Category: Geoff Boucher

Grammy 2011 rehearsals: Dr. Dre, Arcade Fire and the 10 potential make-or-break performance moments

In the days leading up to Sunday's Grammy Awards, which Pop & Hiss will be covering live, this blog will tackle various Grammy artists, personalities, categories and just plain oddities. For even more Grammy info, check Awards Tracker and The Envelope.

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There’s plenty of suspense sealed up in the envelopes at the 53rd annual Grammy Awards, but the true winners and losers on Sunday night will be determined during the performances — the show’s global stage can create a pivot point in the life of an artist.

“To perform at the Grammys is a relief because you know you’ve finally made it to the summit after running so hard, so fast and so long,” said will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas as he watched rehearsals on Thursday at Staples Center. “But then there’s a whole new set of anxieties: ‘I hope my performance goes off well, this is going to define me as an artist and a performer.’”

The Peas aren’t on this year’s show — the six-time Grammy winners had their world-is-watching moment last weekend at the Super Bowl halftime show — so they can sit back and watch other acts look for the risk and reward of plugging into the amplifier of pop culture during the CBS broadcast. There are plenty of storylines to keep track of this year, here’s a look at some burning questions that follow some key performers into the glare of this year’s Grammy spotlight.

Will Rihanna call in sick? The singer has been fighting a nasty flu bug and there’s been considerable anxiety that she might not be ready for her microphone moment — which would only qualify as the second-worst Grammy weekend of her life considering her horrific 2009 night when she was assaulted by then-boyfriend Chris Brown on the eve of the show. On Friday, though, she soldiered through her (literally) fiery performance of “What's My Name” with Drake and looked determined beneath an especially impressive explosion of red curls.

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Bob Dylan to perform at the Grammy ceremony alongside Mumford & Sons and the Avett Bros.

In the days leading up to Sunday's Grammy Awards, which Pop & Hiss will be covering live, this blog will tackle various Grammy artists, personalities, categories and just plain oddities. For even more Grammy info, check Awards Tracker and The Envelope.

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The producers of the Grammys want a show for the ages, but they also want a show for all ages — which is why Bob Dylan will be bringing his acoustic guitar to perform this weekend on the same stage as Justin Bieber, Drake and Katy Perry.

The official announcement is expected Thursday that the great bard of rock will sing at the 53rd Grammy Awards — which air Sunday on CBS — marking just his fifth performance on the show despite a recording career that dates back to the Kennedy administration. He’ll perform alongside two rising folk-rock bands whose work draws from the same well: Mumford & Sons and the Avett Brothers.

Dylan is just three months shy of his 70th birthday, but he may bump into some generational peers backstage — Barbra Streisand is scheduled to sing one of her signature 1970s hits, while Mick Jagger’s participation in a tribute to the late Solomon Burke will result in a bit of history, since the Rolling Stones frontman has never before performed on the Grammy stage.

Dylan’s first performance on the Grammys didn’t come until 1980, when he and his band were greeted with a standing ovation as they played the opening notes of “Gotta Serve Somebody.” That show was also the first Grammy broadcast produced by Ken Ehrlich, who has done every one since; Ehrlich and Neil Portnow, president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, have been working to secure Dylan’s booking for months.

“When you see that name and think about what it represents, those are the things that we want to be part of the show — those are things that have to be part of the show,” Ehrlich said.

This year’s show also features performances by Eminem (who leads this year’s field with 10 nominations), Arcade Fire, Lady Gaga, Miranda Lambert, Muse and Raphael Saadiq (who will partner with Jagger on the Burke sequence). The team of Yolanda Adams, Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Hudson, Martina McBride and Florence Welch, meanwhile, will salute the career of Aretha Franklin, who underwent serious surgery last year, reportedly related to a cancer diagnosis.

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Metallica leads a new 'heavy-metal Coachella' in Indio

 

Metallica 

Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax made thrash-metal history last year when they performed on the same bill in a string of European shows, and now they will bring their blistering sonic collective to the U.S. on April 23 in a most unexpected venue -- the Empire Polo Field in Indio.

The seven "Big Four" shows were major music moments, with a Bulgaria date yielding a bestselling boxed set (bundling CDs with DVDs or Blu-rays) and an HD satellite broadcast that reached fans in hundreds of movie theaters. Tickets for the one-night show go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday through Ticketmaster.

