Grammy Musings From the West Coast

grammys1As soon as tonight’s awesome Country Universe Live Blog finished, I had the opportunity to watch the Grammy Awards (which were recorded on my DVR – the best and only way to really watch an awards show) out here on the West Coast. Since I couldn’t comment on the country performances earlier, here are a few random musings:

Carrie Underwood (“Last Name”): Thanks to the song and the outfit, I’ve read it a lot in the last few hours: What happened to little miss “Jesus Take The Wheel?” The answer to that question is front and center in the primer on how to turn an American Idol into a country music star, so I’ll just leave you with a tip: If you’ve ever wondered what the Underwood concert experience is like, take her ’09 Grammy Awards performance, multiply it by 14 (or however many songs she sings, minus the first verse of JTTW) and you have it in a nutshell. Loud and rockin’, with tiny nearly non-existent flourishes of country, a powerful overwrought vocal straining, but ultimately failing, to overcome the band, and virtually incomprehensible lyrics. 

Taylor Swift/Miley Cyrus (“Fifteen”): I must say that Taylor Swift’s best performances occur when she is seated. Anyone else notice that? Truthfully, I don’t have the heart to trash her vocal tonight (I’d reserve that for Miley if she were a country singer. My ears are still bleeding!). But, if you are over a certain age, you know what I’m talking about. My only question is: Will that ever change? Probably not. Therefore, when her audience grows up, and her songwriting grows up, what is going to happen to Swift? Will her audience stick with her and continue not to care about her horrible vocals? Or, like my generation, will they graduate to classic acts and more talented newcomers?

Kenny Chesney (“Better As A Memory”): Sweet intro by Morgan Freeman. I’m neither here nor there about Kenny Chesney’s performance. Nicely understated. Solid vocals for Chesney. However, the song does nothing for me, and I’m not sure it did anything for those seated in the audience or those watching from home either.

Sugarland (“Stay”): Jennifer Nettles can S I N G. The facial gestures and the accent aside, she knocked it out of the park. Unlike Chesney, there are more than a few people in the audience and at home wondering why they don’t own a Sugarland album. That’s how you earn a Grammy and how you sell albums and concert tickets. And that’s from someone who doesn’t even like this song … or Sugarland, to be honest.

Alison Krauss and Robert Plant (Medley): When I get the volume on my television fixed, I’ll get back to you on this performance. Both artists sounded like they were singing underwater. Maybe I’m just going deaf, but I could barely hear them. However, I did enjoy this superficial observation from EW’s live Grammys blog: “I like that Krauss has her own gentle-wind machine, which fails to rustle nary a curl on Plant.” So true.

What did you think of the country performances on tonight’s Grammy Awards?

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39 Comments

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39 Responses to Grammy Musings From the West Coast

  1. I have yet to watch it, but I’m pumped for Sugarland and Adele’s performance. What could be better than 2 of my favorite singers and 1 of my favorite songs?

  2. StephanieNo Gravatar

    I think that review of Carrie Underwood’s performance is mostly crap. Had she not won the award for Best Country Female Vocal Performance, she wouldn’t have been judged so harshly. Everyone on the staff here at CU can deny it, but most contributors (with the exception of Kevin, whom I really admire for his ability to critique a song/artist without letting personal bias affect his thought processes) made their dislike for her win very vocal. Just own up to it.

  3. Leeann WardNo Gravatar

    Stephanie (and all other loyal Carrie fans),
    Once again, I’d like to point out that I agreed with her win last year, for “Before He Cheats.” In fact, I even gave “Last Name” a pretty positive review upon its initial release. Granted, the appeal of the song has long since faded for me, I still recognize it for what it is. I don’t have a problem that she won the award because of any personal bias toward her. I have a problem because her submission was not as deserving as the other nominations. While I admit that she’s not my favorite artist and I’m often neutral about her, I’ve never been negative about her for sport and have always tried to be obsessively fair–partly because I know she is very talented and I know that she often does get unfairly scured.

    I at least ask that you do a better job of distinguishing between those of us who may not love her but still try to be fair and the people who actually do pick her apart because of personal bias. It’s unreasonable to lump us all into one group. Wouldn’t you rather us be honest regarding our opinions rather than simply try to please all Carrie fans? I think Underwood is a good enough artist to deserve such treatment.

