Let’s Go Insane?
Grammy’s Prince “Tribute” is Everything But
I just got back from the Grammy Tribute to Prince called “Let’s Go Crazy!” held at the Los Angeles Convention Center. I’ve got to go on record here and be upfront and say first and foremost, that Prince would’ve hated this. He hated when people sang his songs; he hated corporate greed and he never involved them in any kind of concert venue, in fact, he never had a sponsor throughout his whole career. So, to sell this as a tribute to him is bullshit.
I don’t blame the artists. The artists wanted to do this and it was obvious that they all had a love for Prince, especially Sheila E and his band, The Revolution. I think that what we need to take from this is that we need to stop calling things what they aren’t. Don’t piss in the wind and tell me it’s Purple Rain, because it’s not. And it’s not fair that you sell this as a concert and charge $125, when in fact it’s a television production.
First, let’s talk about the venue. I should’ve been alarmed when I first heard that it was at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The last time that I saw a concert at the Los Angeles Convention Center. was… ummmmm, Never? Because, it’s not a concert venue, it’s a convention center. It is no way a place where you would see a concert or plan a concert or do a concert… Why was this done there? There’s literally so many better venues thrown about in that very location. Why, there’s the Microsoft Theater right next-door! Or how about Staples Center? Or, there’s The Forum… there’s so many other venues that could’ve been used but weren’t, and yet, this is where they chose to do the show.
The seating was questionable; there’s no risers - just chairs lined up flat. There was a lifted area for the seating way in the back, but more of a flat view, not like it is in a theater venue so that people can see properly.
The seat that I had was a $125 seat, and my view was the back of the head of some guy, because there is no raised seating, that’s what you want, right? You want the audience to be able to see the show. Hey, are you crazy? Um, this is a concert it’s not a seminar!
Secondly, this is supposed to be a tribute concert! When I first moved here to LA, I got a lot of jobs in background work, aka “extra” work and as a professional audience member. For $50-$100 I was paid (with a bunch of other people) to go and watch television shows, clap on demand, ooh and Ahhh on demand, laugh on demand, and do all the things that an audience should do (and is guaranteed to do) when you pay them. This was not a lucrative career but it was fun and it got me some extra cash. Tonight I did that for free because that’s what we were. We were a professional audience - well not really professional, no one got paid, in fact we were the ones who had to pay - and that’s bullshit.
3, If you’re going to have a strict policy then you should make sure that everyone is talking about that policy, that it’s posted everywhere and that it’s on every window, clearly visible in every sign, and I’m talking big and bold - and every person who works there should be saying it to you as you enter!
I entered the venue about a little after 8 o’clock so it had just started. So, any speech that was made prior to that was lost on me, because I wasn’t there. As I entered every one was cordial, the ticket was fine, after asking for it, I was escorted to my seat, again, there are signs here and there but no one directing you to them or its message. No one said anything! And, there are plenty of opportunities! You go through the metal detectors - none of the security guards mention it. No one says keep your phone in your pocket. No one ever verbally told me to keep my phone down. Or, don’t take pictures. No one.
So, I’m in my seating area, floor 21, row J, seat 13, it’s about midway from the stage to the back of the Section, towards the right side near the aisle at the end. Juanes is singing 1999. He was doing a fine job - it was a good performance, however, at the end there were some technical difficulties. You could hear a major blaring tonal sound coming from the back, you could see the discomfort on Juanes’ face and the song ended abruptly and kind of into just a bad ending (like a non-ending). There was another break, because between each performance of every singer they stop, they regroup, they discuss what shots they got. I guess, with the producer and director or whatever - and then either move forward to the next group where they do an audience countdown, then an “OK audience, lets hear applause!”, the crowd follows direction, and the show starts up again. The technical glitch won’t do, it’s not going to be shown on television where they fucked up, So, they announce that Juanes is going to perform it again.
At most venues I’ve noticed people take pictures, people take video, and you could tell when it’s relaxed. I wasn’t sure whether you could take pictures or not, but I wasn’t unsure. I take my camera out, I took pictures of Juanes on stage and then the screen, immediately after I did that I was approached by a hefty bald 40 something-year-old security guy who says, “come with me.” He said I’m not in trouble, but to follow him. I said where am I going? He says “Just follow me”.
