Last night as the 2015 Grammy broadcast stretched across three and a half hours, TV viewers saw massive performances from Kanye West, Rihanna, Sia and Pharrell (among others: the show featured 23 sets). The folks lucky enough to be seated in the Staples Center caught even more of the action, but Rolling Stone got the ultimate view of the Grammys — backstage, before the big show even began, our cameras captured just what it takes to bring together Music's Biggest Night, from John Legend's rehearsals to Madonna's drum set-up. Photos by Theonepointeight.
Before the official Grammy ceremony takes place, seating arrangements are prepared by placing name cards on the main seats, specifying where artists will be located during the show. This process also helps the camera crew plan where and who to focus on during cut-aways and winner announcements.
LL Cool J, once again the show's host, discusses staging and set-ups with executive producer Ken Ehrlich.
Beck's drum set sits in the backstage area, ready to be wheeled in by the time rehearsals come around. Rehearsals begin a few days before the official live show, with each of the performing artists scheduled one after another, broken up into different time slots and days. A full dress rehearsal with every performing artist involved begins early Sunday morning of Grammy Day, so nearly the entire show is staged from beginning to end before the live show takes place.
Days before the show, the sound crew begins the process of separating microphones for each artist and his or her respective performance. Overall, there were 23 performances in this year's Grammys. That's 23 different set-ups in a three-hour broadcast.
Sam Smith and Mary J. Blige practice their duet performance of Smith's "Stay With Me."
Each microphone is fitted to each of the artist's unique preference, which means every single microphone has its own unique sound and flair. This is the microphone specifically used by Katy Perry during rehearsals and her official performance.
The backstage area includes a fully-fitted audio production office (seen on the left) where audio technicians monitor every sound heard during the broadcast to deliver the cleanest audio possible to audiences worldwide.
In the backstage area, the sound production team feeds and monitors audio between different channels, constantly keeping track of every sound heard during the live taping. Because the show highlights music and audio production at its highest level, it includes the top people in the audio field. In fact, the majority of these people happen to work similar large scale productions like the Oscars and the Tony
Blige continues to rehearse.
Eric Church runs through "Give Me Back My Hometown," the lead single off his latest LP. Church's tourmates, Dwight Yoakam and Brandy Clark, also performed at the show.
A sound technician sets up one of the drum sets Pharrell will use during his performance of "Happy." Each instrument is carefully tailored to each of the artist's specific instructions. By the time the artists jump onstage for rehearsals, the instruments are prepared for not only performance but also for audio monitoring.
A shot of the drum set AC/DC used during their opening performance at this year's Grammys.
John Legend, who closed the show by joining Common to perform a track from the movie Selma, prepares for his big moment.
Members of the orchestra performing with Common and John Legend chat while tuning their instruments. At this point, it's not so much about practicing as it is about perfecting what's already in place.
Common raps in front of a full string section.
John Legend eases into the piano.
The chorus standing behind John Legend was already fully prepared to deliver their crisp, clean vocals.
Common and John Legend end their rehearsal rendition of "Glory" with a handshake and candid smiles, knowing that this will be a memorable performance during the live show.
During the rehearsal period, instruments are carefully separated and labeled, making it easier for the production team to transport them in and out of the stage area. Here we see a label attached to the drum set used for Madonna's performance.
The backstage area, sometimes referred as the "Sound Village," is entirely filled with the best audio gear in the world. It includes a seemingly endless amount of digital hardware and analog technology. In the background, we see AC/DC's drum set transported across one of the most important parts of the backstage area: a ramp where the production crew continuously moves things like instruments and stage decorations.