Last night is an experience I won’t soon be forgetting. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame rolled through Brooklyn and I got to witness as the class of 2014 was inducted including one of my favorite bands, The E Street Band. But more on them later.
The night kicked off with the non-performers including Peter Epstein (manager of the Beatles) and Andrew Loog Goldham (manager/producer The Rolling Stones). Perhaps my dreams of being inducted aren’t completely off base.
The musical portion of the night kicked off with Peter Gabriel performing “Digging in the Dirt” before being inducted by Chris Martin. Chris’s reading of The Book of Genesis was spot on and should get better laughs on television. The sound wasn’t great for us in the cheap seats. Only with my view of the teleprompter could I get the jokes. We then got “Washing of the Water” featuring Chris Martin and “In Your Eyes” with Youssou N’Dour demonstrating the world sound that Martin referenced in his speech.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame isn’t perfect. For years the foundation has faced controversy over nominations and qualifications for who is and isn’t inducted. The founding fearsome foursome that was KISS (Ace Frehley, Peter Criss, Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons) were inducted next by fanboy Tom Morello. Tom said the only thing harder than being KISS was being a KISS fan. They were never a critical success, but their diehard fans got them to where they were. The band refused to perform over issues of more recent members not being included and after a cordial acceptance (with a short dig at the nominating committees) they seemed to sneak out the back door.
The artist we all call Cat Stevens was inducted by Art Garfunkel. When he asked for a glass of water Bill Murray jumped up and handed him his from the front row. I’m not even sure Cat knew who it was. Yusuf Islam (as he now goes) pointed out that for the Hall of Fame to induct someone who doesn’t smoke, drink, and only sleeps with his wife is perhaps the most Rock and Roll thing they could’ve done. The Peace Train performance was pretty rock and roll.
Linda Ronstadt. The Queen of Country Rock. Long since retired and due to a long battle with Parkinson’s was a no show tonight. But with an introduction from Glen Frey we got an all-star tribute featuring Carrie Underwood, Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris, Sheryl Crow, and Stevie Nicks. With just a trio of them onstage Underwood stood decidedly apart from Raitt and Harris. Underwood’s soaring (screeching?) range could have used a little restraint, but Emmylou and Bonnie reeled it back in and later Stevie Nicks did what she does best.
The E Street band. The gasoline to Springsteen’s ‘69 Chevy. The greatest bar band in the world finally got their due. Springsteen himself inducted them, alluded to the fact that they may have gotten in with him years ago if he had pushed harder. He may not have pushed hard because he was proud of himself as a solo artist. But old hatchets were buried and the reunion era has been going strong for 15 years. The band speeches seemed to be one of the biggest controversies of the night. 9 individual speeches which could have took 20 minutes took 51 minutes. Something Hall and Oates were quick to point out. When we finally got to the music “E Street Shuffle” featuring two drum sets and David Sancious on organ/keys was worth the price of admission alone. Then a surprise “The River” which I can only guess was a request of The River album loving Steven Van Zandt into a blistering “Kitty’s Back”. The only addition to the inducted members being the horn section filling in the for the major void left by the late Clarence Clemons. If anything this line up made me wish he’d scale things down again on the road.
Inducted by Philly’s own ?uestlove, Hall and Oates opened with “Well good thing there’s only two of us. We’ve been doing it together for 40 years so why stop now.” Darryl Hall pointed out the lack of Philadelphia representation in the Hall of Fame before making his thank you’s and quickly moving onto “I want to play.” Terrible feedback led to one of the few restarts for TV. A few more digs at Springsteen (“We don’t need monitors” “What did Springsteen blow those out too?”) and we were off and running into “She’s Gone” “I Can’t Go For That” and the soundtrack to everyone’s favorite montage soundtrack “You Make My Dreams Come True”.
Last up was Michael Stipe inducting Nirvana. Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, and the late Kurt Cobain “caught lightning in bottle”. They defined a time period and generations. “They didn’t go mainstream, the mainstream went and found them.” Almost 20 years to the day that Kurt was found dead it was pretty moving to see the impact he and this band had on the music industry and on rock and roll. I had no expectation for Courtney Love to be there let alone speak, but a disaster was avoided and it seemed that even just for a moment Love and the boys put aside their differences. Kurt’s mom visibly moved said Kurt would be so proud. He’d never admit but he would be.
The evening ended with Joan Jett, Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, St. Vincent, and Lorde taking lead vocals through some of the Nirvana hits. Joan Jett on “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and St Vincent’s “Lithium” were the highlight’s for me and I only wish I could have experienced them in the club in Greenpoint later that night.
Although I feel like it may have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be there last night, I really hope that it wasn’t.