Tuesday, April 15, 2014

2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Ceremony - Review, Photos and Video

It was announced that the 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony was going to be held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn late last year.  As a fan of music and a New Yorker who could hop a train for 2 hours to walk out to the front door of Barclays, I was excited. 

An artist is eligible for induction into the Rock Hall 25 years after their first release.  Other than Nirvana, who were being inducted in their first year of eligibility, you had a nice selection of veteran acts who had been overlooked or snubbed (depending on who you asked), each for well over a decade.

Kiss were the biggest story. Eligible since 1999, they are the band (along with Rush, who were finally inducted last year) who each year have sparked the loudest complaints as they were continually passed over.  In actuality, other than Nirvana and Peter Gabriel (already inducted as a member of Genesis and eligible as a solo artist since 2002), the remaining members of the 2014 class have had a longer wait for induction.   The E Street Band has been eligible since 1998 (Bruce Springsteen was already inducted as a solo artist in the 1999 class);  Hall and Oates since 1997; Linda Ronstadt since 1994 and Cat Stevens, whose debut single was released in 1966, has been eligible for 23 years. 

Like any music fan, I have my issues with who the Rock Hall nominates and inducts, but we'll save that for another blog.  This lineup looked killer to me, a mix of bands I love, some of which I've never seen and at least an interest in those I was not a huge fan of.

I figured tickets for this would sell out fast and it was announced there would be a presale for those who were members of the Rock Hall prior to the end of 2013.  I wanted to go so I bit the bullet and shelled out fifty bucks for a membership in order to have a shot at the presale whenever the tickets would go on sale.

Members of the Rock Hall got an email letting them know there would be a two ticket limit presale on March 5.  I was online the second they went on sale and scored two tickets in section 223 (basically the 9 o'clock position compared to the stage).  I had a bunch of people who wanted to go but had promised my buddy Kev that if I could only get two tix, the second was his.  He was stoked.  He also likes most of the bands and happens to be a huge Kiss fan.

The next day Ace Frehley called into Eddie Trunk's radio show and let the world know that Kiss would not be performing.  Anyone who is interested in that aspect of the story knows the details, so it was a bummer, but still a strong lineup and the next week when tickets went on sale to the general public it sold out immediately.

I only mention all this due to my surprise that as soon as the event sold out, all the tickets were listed on Stub Hub.  Actually, that's not the surprise...the surprise is how few of them sold.  How they sat there and as the show approached the prices were lowered.  I checked it a few days before the show and you could get plenty of tickets for $25 to $50 (half of cost).  I understand Kiss fans were disappointed at no performance, but still all 4 original members would be attending.  Also where are you going to get to see all the other acts perform (it was announced that all the other acts would be performing with the exception of Linda Ronstadt who had an all star tribute planned...and Nirvana who remained a bit of a mystery performance wise until a few days before the show.)

Anyway it looks like all those tickets were picked up as pretty much every seat was filled on the night of the show...speaking of which...let's talk about what went down!

A few days prior to the show I read an interview with the guy who was producing the show for the Rock Hall and how he said it was on a tight schedule, how there would be no long breaks between acts and how it had a start time of 7:00pm and would end by 11:15pm at the latest.  He also talked about hopes of how the night would end with the all star jam and how it would be great if the last song played was Kiss' "Rock n Roll All Nite."  Well, things did not quite go according to plan...

...although it was a punctual start.  After a few announcements telling all audience members in the hallways to come in and take their seats, the lights went down at about 7:05 and Jann Wenner (publisher of Rolling Stone Magazine and Co-Founder of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) came out to a loud round of "Boo's" (it would not be the only "boo's" on this night, but the only deserving ones) to welcome everyone to the 2014 Induction Ceremony.

After Wenner's short intro there was a pretty standard format for most of the rest of the show.  In general the lights would go down and there would be a video package of 5 to 8 minutes for the inductee played on the screens at the sides of the stage and hanging in the middle of the arena from the ceiling.  Then the presenter would come out and do a speech, the inductee would come up and accept and then there would be a performance.

The first inductees were done together and were the two non-performers this year - Brian Epstein, manager of the Beatles, and Andrew Loog Oldham, early manager of the Rolling Stones.  The two were inducted by Peter Asher, mananger in his own right as well as record producer and member of the duo Peter and Gordon. 

I don't think I was the only person a bit disappointed that Epstein and Oldham were not inducted by a Beatle and/or a Stone.  Epstein died in 1967 and Oldham could not attend the ceremony, so there were no acceptance speeches and during most of this part of the show the audience was filling in.  By the end, almost all seats were filled.