  4. AndieNo Gravatar

    i am happy win carries win because well i am a carrie fans but i think that this year trisha deservd it the most, but i love her performance it was so energizing(sp?) and powerful it was really pump up you cold see the crowd felt like in a concert ,

    i love sugarlands stay it was awesome as usual

    the whole taylor/miley duet was ood in a few parts others not so much

  5. vpNo Gravatar

    I though Kenny was nothing special, just glad hae did’nt put on another island party song.

    The audio was horrible for Robert and Alison, otherwise I think it would have been good.

    Sugarlands performance was solid and I could say it better than Lynn, the facial expressions and acccent aside, and the fact that I hate that song, she sounded great.

    Here’s my stance on Carrie, I know the noms say it is for a specific song performance but I think when voting the members put into consideration more than just that one song because she was the hardest working female last year. If you look in the past the obvious best song 9out of 10 does not win and it is usually the person who is on top at the time. It may not be fair but that is my thought on the voting. As for the performance the music was loud and not so country, but that was to be expected when she said it would be a energized rocked out version with the special female rock guitarist. So being for warned I think it was decent and great if you are into pop rock.

  6. Here’s the problem with the Country winners in most years. The Nashville block will divide their votes among the deserving artists, and then all of the other voters who don’t know what’s going on in country music vote for the one with the name recognition. And that’s how Carrie starts a string of Grammy wins. I’m a bit sad right now, knowing that there were some truly great vocal performances that lost to “Last Name”.

    Since I’m not on staff here, I feel okay in saying that Carrie sounded a bit screechy last night, and I was a bit embarrassed for her. She can do so much better. Taylor and Miley were a train wreck, and Kenny was a bit flat. I’m so with Leeann on Jennifer Nettles, though. Amazing voice and performance, but the facial expressions were distracting. When she sang with Adele (amazing for both singers), she gave Adele a look that was truly scary for a moment. The Alison wind machine was pretty cool, too.

  7. GailNo Gravatar

    Jennifer Nettles was the best, IMO, out of the Country performances. She kinda acted a little goofy when she was accepting her award! I see our EOTY’s performance was very “entertaining”…..NOT! To me he’s like that on every award show…..boring!! So cool to see Keith Urban up on stage jamming with some of the greats!! You know he was loving it!! I don’t even know what to say about the Teen Queens….yes, I do….AWFUL! And people pay their hard earned money to see those two!!

  8. SheldonNo Gravatar

    Right on, Lynn…

  9. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar

    Honestly, as someone who’s generally not crazy about Carrie (yeah, I’ll totally admit it), I thought her performance was pretty entertaining (the song is so sleazy to begin with – I’m glad she had fun with it) and that it was just over-powered by the band. But Lynn is entitled to her opinion about it, and her opinion makes sense. As our wise Kevin says, no art is self-interpreting. Biases are a part of the game, and that’s to be expected, as long as you can explain why you have one to begin with (and Lynn did, quite well). And yeah, pretty much what Leeann said. :)

    I thought Taylor actually sounded fair last night – at least better than usual, which for her isn’t saying much, but still. I guess I just don’t care that her singing isn’t high-quality because her songwriting is so sharp, especially when she goes the understated route like she did last night. I think that’s a very mature song she did (especially considering it’s explicitly about being young), and I would have really liked the performance if Miley hadn’t been there to try and diva it out. That just wasn’t what the song called for. But yeah, I hope that song gets to be a single at some point.

    I agree with your comments on pretty much everything else, Lynn. Shame about the sound for Robert & Alison – kinda put a damper on the last stretch there.

  10. Canadian BoyNo Gravatar

    I’m sorry, but “Last Name ” really didn’t deserve to win Best Country Female Vocal Performance. To be honest I didn’t even find she performed it very well last night, it was too loud and screechy for me.

    Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus’s performance wasn’t as horrible as I thought it was going to be, I actually (this is very painful for me to say) liked it a bit at the beginning. With that being said it still wasn’t a good performance. I don’t know, Taylor Swift’s ‘understated’ vocals annoy me and as for MIley Cyrus, well lets not even get me started on her…

    Kenny’s performance was nothing special to me, it definetly wasn’t bad, just dull.

