Adam Blackstone is riding a career high.
For years he has been the musical mastermind behind live shows for Justin Timberlake, Rihanna, Janet Jackson, Alicia Keys, Maroon 5 and Eminem. This weekend, he picked up an Emmy Award for outstanding music direction for his work on “The Pepsi Super Bowl LVI Halftime Show Starring Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, 50 Cent.” And just last week, he kicked off a residency, “The Legacy Experience,” at new Los Angeles music venue the Sun Rose.
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Blackstone never really saw himself as a frontman until COVID made him stop and think about his legacy. “People trust me to curate,” he says. “I saw a couple of my friends pass away during COVID, and I had heard someone say, ‘I don’t want to die with a laptop full of ideas.’”
Sharyn Goldyn, director of talent at The Sun Rose, which has seen Dave Chapelle, Nicole Scherzinger and Jeff Goldblum perform since opening last spring at 8430 Sunset Blvd., says Blackstone brings his music to already storied ground. “This is where the House of Blues was,” she says. “When this property was purchased they wanted a music venue and to continue bringing music to the Sunset Strip.” Mason Alexander Park will be coming to the venue on Oct. 1 and 2 to perform back-to-back nights as part of the ongoing residency with David Bowie’s longtime pianist Mike Garson.
The kind of music Blackstone works into his show throws back to his Philly roots where he was a session musician playing upright bass. Back then, he would often find Jill Scott, India Arie and Erykah Badu jumping up on stage to “jam and open mic.” Such is the essence of “The Legacy Experience.”
“I’m bringing East Coast vibes to L.A.,” says Blackstone of his hope to emulate the experience he had — a small room with artists who can be called on at any time to come up on stage. And yes, he can see everyone. The venue houses 150 people max. Anthony Hamilton, Amber Riley, Eric Benét and BJ the Chicago Kid all joined Blackstone for his second residency show on Sept. 1. Dre joined him for this first show a few weeks back.
If anything, the performances have helped him realize his own impact. “People are proud of what I’ve done for them, and now they’re giving back,” he says of the artists who have come out to support him. And more are clamoring into his DMs wanting to join him on stage.
Perhaps his proudest moment came on Saturday night when the Halftime show won three Emmys. He is forever cemented in Emmy history. The show trumped Norman Lear who was nominated for “Live in Front of a Studio Audience.”
Putting the Halftime spectacle together involved a vision: for it to be “a great music show.” He says, “It wasn’t about Black or white. It wasn’t about hip-hop versus pop music. I pride myself on making that a great music show that will continue to show the legacy of each of those artists.”
The biggest challenge was knowing that each of those global superstars could have been sole headliners. He jokes: “People can’t be mad at me saying, ‘You should have added that.’ Mary could do 12 minutes by herself. So could Snoop and Dre. It was my job to curate a playlist and you get your favorite artist for 90 seconds.”
Blackstone succeeded. After a steady decline in audience viewing, particularly in real-time, Dr. Dre, Blige, Eminem and crew helped bring in 103.4 million people to watch the most talked-about musical event of the decade. And why stop there? “I’m calling them all out,” says Blackstone. “Let’s take this on the road.”
Indeed, there’s little rest in Blackstone’s future as he works on fast-approaching productions of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Nov. 2) and the 2023 Grammy Awards (Feb. 5, 2023).
Blackstone’s new album “Legacy” will be released on Sept. 23
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