As soon as this presentation ended, the video intro for the first performing artist in this year's class started rolling - Peter Gabriel.  After the video played, instead of the normal format that would follow the rest of the night, Gabriel was already on stage with his band and performed "Digging In the Dirt" from his 1992 album "Us".   When the song ended, Chris Martin of Coldplay approached the podium to welcome Gabriel.

I'm honestly not a fan of Coldplay, but will say Martin had the second best induction speech of the night.  The most successful speeches not only showed respect for the musician but infused humor and Martin brought out a bible saying he was going to read from, of course, the book of Genesis.

He then told a biblical tale of the Archangel Gabriel speaking with Phil Collins and informing him of how he would move from drummer to take on the lead role in the band.  HBO will be airing some version of the ceremony, so instead of misquoting his speech, I'll suggest checking it out then (or probably checking it out now on youtube although I didn't record this one.)  Gabriel then accepted his award with a rather dry speech and went back to join his band along with Martin.

They performed "Washing of the Water" also from "Us".  Gabriel then announced he would be joined by Youssou N'Dour which had the audience excited as they did a magnificent version of "In Your Eyes" which would be one of the highlights of the night.

That wrapped up Gabriel's set and would not be the first time during the night the audience questioned some of the performance choices.  I was hoping for "Biko" and honestly knew that was a long shot...but "Solsbury Hill", "Red Rain" so many other better obvious choices for this occasion instead of the especially rather lackluster "Digging In The Dirt".  Still "In Your Eyes" brought it all home.

So the lights go down and our eyes look to the video screens and the crowd roars as we see those painted faces of Kiss appear.  Based simply on T-shirts (and some audience painted faces), there appeared to be a larger amount of Kiss fans than any other inductee (followed closely by Nirvana) present.  Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine (and many other bands, including of late, The E Street Band) absolutely had the best speech of the night while inducting the four original members of Kiss.  This one I did record.  Watch it here.

Gene, Paul, Ace and Peter then went up on stage and it was more or less a love fest after all the fighting in the press leading up to this night.  Hugs, no jabs at each other (although some at the Rock Hall).  There was the second "boo" moment of the night when during Paul's speech he mentioned current members Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer.  It was short and uncalled for.  The whole thing lasted a bit less than 25 minutes and then they were off.  No performance but at this point there was news via Eddie Trunk from Ace Frehley that the show would end with a jam on AC/DC's "Highway to Hell".  Something to look forward to.  Little personal tidbit, Kiss was the second concert I ever attended.  I know you care dearly.  See them accept here.

Kiss left the stage and the lights went off and we found out Cat Stevens would be inducted next.  I will say the Rock Hall had the time between acts down pat all night.  There was never more than a minute.

Art Garfunkel inducted Yusef Islam (aka Cat Stevens) and then Cat gratefully accepted and seemed thrilled by it saying he thought it was quite "rock n roll" to induct a folk artist.  He also got some laughs opening by saying "I never thought I'd be on the same stage as Kiss to be honest."  He then moved to the performance part of the stage and did an amazing three song set which was one of the highlights of the night.  

He did it right and did three classics opening with "Father and Son" into a huge sing along on "Wild World" and closing with a wonderful "Peace Train."  I loved it and so did the crowd.  I've never had the opportunity to see Cat, but if he does ever tour again, I would absolutely go.  He sounds as good as ever and it was truly a moving set. I hope when it airs on HBO they don't cut any of it.  I don't think they will since all three are monster hits and overall it was short.

Next was Linda Ronstadt who was inducted by Glenn Frey of the Eagles (or if you're a fan of his 80's Miami Vice work, "Smuggler's Blues").  Glenn told how the Eagles were basically Linda's backing band before she supported them to go off and do their own thing and how he wished she was inducted the same year the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac were.  Linda could not attend as she does not travel anymore and can no longer perform due to Parkinson's Disease. 

On paper, I was least excited about this induction, but during the video intro you are just blown away by how many monster hits Ronstadt had and the Rock Hall gathered quite the lineup to pay tribute.  First out was Carrie Underwood doing "Different Drum".  

She was then joined by Emmylou Harris and Bonnie Raitt and the three did "Blue Bayou."

Sheryl Crow then joined them (and Glenn Frey joined in too) for "You're No Good."  