    I absolutly loved Sugarland’s performance. It’s no wonder that “Stay” won Best Country Song and Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo/Group. They were hands down the best country performance of the night. I even liked when they joined Adele.

    I liked the Krauss and Plant performance, but I did find it annoying that you could barely hear Krauss while she was singing with Plant.

  11. GavinNo Gravatar

    I’m happy for Carrie Underwood. She did great last night and earned her win. Count on her winning next year as well. One thing I must point out from a personal point of view.
    Not once did I see Trisha, LeAnn, or Lee Ann sing their respective songs live. I’ve seen Carrie and Martina perform their songs on more than one occasion. Out of sight out of mind. Maybe the Grammy voters didn’t have any real performances other than Martina’s to compare with Carrie’s performances. This is not a best song award it is a best performance award. I thought most of the performances sounded fine. Surround sound makes all the difference in the world, but it didn’t help Taylor or Miley out as much as I had hoped. Did Jamey Johnson actually get shut out?

  12. AaronNo Gravatar

    I thought Carrie’s performance was ok. I do agree that the band was extremely loud and you could tell she was having a hard time trying to be louder than the band, but I thought she rocked it out! I don’t think it was as good as her performance last year, but I thought it was still ok.

    I have to say, Taylor and Miley’s performance wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be (too bad I can’t say the same about the JoBros and Stevie). They both did an average job with the vocals and yea, that’s about all I can say about that one.

    Kenny was a bore. I personally don’t care for him that much, but last night he was just boring. I like how he tried to tone it down but it was just boring.

    Best performance by a country artist was definitely Sugarland! I thought Jennifer did a fantastic job on “Stay” and her singing with Adele was amazing! I loved it! Probably my favorite performance of the night! It was great!

  13. Lynn DouglasNo Gravatar

    Stephanie, I can honestly say that I was not thinking about Carrie Underwood’s win for “Last Name” when I wrote this post. It was hours later. I truly don’t care that much about who wins a Grammy to take it out undeservedly on an artist.

    I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m not a huge Underwood fan, but that bias is rooted in her music and performances. It’s not personal. If I seem harsher on her than others at times, it is because she has so much talent and can do so much more with it. In fact, just last week I argued that she has great untapped potential. I think that’s a compliment.

    All that I said, I still think her performance last night was a hot mess – whether I like the song or not. But, if you liked the performance, I guarantee you will like her concerts. I wasn’t kidding in my comment. It looked/sounded the same.

  14. Cory DeSteinNo Gravatar

    Excellent job Lynn, I agree with you 100% on your review about Carrie. It was way over the top and she didnt really sound like herself at all. More like a Pat Benatar or Heart song, not a country one. And the same goes for her live show is the band is WAY too loud. I sadly saw her live in Pittsburgh and was left diasspointed because if I didnt know the song already, such as the album cuts I couldnt understand the lyrics.

    And to Gavin, it is Best Country VOCAL Performance. They arent voting on a stage performance of the song its the vocals for it. Emmylou Harris has won the award with songs that come nowhere near the Top 40 country show.
    Carrie is a great package of radio sugar right now, but I am not sure sure what’s going to be left in the long run.

  15. Lynn, that’s the best description of Carrie that I’ve seen yet. Nail, meet head!

  16. Occasional HopeNo Gravatar

    “As for the performance the music was loud and not so country, but that was to be expected when she said it would be a energized rocked out version with the special female rock guitarist. So being for warned I think it was decent and great if you are into pop rock.”

    She was nominated (and won) in the COUNTRY vocal category; so why was she doing a “special rock” version?

    Quite apart from any opinions as to the artistic merits of Carrie’s musical direction, if she keeps on screaming all her songs she’s going to end up destroying her voice altogether.

  17. StephenNo Gravatar

    Honestly, I think Underwood rocked it. Had she lessened the band and sang perfectly people would’ve said it was an average performance. Whatever, at least she pleased the general public. The NY Times, LA Times, EW, and Time magazine all loved it. I’m sorry you didn’t like it Lynn, maybe she isn’t your type of singer. That’s fine. I find the review to be a bit harsh, but whatever. Your opinion. All of my fellow Carrie fans need to back off. Not everyone is going to like her, but at least the Grammy voters do.

