By Chuck Crisafulli
There's got to be no finer feeling for an artist than being up on the GRAMMY stage as a presenter, performer or winner on Music's Biggest Night. But if you don't quite have the chops to be up on the stage, maybe the next best thing is to be inside the stage — that is, within the happy frenzy of the GRAMMY mosh pit. Tonight, about 200 or so lucky souls had arguably the best seat in the house (including me, though the trade-off is that moshers never sit) — it would be harder for an audience member to get any closer to the stars without security being notified.
Tonight, the pit crew was buzzing even before the show began as moshers also had an exceptional vantage point for watching VIPs take their seats. Adele, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry seemed to create the biggest stir, though the appearance of Coldplay also brought hoots and hollers (and the question, "Where's Gwyneth?").
After Bruce Springsteen got the evening started with a blistering new tune "We Take Care Of Our Own," and Bruno Mars kicked things up a very suave notch with "Runaway Baby," the pit quickly got to the appropriate GRAMMY level of excitement. Chris Brown’s "Turn Up The Music/Beautiful People" medley and Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson’s "Don't You Wanna Stay" had the pit crew contentedly waving hands in the air and dancing in place, but things really broke loose during the first GRAMMY one-of-a-kind performance teaming Rihanna and Coldplay in a mini-set that ended with a blazing "Paradise."
"That's unbelievable," one mosher commented loudly as the show went to break, and the pit quickly seconded her. More one-of-kind moments kept that pit energy high — the reunion of the Beach Boys, who performed with Maroon 5 and Foster The People; Carrie Underwood’s duet with Tony Bennett; and perhaps the most anticipated performance of the night, Adele's return to the GRAMMY stage. All performers and winners had their fans in the pit, but everyone seemed to be united in rooting for Adele. When she won her second GRAMMY of the night and told the crowd, "This is ridiculous," the pit responded by shouting, "No it isn't!"
Another bonus of the evening for the pit people was a series of even closer interactions with artists. Host LL Cool J fist-bumped moshers whenever he had the chance, Sir Paul McCartney high-fived a lucky few, members of the Band Perry wanted to know what after-party moshers were going to, and Drake made himself at home right down in the pit in preparation for his presentation of Nicki Minaj's incredibly theatrical performance. Moshers even helped a clearly distraught Jennifer Hudson down the stage stairs after her stops-out performance of "I Will Always Love You" in tribute to Whitney Houston.
While Houston's death was still fresh news, and was acknowledged by many of those on the GRAMMY stage tonight, LL Cool J had set the tone early on by saying that while the loss of Houston was "a death in the family" the best way to handle that loss was through a celebration of music. By the time Sir Paul closed out the show with the medley from side two (in vinyl speak) of Abbey Road, that celebration was truly epic. Joined onstage by Bruce Springsteen, Joe Walsh and Dave Grohl, McCartney and his band brought the show to an explosive close that really did demonstrate — to those in the pit and far beyond — the power of music.
As the time came for the moshers to leave the pit and return to real life, one said, "It was pretty amazing just to be here and be a part of things. But the music made it awesome."