Hours before Travis Scott took the stage set up in a ballroom at the Beverly Hilton, and before Clive Davis, the everlasting star of this legendary Pre-Grammy Gala, used his customary introduction speech to toast outgoing Recording Academy President Neil Portnow and this year’s honoree, Clarence Avant, hordes of celebrities filed down the red carpet.
Many were whisked by without any intention of speaking (hi and bye, Russell Wilson and Ciara – the slit up the side of her dress doing all of the talking – and Rita Ora and Maren Morris and Melissa Etheridge), while others, such as Alice Cooper, were dragged away mid-sentence by overeager carpet patrollers intent on ushering them inside.
And the post-dinner musical portion of the night still started 38 minutes late.
But Atlanta-based super-producer Dallas Austin graciously chatted for a few minutes about 21 Savage’s immigration issues and his thoughts on Atlanta as Super Bowl host.
“It’s a shame he got caught up in something that’s happening in America, period,” the soft-spoken Austin said of the Atlanta rapper, who was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Super Bowl Sunday for allegedly living in the U.S. illegally. “The movement that’s happening anyway with Trump with the borders and the walls and him trying to prove a point about immigration, it’s just a bad time. He’s a good kid, it’s just bad timing. He did change himself, he did make a career for himself, he did try to do something positive. If it wasn’t for the timing, I don’t think it would be as elevated as it is…I would like to work with him. He’s a talented kid. It’s just an unfortunate situation.”
Austin also agreed that Super Bowl week was “insane!” “I think the events were crazier than the game! It was nonstop,” he said.
He did venture to Centennial Olympic Park to watch Monica’s performance and heaped praise on fellow hometown producer Jermaine Dupri, who curated the free park shows.
“I was really proud of what Jermaine did. He really made the city feel comfortable about having the musical (element). It’s such a musical city, you can’t come to Atlanta and not have us display it. Jermaine did a great job.”
Some other musicians who stopped to chat included:
Paul Shaffer, who said he would “love to do” another run of shows in Las Vegas. His former boss, David Letterman, helped him open his residency at Caesars Palace last fall and Shaffer said he talks to his longtime friend “all the time.”
“Weird” Al Yankovic, who gave us a preview of his upcoming “Strings Attached” tour, which plays State Bank Amphitheatre at Chastain Park on June 30.
“We’re playing with local orchestras. It’s our normal show aided and abetted by a symphony and for the first time, we’re bringing background singers with us, and luckily, I was able to get the singers who are on my record,” he said. The last tour (the awesomely named “The Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour”) was very scaled down, and it was the most fun ever for me and we played small venues and everybody had a great time. I thought, I did my super-small show, now I want to do my biggest show ever. We’re playing all the hits and a few deep cuts and a few songs we’ve never done before because they’re orchestra friendly songs.”
As he tucked his trademark spiral curls behind his ears, Yankovic also said he enjoys playing Chastain and is good-natured about the often-noisy mealtimes taking place during his show.
“Sometimes I say, “Hey! Give me some of that Jell-O!” he said with a laugh.
Sammy Hagar – with wife Kari at his side – talked about his new album with The Circle (Michael Anthony, Jason Bonham and Vic Johnson), “Space Between,” due May 10.
“It’s all chemistry,” he said about dynamic of The Circle. “You can put Sting and Springsteen and Elton John all together, but it’s not necessarily gonna be great chemistry. That’s what I’ve learned from being in all these others bands. The chemistry allows everyone to feel free to express themselves and when you express yourself freely, it’s your best work.”
As for the new album, Hagar explained that it’s a concept record, and every track is called a chapter. “There are 10 chapters; I prefer you listen to each chapter at least once or twice.”
And how will that go over in today’s musical hopscotch world? “Not very well,” Hagar admitted, “but I’m gonna push for it and ask my fans to please listen to it a couple of times. It’s the story of one man’s dealings with money, greed, enlightenment and truth, which is all there is. It’s a good story.”
And as for the inevitable Van Halen query, Hagar said he hasn’t talked to Eddie Van Halen since 2004.
“I reached out a couple of times and he was sick for awhile. He’s not very consistent, but he’s a great musician and that’s the only thing I miss, our original friendship when we did have chemistry and his musicianship. You play with a guy like that, that’s high level music. It makes me sing better. But I can’t say we’re friends. I love the guy, but he doesn’t love me.”
Hagar is, unbelievably, 71, and attributes his sturdy constitution to being content.
“I am not stressed out. Stress will ******* kill you and hate will kill you. I don’t hate anyone. We are happy. We live the best, gifted life on the planet.”