Inside the historic arena on Thursday afternoon, production crews tweaked lighting, cables were taped and ripped up along the floor, seating placards were straightened and the announcer practiced stage introductions for Sunday’s ceremony.
Along with its milestone anniversary, this year’s Grammy Awards show is special because of its return to New York for the first time in 15 years. Throughout its history, the show routinely split its staging between the city and Los Angeles, until a feud between former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and then-Recording Academy President Michael Greene in the late 1990s disrupted that harmony.
The last New York appearance, in 2003, also marked the first year of Recording Academy presidency for Neil Portnow, a Long Island native.
“It’s exciting,” Portnow said Thursday of the return to his hometown. “It feels like a full circle.”
Portnow, speaking on the red carpet leading into Madison Square Garden, said that, while it’s easy to fall into a routine when a major event is held annually in the same place, he was pleased with the logistical preparations for Sunday’s ceremony.
“When you go anyplace new and you’re starting from scratch, and in the midst of a city like New York, there are many challenges. But we started on Monday and everything is rolling,” he said.
The show airs Sunday at 7:30 p.m. on CBS. Portnow said that the myriad performances will complement the “social consciousness that comes from the artists.”
“We are a platform for artists to express whatever is on their minds,” he said, “and every given year, whatever the music may be is a reflection of what is happening. You’ll see a lot of that on the stage in a musical way.”