The metal extravaganza will be staged the Saturday after the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, and the organizers of that California festival are behind this surprise booking. 

The show came together quickly. Promoter Paul Tollett, the founding figure behind Coachella and its country cousin, the Stagecoach Festival, found himself with an empty weekend between the two massive multi-artist shows and, after a casual conversation with Metallica manager Peter Mensch, the two came up with a bold way to fill the calendar gap.

-- Geoff Boucher

Photo: James Hetfield of Metallica. Credit: Jason Merritt / Getty Images for Activision

An all-star 'We Are the World' remake for Haiti relief

we are the world haiti geoff boucher michael jackson

Twenty-five years after the all-star recording of "We Are the World" became a signature moment in celebrity altruism and pop-music history, a new collective of stars came together Monday at the same Hollywood recording studio to record a new version for Haiti earthquake relief.

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Just as Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan descended on the A&M Studios on La Brea to sing for famine relief in Africa, Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion, Kanye West and Keith Urban turned up at the same soundstage (now called Henson Recording Studios) to join an all-star chorus that was 100 voices strong.

The 1985 effort, called USA for Africa, raised  $63 million and became a template for famous-face fundraising. The new single will premiere Feb. 12 on NBC during the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics with the hope that the download single can help funnel aid into the ravaged island nation.

The anniversary project had been quietly planned for months and was scheduled for the day after the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards to maximize celebrity availability. The plan veered sharply, though, after the Jan. 12 temblor in Haiti: Instead of more relief for Africa, the organizers switched gears and turned their cause to the Caribbean.

The scene on Monday, like the original session, was a fascinating mix of star confluence.

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Grammy rehearsals 2010: Gonna get loud

Performers including Pink, Jamie Foxx and T-Pain are put through their paces in the lead-up to Sunday's extravaganza.

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In this era of award show proliferation, it's hard not to smirk at the "once-in-a-lifetime" advertising campaigns for shows such as the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards on CBS Sunday night. Beyoncé is up for 10 Grammys this year and you have to suspect that back at the home, the trophy room is the most cluttered corner -- well, except for the walk-in shoe closet.

Still, there is something about the scale, history and reach of the Grammys stage that stirs undeniable emotion in the artists who step on it for the first time. On Thursday, at rehearsals for the broadcast, that was clear in the voices of two artists, Zac Brown and Leon Russell, who are on opposite ends of their careers but will step into the spotlight together Sunday night to sing to the largest audience of their lives.

Brown is the 32-year-old leader of the Zac Brown Band, which is nominated in the prestigious best new artist category for its grits-and-guitar sound. Russell is the 67-year-old Oklahoma piano man who left a hospital bed last week and used a wheelchair to reach his keyboard on the Staples Center stage. "It's an honor," Russell said in a hushed voice backstage. "And it's one I never expected."

The acts were put together by Grammys executive producer Ken Ehrlich, who said despite the generational gap, their "music was born in the same barn." The haystack suits Brown's band, which aspires to be musical kin to the Charlie Daniels Band or the Allman Brothers; the group arrived for rehearsals in battered denim and belt buckles tested by their country-bear physiques, and sang their hit "Chicken Fried," an ode to America, its soldiers, cold beer and a mother's love.

"We never expected to be here," said Brown, whose wife is handling the band's show wardrobe and taking care of three daughters younger than 3. "It's a lot to take in. We're looking forward to the opportunity to show our musicianship."

Other scheduled performers are the Black Eyed Peas, Beyoncé, T-Pain and Jamie Foxx with Slash, Eminem teamed with both Lil Wayne and Travis Barker, Lady Antebellum and Green Day performing with cast members from the "American Idiot" stage production. Bon Jovi will perform a song to be determined by viewer votes. What number might steal the show?

Well, at Thursday's rehearsals, the most gripping performance was by Pink, who sang "Glitter in the Air" while suspended -- spinning -- from the Staples Center rafters with a trio of body-painted dancers who looked like gilded, hard-bodied angels. During the number, Pink wore an outfit that is little more than strategically placed bandages, and took a dip in a tub of water placed in the center of the venue.