Finally to massive cheers, Stevie Nicks came out to do "It's So Easy" and ended with everyone doing Linda's cover of The Everly Brothers' "When Will I Be Loved."  I got all of "It's So Easy" and some of "When..." on video before my memory card ran out (watch here).  Overall a really good performance and I was glad I had decided against a beer run as was my original plan when I saw this announced.

Up until this time I would say everything was probably pretty close to being on schedule...that would change...

The lights go down...and as soon as the first image hits the screen it sounds like everyone is booing all at once...but of course they're actually saying "BRUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCE!"

A lot of that love would go away over the course of the next 60 minutes.

The video package was on the long side, but everyone was still all in.  Then Bruce gets up to the podium and definitely had the longest induction speech of the night, but Bruce has the story telling gift as everyone knows.  It was an all encompassing speech on the eventual creation of the E Street Band that started in the mid 60's through Nils Lofgren and Patti Scialfa joining in the 80's.  It ended with a sad and touching note where Bruce called out one of his regrets.  It hung heavy in the air that Clarence Clemons (along with Danny Federici) should have been alive to see this moment.  

Bruce talked about how a few days before his induction as a solo artist in 1999, he was talking with Little Steven Van Zandt and Steven asked him to push to have the whole band inducted with him.  Bruce said how at the time he had been solo for about 10 years and was just taking the first steps in putting the E Street Band back together and there was a distance between them and probably still some bad blood and Bruce responded how he had been doing fine for 10 years and Steven responded that was true, but the years with the E Street band "were the legend."  It was really a touching and open moment to share and I think a lot of people had a lot of respect for Bruce to admit that he made that mistake.

So at this point the whole band being inducted comes up on stage: Little Steven, Garry Tallent, Roy Bittan, Max Weinberg, Nils, Patti, Clarence Clemons' widow, Danny Federici's Son plus ex members Vini Lopez and David Sancious.  The last two were in the E Street Band for the first two albums only.

David Sancious goes to the mic and proceeds to talk for about 8 to 10 minutes basically retelling the exact same story Bruce just told about how they first met and played together except in nowhere near as interesting a fashion.  Then one by one each member takes the mic and talks way too long telling the same stories.  The exception is Danny Federici's son who kept his speech short and was extremely moved by the overdue tribute to his father and Clarence's widow who was also very sad, but did get one of the biggest laughs of the night when she said "There were many reasons why Clarence was called 'The Big Man'" and ended her speech which a message she had saved on her phone where Clarence was basically recording his thoughts on a sax solo while driving. 

So count that list...10 people...10 people going on way too long and mostly not adding anything to Bruce's speech.  I think Garry Tallent was the 6th person and he said how he was told he only has 30 second to a minute to tell his speech, and he did cut his short to about 2 minutes, but no one else did.  It finally ended with Little Steven.  In total, from the time the video started to the time the band walked to the performance area, it was just under an hour and I imagine only the die hardest of E Street fans enjoyed it.  I'm a Springsteen fan...seen him about 5 times since 1988 and I've got general admission on the floor to see him in about a month in Albany, but everyone we talked to felt this part of the show killed all momentum (and we find it did more than that later on).

But for now it was time to let them do what they do best and play.  

They opened with "The E Street Shuffle" from Bruce's 2nd album "The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle."  Jake Clemons was up there with the horn section (although he was not inducted) and I was somewhat surprised Tom Morello wasn't up there with them as well as he's basically a member at this point.  They went with dual drummers and dual keyboards as all inductees played together.  The band of course sounded great and considering it was the band being inducted this time around, this was an obvious choice.

I didn't think the next song was quite so obvious as they went with "The River."  For what would prove to be a three song set, this just felt odd moving from the get up and dance "Shuffle" into the moving but somewhat depressing "River".  It was a bit of another Peter Gabriel moment, for this show in an arena that is not completely your die hard audience (although there were A LOT of Bruce fans there - just not sporting the T-shirts) you'd think you'd bust out at least one of the super major icon songs ("Thunder Road", "Born To Run"), but it was not to be. 

They ended their set with a REALLY long version of "Kitty's Back" also from the second album.  It was after 11pm when the set ended and we still had two more inductions to go.  A good portion of folks had either seen enough at this point or were just there for Bruce and left.

Before the next artist, they ran an "In Memoriam" slide show ending with New York native Lou Reed. It was all inclusive featuring many old timers and non members of the hall including Heavy Metal artists like Jeff Hanneman of Slayer and the just recently depart Dave Brockie (aka Oderus Urungus) of Gwar.

