Beyonce’s nine-minute performance at the 2017 Grammy Awards was among the most ambitious and logistically complex live segment the Grammys, or any other awards show, has attempted.
The expansive medley of Love Drought and Sandcastles employed two dozen dancers, a live band offstage and thousands of flowers spread across the full breadth of the Staples Centre stage. It also incorporated the interplay of Beyonce in the flesh with film footage of her pregnant form projected onto a scrim, or gauze backdrop, during the number.
The latter element took a good chunk of the 90-minute rehearsal time she was allotted on Thursday, and was a good reminder of how much work goes on backstage, and by technical teams, to make a performance seamless. Beyonce appeared on the first of four days of sessions fine-tuning nearly two dozen live performances for this year’s edition of the telecast.
“Can we bring the image down? It needs to look like her feet are really on the ground,” a disembodied voice boomed over the house public address system as crew members attempted to sync up images on the scrim with the live Beyonce stand-in on the stage behind it. The goal: to have them appear one and the same for millions of TV viewers.
Minutes rolled by, then more minutes, as nothing appeared to happen.
“What are we waiting on guys?” The voice asked again.
After preliminary run-throughs for the two dozen dancers to find and hit their marks, Beyonce joined in, outfitted in a glittering gold chain-mail dress draping her protruding belly (she’s having twins), a thick band of gold rings around her neck and a sunburst-like headdress.
On the first stab with the star on board, she experienced difficulty navigating through a bank of flowers around a chair she was to sit on during the Sandcastles second half of the sequence. The chair was quickly turned 180 degrees so she could take her position without first walking around it.
After a third time out, everything appeared to function as planned, at just a few minutes after rehearsals were scheduled to conclude at 9.30 p.m.
But the power of Beyonce is not to be underestimated.
“Can we do it one more time, please?” she asked, and without a moment’s pause, the answer boomed out: “Of course. Everyone take your places.”
“Thank you,” she replied. “I really appreciate it.”
Again singing the sequence that first calls a lover out for his lies, and then tells him “I know I promised that I couldn’t stay/But every promise don’t work out that way,” she added a coda with an even more hopeful message, voiced as flower petals floated down from above: “If we’re going to heal, let it be glorious.”
The stage manager’s voice, however, had the last word: “OK everybody. That’s a wrap. Strike the set.”