"It's something she did during her tour and we loved it and brought it in for the show," Ehrlich said. "The song isn't a hit but it's a good song and she's happy to be doing something besides 'So What.' Going with the hit is the easy thing but it's not always the best thing."

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Radiohead at the Fonda: Charitable and at ease [UPDATED WITH SET LIST]

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"Sing along," Thom Yorke told the audience at the Henry Fonda Theater on Sunday night, in case "I forget the words." He didn't, and he and Radiohead proceeded to give the crowd an incandescent version of "Fake Plastic Trees," the rousing second song in a show that was the hottest ticket in town -- and a noble one at the same time.

One of the most esteemed bands in the world has been in Los Angeles recording new music (their presence has been one of the worst kept "secrets" in recent music history), and after the staggering calamity in Haiti, the band was inspired to stage an impromptu benefit show.

"You'll be catching us on the fly," read a post late-Thursday on the band's website announcing the show, a performance that offered fans the rare opportunity to see Radiohead in an intimate club. Sunday's tickets could be bought by auction-only, and the closing minimum bid was $475, with the band pledging to donate all proceeds to Oxfam

The spare stage and unvarnished show (Visual effects? Well, the band did have purple lights) fit the occasion, and the band was mostly crisp and chipper -- not that this is a review. That would be rude amid the motivation and spirit.

"It's for charity," Yorke said after a mid-show false start, and right he was. At one point he also answered a fan's bellow with a decidely British aside. "Luck yeah, as you say," he muttered, although that first word was a different word that just sounds lucky. 

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Coachella 2010: Jay-Z, Muse, Thom Yorke lead lineup

Coachella

See the full lineup below...

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The Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival will bring a youth movement to the low desert this year. After several years of graybeard headliners, California’s signature festival is going back to the future with younger acts including Gorillaz, Muse, Jay-Z, Thom Yorke, MGMT, Hot Chip, Spoon, Vampire Weekend and LCD Soundsystem at the very top of the bill for the three-day concert that begins April 16 at the Empire Polo Field in Indio.

There are some flashback acts, including Woodstock icon Sly Stone and the Family Stone, 1980s alt-rock group Echo and the Bunnymen and reconstituted college-rock outfit Pavement, but they're not leading the bill as Paul McCartney, Prince and Roger Waters did in past years.

The presence of rap superstar Jay-Z will raise the eyebrows of those fans who like to think of Coachella as an indie oasis on today’s live-music landscape; hip-hop stars such as Kanye West, the Beastie Boys, Lupe Fiasco and Kool Keith have performed at Coachella in the past but none of them tap into the same street imagery and conspicuous consumption ethos that defines the $150-million mogul.

Jay-Z is also a somewhat unexpected booking because he has a performance -- for which tickets are still available -- at the Staples Center on March 26. The hip-hop star will close out the opening night of the fest on Friday, when other performers will be LCD Soundsystem, rock supergroup Them Crooked Vultures, Echo and the Bunnymen, the Specials and John Lydon's post-Sex Pistols experimental outfit Public Image Ltd. 

Saturday night will be headlined by Muse, Faith No More, DJs Tiesto and David Guetta, MGMT, Hot Chip and Jack White's The Dead Weather. Sunday will close with Gorillaz, Yorke, Spoon, Parisian electronic rockers Phoenix and dance veterans Orbital.

The desert event has won a reputation among fans for showcasing artists on the comeback trail, and rock acts such as the Pixies and Iggy & the Stooges made splashy returns at Coachella. Pavement, a staple of the '90s alt-rock scene, has been an expected Coachella headliner since announcing its reunion at the end of 2009.

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Jimi Hendrix and the newly mapped 'Valleys of Neptune'

Charles R. CrossEddie KramerJanie HendrixJimi HendrixValleys of Neptune

This is a longer version of a story that appears on the front page of today's Los Angeles Times.

JimiWith the exception of James Dean, who made only three films, there might be no pop-culture icon who has done more with less than the late Jimi Hendrix. The ultimate guitar hero released just three studio albums before his death in 1970, but new generations of music fans keep plugging into his amplified legacy.


The volume of Hendrix’s music is about get turned up. Today, the Hendrix estate and Sony Music Entertainment will announce the March 9 release of a “new” Hendrix album, “Valleys of Neptune,” which will feature a dozen unreleased recordings.