I’m removed from my seat and I follow him. We kept walking, we kept walking, all the way back to the lobby where I first entered the venue. I asked what’s going on, he said nothing to me, but whispered to what seemed like an usher, there’s signs posted everywhere and that there is a television production and you can’t take any pictures or any video. I said, well it would be nice if someone could tell you that.”
Again, he says there are signs all over the place. I said where? So, he’s pointing out to me and, again, I said where? Where are they? Because, there were none where he was trying to tell me there were signs!
“It’s there in the window!”
I said, “OK I don’t see any in the window do you?”
He said, “They’re here on this this sign.”
I said, “OK, you’ve got about 400 people assisting people to get into this venue, why don’t you have all of them say as you enter ‘no video camera, no pictures’ so that everyone knows that, and that you’re not pulling me out like some Criminal (which is how they made me feel), to take me to give me a verbal bashing and tell me what is and is not allowed. I don’t need anyone pulling me out making a scene and telling me to delete the pictures I took. It was embarrassing it was rude it was unacceptable”.
They said I could talk to a manager if I wanted, and summoned one, but I said no - I’m leaving. One showed up and they quickly explained what transpired, he shrugged his shoulders and left. It turned a potentially fun event into something that really pissed me off.
I’m not a rich man. I don’t go out often. I hardly go out at all. I’m going to school, I don’t have an income so I don’t really do a lot of things like that. It was sheer luck and good fortune from a very good friend of mine (Val Margolin who, with her husband Ben, own the fansite prince.org, of which I am a senior moderator for over 20 years) who couldn’t make the concert herself, so she offered the ticket to me and told me to pay when I can - that’s a blessing, and it was supposed to be a wonderful evening. I’m home before 9 o’clock it was 8:45-8:50pm when I got home.
So, I was pulled out into the lobby, told to report to a 20 something-year-old, had to explain to me what I did wrong, told to show the pictures I took and then told to delete them. Which I did. Then, they said you can go back, I said, “Ooh hell no, I’m not going back. You guys treated me like a criminal.”
I know there had to be other ways that could’ve been considered when handling this type of thing, and if this was going to be such an issue it should’ve been verbalize to everyone in every part of coming into this venue. It should’ve been told every time you start up the camera again for filming, and it should’ve been told to every person taking you to your seat. I should’ve been told by every ticket taker, by every x-ray guard.
I was pulled from my seat and taken to the lobby and told to delete the pictures, and the way I was treated was (seriously) like a common criminal! So rude! When I expressed my concerns I was shut down. So, I decided to leave!
I blame the Grammy awards people, or at least the ones behind the production company, or whoever is in charge of doing this.
Also, you don’t say you’re going to do a tribute show for Prince, and actually sell it like it is a concert, and then turn around and do a television show where there’s stops and starts and countdowns and it’s directed up and down - just lies, lies, lies and bullshit like that. This was not a concert, it was not a lovefest for Prince, it was a Hollywood television production requiring an audience to applause on command and cheer on command, And I get paid for doing that.
In all of Prince’s touring years and all of his productions, he never had a corporate sponsor. He never had a commercial, he never had anything that he considered an ad, and he was much requested to do so. Can you imagine a red Corvette using the song Little RedCorvette? He didn’t allow it because he wanted his music to be separate from all of that, and this is the exact opposite of what he wanted.
If you want to properly give a tribute to Prince, do it at Paisley Park.
Do it with artists he respected.
Do it without commercials, without corporate sponsorship and, if you’re going to ask the audience to work, then pay them.
This is bullshit, and I’ll never attend a Grammy function again.
(Tomás G Robinson is a Singer/Songwriter, actor, writer, LAFS Graduate and Senior Moderator known as “June7” at the largest and longest running Prince fansite ever, prince.org. He is also a father of three and grandfather of one, who loves music, film, Prince, Stevie and MJ and believes in a Trump-Free America)