  18. AndieNo Gravatar

    Last name is a really power country rock song and carrie really rocked it, maybe her vocals werent dead on like always but she proved to have a lot of stage presence and entertaining material, besides she wasnt going to sing I Told You So because thats for the ACMs so it make sense that she gave last name a different twist

  19. LindaNo Gravatar

    I didn’t watch the whole thing yet, but I had to laugh at your Sugarland paragraph. I owned their first album but disliked it. I don’t like their music nor Jennifer nor her voice nor her performing style, not even her clothes. “Stay” is a heartfelt song but it sure won’t make me buy another album of theirs.

  20. CFNo Gravatar

    Lynn, I agree with you, for the most part.

    I think Carrie’s performance wasn’t too good. The music was lay louder than her vocals, and it just didn’t stand out. She does better performing slow songs at award shows, and probably live in general.

    Taylor and Miley did pretty bad. Talk about tone deaf. Taylor did better than Miley, but that’s really not saying much. They should go back to high school and stay there.

    Kenny’s performance… didn’t even pay attention.

    Sugarland did excellent. I may not be crazy for the song or her accent, but Jennifer Nettles did one of the best performances of the night.

    I was surprised at the Plant/Krauss performance. I enjoyed it but the sound was not good. Seemed rushed and like an instrument was missing, or something. The sound just wasn’t totally working. Otherwise, I think it would have been amazing.

    and Keith Urban did ok.

  21. CarsonNo Gravatar

    Taylor’s vocals were a lot better last night then they usually are on award shows. However, Miley, was just plain downright bad. Goosebumps when Taylor sang, flinches away from the TV screen when Miley tried to pop up the song a little more. Why her song with Billy Ray Cyrus was country, and why so many country execs recognize her is beyond me.

    Stay and Sugarland were great and strong as usual.

    Carrie Underwood looked hot in her short dress, but that was the only standout part of the performance. You could barely hear her, it’s an old, okay song, and she just didn’t stick out or show off her skills that much last night.

  22. pselbyNo Gravatar

    I’m no huge Carrie Underwood fan, but that featured guitar player was smoking (her playing, that is)! Who was she?

    Kenny Chesney was much better than usual – maybe because there were no steel drums in that song.

    I wish Charlie Louvin had won best Southern Gospel album — he was really looking forward to it. I’m glad he is getting a lot of airplay on satellite radio.

    On the whole, I really enjoyed the program and thought there were some inspired pairings.

  23. ZachNo Gravatar

    LAST NAME: If this is the “official” Carrie Underwood concert experience, I must unfortunatly say that I am now afraid to go to a Carrie Underwood concert.. x.x all i can say is “o.O” ……seriously…. this is depressing… :(
    FIFTEEN: Good instrumental; good acoustic sound and setting; vocals, however, not so much.
    BETTER AS A MEMORY: missed that one.
    STAY: AMAZING.
    CHASING PAVEMENTS: even more AMAZING.
    ALISON & ROBERT: awesome. :)

  24. Carrie Underwood’s drummer should lose his crash symbol privileges after that one.

    She looked weird when she was swaying to and fro on those heels.

    she sounded screechy and tilted towards yelling rather than singing.

    that guitar player chick was weak sauce. no soul.

    all and all, really underwhelming performance. sound and fury signifying nothing man.

  25. DeniseNo Gravatar

    Carrie Underwood has a good voice, too bad she doesn’t use it very often. Last night she sounded like she was trying to fit in with the crowd at Staples, which was only about 1% country. The girls (Miley and Taylor) cannot sing and I agree that once their audience grows up they will realize it and find true vocalists to listen to. I like Sugarland and Jennifer Nettles voice, but I can’t watch her. She is very spazzy.

  26. GavinNo Gravatar

    Cory DeStein says:
    And to Gavin, it is Best Country VOCAL Performance. They arent voting on a stage performance of the song its the vocals for it. Emmylou Harris has won the award with songs that come nowhere near the Top 40 country show.
    Carrie is a great package of radio sugar right now, but I am not sure sure what’s going to be left in the long run.

    I know, but are they comparing live vocals or recorded vocals. I’m talking live vocal performance.

    I’ll repeat this one more time, “Not once did I see Trisha, LeAnn, or Lee Ann sing their respective songs live.” So tell me how do they do it. Did they consider their live vocal or their studio vocal?