The late star’s sister, Janie Hendrix, calls the material a “major revelation” about her brother’s musical directions at the time of his death, but the project and Sony’s intense interest in it also reveal plenty about the modern music marketplace — namely that proven stars of the past, even the dead ones, are growing more important to an industry facing an uncertain future.

At last week’s massive 2010 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Sony chairman and chief executive Howard Stringer opened his company’s presentation by talking about Sony’s Legacy Recordings and its licensing agreement with Experience Hendrix, the Seattle-based company that acts as steward of the estate.

That partnership was first announced last summer, but today marks the real rollout of Sony’s venture into the Hendrix vault. The company also will re-release familiar Hendrix albums bundled with new DVD documentaries, take the star into the online sector in a more aggressive way and look for synergy opportunities with a 17-city tour of an all-star Hendrix tribute that begins March 4 in Santa Barbara.

“It’s an auspicious start in fulfilling a shared vision for the Jimi Hendrix catalog going forward,” Legacy general manager Adam Block said of the partnership.

Perhaps, but it also offers insight into the mind set at the major record labels. There was a major scramble among Sony’s rivals to land the Hendrix deal for the simple reason that icons of the past are viewed as a particularly good investment at a time when CD sales of new music are in continued decline and up-and-coming acts represent limited upside amid the shifting profit realities of the digital-download era.

In other words, the rewind button looks like a safer bet these days.

Warner Music Group has undertaken a major Frank Sinatra revival that is both archival — with the release of vintage recordings — and entrepreneurial with new ventures in advertising, film and perhaps a Las Vegas casino. Michael Jackson was the bestselling artist of last year (8.2 million albums sold in the U.S. alone), and the Beatles came in third (3.3 million); country crossover singer Taylor Swift finished between the two with music that was actually recorded in this century. The Fab Four also hit the video game market with their Rock Band game, the latest of their seemingly seasonal encores as a pop-culture force.

And now, Hendrix is warming up as a 21st century enterprise...

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Amid the rattle and hum before U2's Rose Bowl show

U2 at the Rose Bowl: Last of the really big shows?

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There was an air of intense excitement at the Rose Bowl for Sunday night's concert, but there was also a sense of urgency -- the era of rock bands selling out a 95,000-plus-seat show in America is, as they say, rapidly fading.

"The days of the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd and all those stadium tours, all of that is winding down; U2 may be the last band of that type," said Dan Bell of Monrovia, one of the fans who attended the biggest concert in the history of the venerable venue. "You won't see shows this big that aren't festivals."

The worry was that the show might be too big. The Rose Bowl has had notorious problems in the past for concerts, which have traffic patterns far more condensed than, say, a college football game with its tailgate trickle-in.

The gates opened more than half an hour after the advertised 5 p.m., and there was grumbling from sunbaked fans, especially those eager to get a spot on the field, which was general admission.

The opening act, L.A.'s own Black Eyed Peas, brought along special guest Slash to play "Sweet Child O' Mine" -- this really was a stadium show flashback -- and the crowd went wild.

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Weezer, Kings of Leon and Rancid will all roast weenies for KROQ

Rivers flowing

Maybe they'll call it the Weezer Roast? Or just a Rancid Picnic?

Weezer, Kings of Leon, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Jimmy Eat World, Rancid and Silversun Pickups are among the headliners for the KROQ-FM (106.7) Weenie Roast Y Fiesta at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater on May 16.

Tickets go on sale at 5 p.m. Thursday (May 7).

The other announced acts on the bill: Cage the Elephant, Asher Roth, Anberlin, Hollywood Undead, White Lies, the Airborne Toxic Event, Big B.

The Weenie Roast began in 1993 with a show featuring Stone Temple Pilots, Dramarama, X, The The and Terence Trent D'Arby, believe it or not. Last year, Metallica, the Racontuers and the Offspring led the bill, one again reinforcing the show's Mad Libs approach to live-music booking.  

The concert is a fundraiser for a number of charities, including Heal the Bay, the Surfrider Foundation and the AIDS Services Foundation Orange County.

-- Geoff Boucher

Photo: Rivers Cuomo. Credit: Bryan Haraway / Getty Images

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