The 29th Annual Rock Hall Induction Ceremony held in New York this year featured some of the most stellar performances, surprising guest stars and, unfortunately...too many long-winded speeches.
I attended the simulcast event held at the Hall of Fame in Cleveland where hundreds of fans forked over $20 bucks a pop to watch the ceremony unfold on a giant 50 foot jumbotron complete with concert sound equipment and lighting.
Many of the fans wore t-shirts supporting their favorite act. KISS shirts outnumbered everyone else by far. If there was Cat Stevens memorabilia worn by anyone, I didn't see it.
KISS fans were undoubtedly dissapointed that their band didnt perform, having been unable to come to an agreement in the weeks leading up to the ceremony over the fact that only the original four members were being inducted and not two of the newer bandmates.
Still, when that familiar foursome of Ace, Peter, Paul and Gene came up to accept their award, it was a big moment for the KISS Army. Each bandmate left behind the drama and actually seemed to appreciate the moment. Gene Simmons actually used the word "humbled" several times.
Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine fame inducted "the four most awesome figures on the planet" with a solid, well-prepared speech that left no doubt about KISS "never being a critics' band, but a fans band".
Frehley and Criss took the opportunity to spotlight their successes in beating alcohol addiction and breast cancer respectively. Stanley and Simmons were grateful of the work the four had accomplished and were also keen to mention current mates Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer as well as all of the other musicians who had performed as KISS well after the departure of Frehley and Criss.
Criss, in particular, seemed a bit saddened by the moment saying of his character in the band-- "No matter who wears the makeup, I will always be the CatMan."
Any time unused by the non-KISS performance was clearly made up (and then some) by Bruce Springsteen in his induction of the E Street Band, the band he helped form after answering an ad posted by original drummer Vinnie Lopez.
Through the years, the number of people who performed in the E Street Band has entered well into the double digits. And they were all there Thursday night including family members of the late Danny Federici and Clarence Clemons. Watching the speeches from the E Street Band members could have been an induction ceremony onto its own.
But, length aside, when it came time for the music, the band left no doubt as to its rightful place in the Hall with inspired freewheeling jams on "The E Street Shuffle" and "Kitty's Back In Town" and showed their softer side with "The River".
Hall & Oates immediately followed but were hampered with technical difficulties which drew the ire of Daryl Hall who said "Really? This only happens to us? Did Bruce blow out the speakers?" Once the stage crew got things in order after only a few minutes, the Philadelphia rock and soul duo played three of their biggest hits "She's Gone", "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)" and "You Make My Dreams" which had the Barclay Center fans dancing in the aisles as well as some in the Rock Hall.
At the podium, after a funny and heartfelt speech by Questlove, Hall changed the mood and took his shot at the Nominating Committee saying "We are the only home grown group from Philly in the Rock Hall and I am not proud of that. Where is Chubby Checker? Where are the Chi-Lites? Where is Todd Rundgren?"
Less dramatic were the inductions and performances by Peter Gabriel and Cat Stevens. Gabriel was presented by Chris Martin of Coldplay who poked fun at Gabriel's lack of album titles (he has four albums title Peter Gabriel) but quickly got sincere in his reverence for the former Genesis frontman as an "innovator, seeker, curator and inspirer".
Martin then joined Gabriel for his favorite song of his mentor "Washing Of The Water" in between Gabriel's more familar tunes "Digging In The Dirt" and "In Your Eyes".
At the podium, an appreciative Gabriel advised young musicians "Watch out for music, it should come along with a health warning." And "Dream big and let your imagination guide you."
Cat Stevens (Yusaf Islam) as unlikely a rock hero as you'll see, proved he can still belt out his 70's catalog of hits as if no time had passed. "Father and Son", "Wild World" and "Peace Train" were lively and re-energized by a full blown gospel choir and some excellent acoustic guitar playing by Stevens himself and specialist Waddy Wachtel.
The Rock Hall crowd was clearly moved by Stevens' performances which drew applause and cheers as if they were sitting front row at the Barclays Center.
Stevens contemporary Art Garfunkel honored Cat with the Hall of Fame award drawing comparisons of Stevens songwriting to Garfunkel's former writing partner Paul Simon.
Another 70's music giant-- Glenn Frey of The Eagles--stepped to the podium to induct Linda Ronstadt. She did not make the trip to New York due to her physical limitations from Parkinson's Disease. Instead, an all-star female cast delivered her mega-hits in solid fashion.
Carrie Underwood was spot on with "Different Drum" and then teamed up with Bonnie Raitt and Emmy Lou Harris for a strong rendition of "Blue Bayou". Sheryl Crow made the group a five piece as she sang lead on "You're No Good" and Frey joined the gals with Stevie Nicks out front for "Its So Easy".
Afterwards Nicks told the audience that it was seeing Ronstadt perform on television that made her want to become a singer.
As the night grew on past 11:00pm, I could see the Nirvana fans getting restless. Too much Classic and Country Rock. It was their turn. Out came Michael Stipe of R.E.M to present the band its award in just its first year of eligibility.
Stipe's speech was both moving and inspiring and perfectly set the stage for THE performance of the evening. Dave Grohl on drums again. Krist Noveselic on bass again. Who would fill the enormous shoes of the late Kurt Cobain? Four females.
First up....Joan Jett, introduced by Novoselic as "someone who should also be in the Hall of Fame", gave a gritty vocal on "Smells Like Teen Spirit". Pat Smear who also played several live shows with Nirvana and now with Grohl as a member of the Foo Fighters, played the signature guitar riffs.
Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon followed Jett on stage for an early Nirvana tune "Aneurysm". Then came the lead singer of the Brooklyn band St. Vincent--Annie Clarke--who gave a blistering take of "Lithium".
And finally, teen breakthrough artist Lorde delivered the hypnotic finale on "All Apologies", as Smear played what appeared to be the same red, white and blue acoustic guitar used on Nirvana's MTV Unplugged session more than 20 years ago.
Checking the clock, it was 12:15am. No time for the "all-star jam" as many had come to expect. But, Rock and Roll has never been known for its punctuality, has it?
You can catch HBO's edited version in late May.