After three and a half hours of the Grammy telecast, you may feel like you saw everything that could possible be imagined – even Kanye West hilariously rushing the stage in defense of Beyoncé, yet again. But although the show was tailored for the home audience, those actually in attendance at Los Angeles’ Staples Center were privy to a few jokes, celebrations and candid moments that didn’t make the CBS broadcast. These were our favorites.
1. LL Cool J’s hosting duties were so minimal this year, it seemed like he should be on the side of a milk carton. But he did get a great line in his off-camera instructions to the audience, just before the show started: “Stay loose, hide your flasks and have a good time.”
2. The message displayed on the big video screen after AC/DC’s opening performance of “Rock or Bust” and “Highway to Hell” will probably never be repeated in any other context: “Ladies & Gentlemen: The devil horns are yours to keep, but please put them away for the rest of the show. Thank you.”
3. During commercial breaks, the Staples crowd got clips of classic Grammy performances from recent years: Beyoncé and Prince playing “Purple Rain”; Bruce Springsteen, Dave Grohl, Steven Van Zandt and Elvis Costello covering “London Calling”; Eminem joined by Elton John for “Stan.” That meant the crowd didn’t see the Imagine Dragons song sponsored by Target, but it did get to relive the band doing “Radioactive” at last year’s show with Kendrick Lamar. And we learned that Macklemore and Lewis already feel dated.
4. There was a distinct moment when one could first smell the aroma of marijuana waft up to the cheap seats. Unexpectedly, it was during Ariana Grande’s performance of “Just a Little Bit of Your Heart,” which apparently is now a modern stoner classic.
5. The gold medal for the most impressive pyrotechnic effects went to AC/DC for their huge jets of flame. Silver medal: Miranda Lambert’s steady stream of fireworks during her performance of “Little Red Wagon.” Bronze medal: ELO’s bizarre video backdrop during “Evil Woman,” showing a woman whose cornea and nose were both on fire.
6. You may have noticed that many performances took place on a smaller circular stage in the middle of the audience. Most musicians who were slotted to play there would take their places and then quietly stand in place, waiting for the lights and camera to go on. But not Kanye West. While LL Cool J was introducing “Only One,” Yeezy was pacing back forth, frantically burning off energy.
7. Beck winning album of the year confused the Staples Center crowd, which applauded him politely but wanly. Sam Smith, on the other hand, was clearly an audience favorite, provoking repeated standing ovations. Still, the standing-ovation bar wasn’t that high, and for a while it seemed like practically everyone who hit the stage got one. Which made it all the more glaring when Barry Gibb walked out to accept the Bee Gees’ lifetime achievement award – a moment that seemed designed to provoke such a response – and the audience basically said, “Eh, nice to see you, Barry.” (Subject for future study: Don’t lifetime achievement awards usually go to people who are still living? So what are the Grammys doing handing them out to people like George Harrison? Could they give a lifetime achievement award to Mozart?) Biggest standing ovation for the least amount of work: Stevie Wonder, who sent the crowd into a rapture by playing approximately 10 seconds of harmonica at the end of Usher’s cover of “If It’s Magic.”
8. Up in the Staples Center nosebleeds, the Grammys are still fun and the music sounds good (well, some of it does), but the celebrity watching is somewhat inhibited by the inability to make out who’s who. With one notable exception: No matter where you are seated, it’s completely obvious who Taylor Swift is, because she is invariably the first one jumping out of her seat.