    From what I hear you don’t win eight straight female vocalist awards from three of the biggest music award shows by accident. She’s on the verge of pulling the triple sweep as the ACM’s are just around the corner. I’m actually curious about what her reaction would be if she didn’t win. If she does lose I hope it’s to Taylor Swift just to hear the Swift fans defend the decision.

  27. ARWNo Gravatar

    I hated Carrie’s performance…or more precisely the band and the arrangement. But to say that Carrie was straining, screeching or screaming shows a woeful lack of knowledge and attention. Why are Lynn’s reviews and comments on Carrie so predictable? Maybe we ought to dispense with the ‘objective’ tag, eh?

  28. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar

    I agree with Lynn…I thought her take on Carrie’s performance was spot on.

    But I’m not objective here, as I think the song itself is obnoxious.

    I know there’s a real good Country singer in there somewhere Carrie, but I don’t hear her in that song nor do I see her in the vocal and strutting histrionics of that performance.

  29. AaronNo Gravatar

    Ok so I’m guessing not many people here have seen Carrie live. She’s a lot better live. Well at least the past five times I’ve seen her (yes, I said five times). I think it’s a bit unfair to think that one performance on an awards telecast shows how she performs in concert. I’m sure she didn’t have too much to do with the arrangement. Sometimes, the awards organizers like to throw in random stuff to make the performance better. I just wanted to say that that’s not how a Carrie concert is. She doesn’t “rock” up her songs, she usually just does the same version. She does, however, strip down songs like “I Told You So,” “Don’t Forget to Remember Me,” and “I Know You Won’t.” I guess I’m just saying you should probably attend an Underwood concert before you judge. No offense to anyone here, I’m just stating an opinion.

  30. GavinNo Gravatar

    Steve from Boston says:

    I agree with Lynn…I thought her take on Carrie’s performance was spot on.

    But I’m not objective here, as I think the song itself is obnoxious.

    I know there’s a real good Country singer in there somewhere Carrie, but I don’t hear her in that song nor do I see her in the vocal and strutting histrionics of that performance.

    What are you talking about? You don’t sit on a stool to sing that song. She strutted her stuff and out rocked U2 and Coldplay in the process. She was having fun and it showed.

  31. Leeann WardNo Gravatar

    “Not once did I see Trisha, LeAnn, or Lee Ann sing their respective songs live. I’ve seen Carrie and Martina perform their songs on more than one occasion.
    Out of sight out of mind. Maybe the Grammy voters didn’t have any real performances other than Martina’s to compare with Carrie’s performances.”

    Gavin, I don’t really see your point here. I will say that’s not the way the awards were supposed to be voted on. If it is how it’s done, it doesn’t exactly strengthen the validation for Underwood’s award for this song. I saw that you said on another blog that studio recordings can be enhanced, so it’s not an accurate representation of the song? That’s true, but everyone has that advantage, since they’re all supposed to be judged by their studio recordings. It’s not like Carrie submitted a live recording and everyone else submitted doctored up studio recordings.

    If, as you suggest, they did, indeed, judge by Underwood’s live performances of the song, I still wouldn’t say that she deserved the award over the other nominees. There are songs that I think she does a great job with in live settings, but not this one.

  32. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar

    Gavin, since you asked me “what are you talking about?”.I’ll just say this.

    Just my opinion and personal taste..I just think she sounded and looked ridiculous..The whole “bad girl” thing that Carrie tries to pull off doesn’t work for me. Thoroughly unconvincing. And as I indicated earlier, I think the song itself is obnoxious, so I admit my bias here. But I think there are a few singers who could pull it off much more effectively, namely Miranda Lambert and Jo Dee Messina. If this were a movie role instead of a song, and the casting director cast Miss. Underwood for this part, it would be an example of mis-casting, in my opinion.

    It really seems to me as though Carrie is trying too hard..Vocally, I agree with the others here who stated that they thought she sounded like she was screeching, visually, she looked ungraceful, trashy, and awkward. Yeah, I know it’s supposed to be an energetic song, but I thought it was poorly excecuted .

