Grammy awards ceremony at Staples Center was expected to feature a performance by embattled singer Amy Winehouse—and then it wasn't. Then it was again, and then it wasn't again, depending on which tabloid reported it. In the end, unable to obtain a work visa (because of well-reported drug problems) in time to come to the U.S., Winehouse performed via satellite from London, where she also made her acceptance speech. (She won five of the six awards for which she was nominated.)
But Tina Turner and Beyoncé did take the local stage for an energetic duet of “Proud Mary,” and the indefatigable Kanye West performed a tribute to his late mother in the form of “Hey Mama,” plus a version of “Stronger” during which he wore a light-up vest and sunglasses and was surrounded by pyrotechnics and steam plumes on stage.
West's “Stronger” number was in keeping with the high-tech look of the Grammys' stage, for which ShowPro provided more than 1,000 high-resolution Versa tubes—long, tube-shaped LED lighting devices—in chevron patterns, part of a design collaboration between lighting designer Bob Dickinson and scenic artist Brian Stonestreet. The tubes were mounted into two semicircular moving set pieces that rotated to reveal or to hide performance areas on the stage; crews behind one side set up as cameras picked up performers on the other side.
Some familiar stage elements from past years included the cutouts in the stage that housed audience members cast for their ability to sustain cheering throughout the long telecast for the benefit of the cameras, and a platform midway back on the arena's floor that gave the illusion that performances were happening in the middle of the crowd.
Meanwhile, the Foo Fighters performed a simultaneous concert outside on the new Nokia Plaza at L.A. Live, which had been conveniently warmed by a close-to-80-degree day downtown. Jason Bateman, host for the outside portion, called the gathering “the people's Grammys,” and teased its spectators for their plebeian access. Inside, highlights from the Grammys' 50-year history entertained attendees on video screens during commercial breaks.
John Cossette Productions produced the Grammy awards in collaboration with the Recording Academy.