The 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony took place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn Thursday night, as a class headlined by Nirvana performed their old hits upon entering the pantheon of rock immortality. Kiss, Hall & Oates, Cat Stevens, Peter Gabriel, Linda Ronstadt, and The E Street Band were the other musicians honored.
Peter Gabriel was the first artist to perform Thursday, delivering what Rolling Stone called a “hypnotic rendition” of his classic 1992 song “Digging in the Dirt.” Coldplay frontman Chris Martin gave Gabriel’s induction speech, saying “He's always been an innovator and a seeker. He's a curator and an inspirer. He also helped John Cusack get his girlfriend back in the movie Say Anything.”
When Gabriel took the stage to accept his award -- the second he’s received from the Hall of Fame, following his 2010 induction with his former band Genesis -- he held it aloft as Lloyd Dobler had before him. He later performed “In Your Eyes” with surprise guest Youssou N’Dour.
Kiss was the next group to be honored and the leadup to their long-overdue induction had been fraught with infighting among former band members Ace Frehley, Peter Criss, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. At last night’s ceremony, however, the band -- who elected not to perform -- saved their vitriol for the Hall of Fame itself.
"The people are speaking to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame," Stanley said. "They want more. They deserve more. They want to be part of the induction. They want to be a part of the nomination [process]. They don't want to be spoon-fed a bunch of choices. The people pay for tickets. The people buy albums. The people who nominate do not."
Art Garfunkel took the stage next to induct singer-songwriter Cat Stevens, the reclusive ‘70s star who has largely retreated from the public eye since becoming a Muslim and changing his name to Yusuf Islam. According to the New York Daily News, the 65-year-old singer praised the Hall of Fame for electing “someone who doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke and only sleeps with his wife.” Rolling Stone reported that his solo rendition of “Father and Son” “sounded absolutely amazing” and that Islam was joined onstage by Paul Schaffer and his band for “Wild World” and a “rousing” rendition of “Peace Train.”
Linda Ronstadt was unable to attend the ceremony due to her fight with Parkinson’s disease, but she was honored with performances of her songs by Carrie Underwood, Bonnie Raitt and Emmylou Harris, and Sheryl Crow and Glenn Frey, who delivered her induction speech. Prior to starting The Eagles, Frey and Don Henley served in Ronstadt's backing band in the early 1970s.
In the attempt to reconcile the egregious error of inducting Bruce Springsteen as a solo artist in 1999, the Hall elected The E Street band this year. Springsteen himself made the induction speech, and Rolling Stone reported that The Boss gave a “stunningly honest” account of the tension surrounding their controversial exclusion.
"A few evenings before my own induction, I stood in my darkened kitchen along with Steve Van Zandt," Springsteen said. "Steve was just returning to the band after a 15-year hiatus. He was petitioning me to push the Hall of Fame to induct all of us together. I listened and the Hall of Fame had its rules and I was proud of my independence.
"We hadn't played together in 10 years. We were somewhat estranged. We were just taking the first small steps of reforming. We didn't know what the future would bring. Perhaps the shadow of some of the old grudges still held some sway. It was a conundrum since we've never been quite fish nor fowl. Steve was quiet, persistent and at the end of our conversation he just said, "Yeah, yeah. I understand. But Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, that's the legend.'"
There would be no solo vs. group controversies for Daryl Hall and John Oates. One of the most famous rock duos of all time, Hall & Oates was responsible for a staggering number of hits from the late ‘70s through the mid ‘80s, including "She's Gone," "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)" and "You Make My Dreams," all three of which they performed last night.
"I don't need to list the hits. We know them all," fellow Philadelphian and Roots drummer Questlove said in his induction speech. "They single-handedly invented the Carlton dance for black people from the hood.”
Nirvana was the final group to be honored. Michael Stipe of R.E.M. gave their induction speech, and the surviving band members played a series of Nirvana songs with several different female singers. For a full recap of their induction, click here.
Despite its unwieldy length -- Rolling Stone reported that it took “nearly 40 minutes” for the eleven members of The E Street band to finish their speeches -- this year’s ceremony sounded like another memorable show full of increasingly diverse artists as the 25-year eligibility requirement speeds toward the '90s. HBO will air a concert special with performances from the event starting on May 31 at 9 p.m.