Sorry but I just couldn’t resist yet another Grammy scrap, this coming from the veritable Andy Schwartz.
“An old acquaintance was part of the live engineering staff at last week’s Grammy Awards at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Here’s what he wrote about the telecast’s all-star Sly & the Family Stone tribute and Sly’s first public performance in nearly 20 years:”
This whole performance was directed by Nile Rodgers. Now Nile is not only the highly recognizable Nile Rodgers, he is also highly professional, very organized, and with this music, passionately connected. He so wanted this to be killer. So he had spent all week trying to get this thing cast, arranged, rehearsed, track pre-recorded, and dealing with the original band.
The day before the show, the plan was for the opening segments to be mimed to pre-recorded track with live vocals, and live Joe Perry and Robert Randolph. The Family Stone version of “I Want to Take You Higher” was to be all live, with Rosie, Cynthia, Freddy, Jerry, Greg and with Sly leading the “Hi-yer, Hi-yer” vamp with the audience.
Well, Slys off-site rehearsal was… less than encouraging. So Nile did a pre-record with the Family Stone, again leaving room for live horns and live vocals.
He then called Larry Graham on Tuesday night at home in Minneapolis. Talks to Larry for 60 minutes to convince him to fly in and join the reunion. Larry finally agrees and takes the first morning flight into L.A. on show day. He joins the dress rehearsal, looking and sounding great, in a long coat and big white hat, plays fine…..but by showtime, 3 hours later, Larry Graham had disappeared, not to be found, with no warning—and did not even call Nile, or answer his cel phone!
Sly drives a custom 3-wheel cycle-contraption with a 357 hemi on it that sounds like World War III. He also dress like a hobo. When he showed up for dress rehearsal, security did not even let him on site! Hence, no dress for Sly.
The show begins—but Sly is still in his hotel just 30 minutes before he is to go on. To get him moving, a police motorcycle unit escorts him on his machine to the arena. I can hear him arrive out at my mixing truck, because of the roar. ItՕs now 10 minutes until he goes on.
You saw the bit. Sly is pretty out of it. Badly in need of a chiropractor.
And when the arrangement breaks for one beat, instead of leading the “Hi-yer” vamp—he leaves! Nile, the band, and the singers on stage are freaked, but get through it.
I hear the roar of his machine less than 5 minutes later, and Sly is out of there.
Well, thats reality TV for you…
But no it wasnՕt the celebratory return all of us (and Nile) yearned for.