    And I thought both the song and the performance had very little to do with country music. It was all “hey look at me” diva histrionics…that stuff belongs in the pop world, imo., and there isn’t much about the song itself that is Country, with a capitol “C”, in my opinion..I have heard many people here and elsewhere urging Carrie to go real, Traditional Country…They have heard her Opry performance of Stand By Your Man, and I have heard her Opry performance of How Great Thou Art…Not saying she needs to sing all covers of the Cassics or anything like that…but a more traditional sound from Carrie would be awesome, she has an amazing voice, But when she expends so much on crap like we saw at the Grammy’s this year, I can’t help but think it’s a colossal waste of talent.

  33. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar

    Gavin does make a good point, though – Carrie performed “Last Name” at least twice (probably more) on high-profile television shows – the ACMs, then the American Idol finale – and the casual country voter wouldn’t have seen a live performance from any of the other women of their songs. Not that the live performance is what’s voted on, but the exposure helps draw attention to the studio performance, which is especially needed when your studio performance wasn’t a big chart hit like “Last Name.”

  34. Leeann WardNo Gravatar

    I guess…but I’m still not convinced that it’s an appropriate validation for the award, which seemed to be the purpose of Gavin’s argument.

  35. GavinNo Gravatar

    Leeann, I like Carrie Underwood so I’m not going to level any criticism toward her because I actually like the song and the way she sings it but it wasn’t my favorite of the five nominated songs. My pick would have been What I Cannot Change by LeAnn Rimes and I posted my thoughts and predictions at Country Central just in case you don’t believe me. But I did predict Carrie Underwood for the win while Cowboy Blue picked LeAnn Rimes for the win.

    Best Female Country Vocal Performance

    * “For These Times” – Martina McBride
    * “What I Cannot Change” – LeAnn Rimes (your pick and my pick)
    * “Last Name” – Carrie Underwood (winner)
    * “Last Call” – Lee Ann Womack
    * “This Is Me You’re Talking To” – Trisha Yearwood

    I feel the same way you do about LeAnn Rimes and her performance. Arguably the best of her career. Unfortunately, very few people got to hear this masterpiece and that is a huge obstacle to overcome. Trisha Yearwood and Lee Ann Womack came out with very strong performances in their own right which is generally the standard for these two fine ladies. I was surprised at the nomination of Martina McBride. I was expecting Miranda Lambert or even Taylor Swift to get the nod over Martina. I’m a big fan of Martina but this year more than any other year she is more filler than contender. Which brings me to Carrie Underwood. Carrie is the reining champ in this category two years running and only two years removed from her best new artist win. Even though Carrie performs “Last Name” as good as it can be performed and the fact that it is the only chart topper among the nominees, in my opinion, it is arguably the weakest song in the category. This matters not, this is a category that weighs heavier on performance than it does on song quality and none of the ladies with the exception being LeAnn Rimes performs exceedingly better than Carrie Underwood. LeAnn’s brilliant but obscure performance will be hard pressed to overcome the Carrie Underwood machine.

    I’m just asking how the Grammy’s validate their choice? Maybe it was in the Grammy’s best interest to give her the award to validate the choice they made two years ago when they named her Best New Artist. They have been criticized for questionable selections in the past.

  36. StephenNo Gravatar

    It’s so weird to me. Underwood is a polarizing force. She’s receiving a lot of (deserved) attention for this performance. Some are claiming it’s one of her best, yet you guys are all knocking her. Weird.

  37. Leeann WardNo Gravatar

    Gavin, Thanks for the clarification. Don’t worry, I would have taken your word for what you said even if you hadn’t posted it at Country Central.

  38. JataleNo Gravatar

    I really enjoyed Carrie’s performance of Last Name. I thought she really rocked it out! Her guest guitarist (Orianthi) was marvelous too. The sound mix tended to favor the band (but that was a problem throughout most of the Grammy performances) so Carrie’s vocals were more submerged than normal but she still came through clearly. I don’t like the song much, but this rocked out version of it was really smokin!

  39. Erik NorthNo Gravatar

    Lynn:

    Re. Robert Plant and Alison Krauss sounding like they were singing underwater: It’s the venue itself, the Staples Center here in Los Angeles. Really lousy acoustics. In fact, I could say that about any and all sports arenas. They’re all great for sports, but they’re all terrible for the full music experience.