Next up were Hall and Oates inducted by fellow Philadelphia native Questlove from The Roots. When they took the stage they made it know that they would be keeping their speech short and that "Luckily for you, there's only two of us" getting a huge applause break after the E Street speech marathon.  John Oates spoke first and they Daryl basically just said thank you and that he was ready to play.

They walked over and started to play "She's Gone" experiencing the only technical issues of the night.  Oates mic was feeding back every time he went to sing in it and then Hall stopped the song about 90 seconds in saying his monitors were  not working at all and that "maybe Bruce blew them out."  They got them up and working within a minute and they restarted and played "She's Gone."  Next up was a long drawn out version of "I Can't Go For That" that went over 10 minutes and was again way too long for this type of show.  They ended with a great "You Make My Dreams Come True" which literally had most of the floor up and dancing away.

So we knew there was only one inductee left and that was Nirvana.  It was known Michael Stipe of R.E.M. was doing the induction and hands down it was the worst induction speech of the night.  It read like a college thesis on the importance of Nirvana and their effects on society.  There were no personal stories, no humor and it was simply boring.  

At it's completion he called Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic up to accept the award, but we saw some women coming through the audience with them which turned out to be Kurt's mother and two sisters as well as Courtney Love. 

 Both Krist and Dave gave good speeches and Dave called out all five previous Nirvana drummers including Chad Channing (who was in the building) who played on "Bleach" and Dave thanked him for letting him play his drum parts.  

Then Kurt's mother spoke with Kurt's sisters by her side.  Then Courtney came up to many "boo's" which just seemed out of place and unnecessary. 

She spoke for only a minute or two with nothing but love and thanks and then gave Dave and Krist hugs. She stated Frances Bean could not attend because she was sick.

Then the performance.  Krist stated they would have numerous female guest vocalists for their set and introduced Joan Jett asking why she wasn't in the Hall of Fame yet.  There was a running theme of "Why isn't this artist in the Rock Hall yet" from almost every artist inducted.  Joan killed it.  A great great rendition and her vocal style really fit the song. Watch it here.

Next up Krist brought out Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth who had a blast dancing and screaming her way through "Aneurysm."  Watch here.

Krist then brought out St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark) for "Lithium."  Watch here.

They then broke out the acoustic acoustic guitars and Krist donned his accordion as he introduced Lorde for "All Apologies." Watch here.

It was a really special great set.  I was lucky enough to see Nirvana at the just closed Roseland in 1993, but for many of those in attendance with their Nirvana shirts, you knew they were too young to have ever seen the band and they went nuts when Lorde was announced.  I have to say it was very cool to see them come together and do such strong versions of these songs after not playing them for 20 years.

It was now 12:30am and I started figuring I was going to be spending the night in the city because the last train home is at 1:50 and we still had the all star jam.  Well it appears because of the overages, mainly caused by the E Street Band speeches, the jam was cut.  As Nirvana exited the stage an announcer let us know the show was over and thanked us for coming.

We left and talked with many who attended and just about everyone, no matter what band shirt they were wearing, had the same opinion "It was cool" and "It was good."

It was not a show to be blown away with because in general very few people like all of the artists.  Then some of them just didn't live up to their potential.  I actually feel the only two full sets that were fantastic were Cat Stevens and Nirvana.  Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" was at the same level, but the rest of his set was much like his classic album title "So" repeated twice (get it...that's me being clever.) Kiss (or certain specific members) should have put aside their differences for one night and played a song or three.  Taking the speech aspect out of it, Bruce's set for me would have been improved massively by playing pretty much anything from Darkness On The Edge of Town or Born To Run.  Hall and Oates should have played the single edit of "I Can't Go For That" and the Linda Ronstadt tribute was fine and fun and that was that.

If it came back to Brooklyn would I go again?  It would definitely depend on the inductees.  I don't know if there are any first year definite inductees for next year, so might be time to play some more catch up with key players they've overlooked (The Replacements), maybe do a classic metal token metal band (Deep Purple, Judas Priest, Motley Crue, Maiden, Slayer, Motorhead...that list is long) so could be good next year...we'll see what happens and if it comes back around.

Oh and we did just barely make the last train (to Poughkeepsie, not Clarksville).  Hopped on the subway which had major construction delays going on.  We got to Brooklyn Bridge had to run up to the street to catch a taxi and made it to Grand Central with 8 minutes to spare.   The Rock Gods were surely looking down on us this night.

Feel free to comment, follow on twitter, etc etc.  Enjoy!

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