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Concert Reviews:
Grammy 2021: The top dozen performances

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Monday, March 15, 2021

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Like its prize show brethren, the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards found its way through the pandemic on Sunday night, March 14.

Though long, to a fault, at three hours and 40 minutes, the ceremony was a smaller affair than usual. A packed Staples Center was replaced by an outdoor patio near the Los Angeles Convention Center, where host Trevor Noah presided over a cadre of masked nominees at socially distanced tables. Performances were staged mostly from inside the Convention Center, which allowed for some pleasingly clever environments.

The overall effect, in fact, was cozy and more intimate than the usual glitzy overkill -- kind of a garden party whose low-key warmth translated to those watching from afar. It was a big night for Beyonce, whose four awards -- one with daughter Blue Ivy Carter -- another with Megan Thee Stallion -- made her Grammy's top singer with 28 career trophies. Women, meanwhile, took home all four of the major prizes, with Taylor Swift's "Folklore" grabbing Album of the Year, Billie Eilish receiving Record of the Year for "Everything I Wanted," H.E.R., Tiara Thomas and Dernst Emile II winning Song of the Year for the socially conscious "I Can't Breath" and Megan Thee Stallion galloping off with Best New Artist.

Mostly, however, it was a night for performances, with nearly than two dozen during the broadcast and another eight populating the earlier Premiere Ceremony -- a combination of live and pre-filmed videos. It was a lot to take in, but these were the dozen most memorable from the onslaught...

• While technically a video, the all-star rendition of Marvin Gaye's "Mercy Mercy Me" -- celebrating its, and the "What's Going On" album's 50th anniversary -- performed by Grammy nominees got the day off to a tremendous start in the afternoon. Detroiters Kierra Sheard and Regina Carter were appropriate inclusions in a roster that featured subsequent winners PJ Morton, Sarah Jarosz and Ledisi.

• Burna Boy -- winner for Best World Music Album -- brought the Premiere Ceremony to his native Nigeria, meanwhile, with a full-cast inside-outside medley of "Level Up," "Onyeka" and "Ye."

• The main telecast's opening segment took a page from Britain's "Late Night with Jools Holland," putting four acts on the same soundstage to both play and watch each other perform. Harry Styles and his band breezed through "Watermelon Sugar" before tossing it to Billie Eilish, who sang "Everything I Wanted" from atop a car, and then to Haim, which powered through "The Steps."

• The opening trio also looked on as Black Pumas played a sharp version of "Colors" after the Best New Artist award was presented.

• Bruno Mars and Anderson.Paak did double duty during the show. Their live debut as Silk Sonic -- looking like vintage Delfonics or Stylistics -- was an old school gem, and they returned to honor Little Richard during the In Memoriam segment with a charged medley of "Long Tall Sally" and "Good Golly Miss Molly."

• The In Memoriam section, in fact, was Grammy's best ever, lacing in other performances -- Lionel Richie saluting Kenny Rogers with "Lady," Brandi Carlile honoring John Prine (who won two posthumous Grammys on Sunday) with a stunning "I Remember Everything" and Brittany Howard and Coldplay's Chris Martin acknowledging Gerry (and the Pacemakers) Gerry Marsden his props with "You'll Never Walk Alone." Eddie Van Halen got his props, too -- with a recording of him soloing while a spotlight shined on one of his guitars on stage. And the posting of a full memorial list on the grammy.com web site was a message to viewers not to complain if their favorite artist wasn't included during the telecast.

• Taylor Swift took us "Into the Woods" for a medley of songs from her "Folklore" album, but her performance with collaborators Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff more than mitigated the stilted setting.

• Dua Lipa further cemented her status as pop's top ingιnue with a tightly staged medley of "Levitating" (featuring DaBaby) and "Don't Start Now" -- complete with outfit changes and masked dancers -- from her nominated "Future Nostalgia" album.

• DaBaby also had some fun with his rendition of "Rockstar," conducting a small, senior adult choir and joined by Roddy Ricch and Anthony Hamilton.

• A country trio of Mickey Guyton, Miranda Lambert and Maren Morris (with John Mayer) shined during their back-to-back-to-back segment, with Guyton setting the highest bar with a soaring "Black Like Me."

• BTS has done "Dynamite" to death by this point, but its rendition on Sunday, filmed in Seoul, kept the song fresh with its digital recreation of Los Angeles, culimating with a joyous rooftop finish.

A full list of 63rd Annual Grammy Award winners can be found at grammy.com.

Web Site: www.grammy.com

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