What do you get when you combine the Red Rocker, a punk priestess, a college rock icon, a legendary rap combo and the leader of the 60's girl group pack?
Last night's truly bizarre, overlong, intermittently captivating Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, which was broadcast live for the first time, with surprisingly few glitches, on VH1 Classic.
The night got off to a somber start with a tribute to legendary record man Ahmet Ertegun. Aretha Franklin came on and livened things up with "Don't Play That Song" and "Never Loved a Man," which she stopped at the end to ask for a round of applause for "Mrs. Mika Ahmet Ertegun."
A roll call of those who passed away since last year's ceremony was updated to include Brad Delp, which was a nice touch.
The Ronettes induction was handled quickly and with astounding intelligiblity by Keith Richards who recalled getting a command performance by the trio when they toured with the Stones in the early 60's.
Ronnie Spector's speech was gracious and funny, if a bit long and it pointedly omitted ex-husband Phil Spector.
I wonder who that third girl was during the performance of "Be My Baby" and "Baby I Love You" that took the place of the no longer performing Estelle Bennett? I thought it was classy that when it was time to take bows she scooted out and let Estelle have her moment in the sun alongside sister Ronnie and cousin Nedra Talley.
Zack de la Rocha, looking trim and well-coiffed-- and a bit like a young Dylan-- handled the Patti Smith induction with fire and aplomb and Smith seemed truly moved, especially when speaking of late husband Fred "Sonic" Smith.
Her performance was smoking too and included the Stones' "Gimme Shelter," "Because the Night" and "Rock and Roll N---er." The latter, she revealed, a favorite of her mother's to vacuum to.
You might as well "Jump" for the rest of the story...
The Van Halen induction was by far the night's biggest bummer.
Not only did Eddie Van Halen not show as expected- he's in rehab and we wish him luck with his sobriety- but neither did brother Alex, or original frontman David Lee Roth. (Alas, one album/tour participant Gary Cherone was not invited). Velvet Revolver's mumbly induction speech and stiff performance- Weiland's nutty chicken dance aside- of "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" was less than stellar.
It almost seemed like Hagar and original bassist Michael Anthony- fired in 2004 for touring with Hagar and slated to be replaced by Eddie's son Wolfgang on the now postponed reunion tour- knew they weren't who people wanted to see. But extra big points to Anthony for thanking Cherone onstage, "because he was a part of this too," and to Hagar for acknowledging in the press room that if they would all just grow up maybe they could go on tour as one big VH supergroup. (Whatever you think of his music, or his tequila, Hagar's a decent guy.) He should've warmed up though 'cuz his "Why Can't This Be Love" was rough.
Weiland told the press room that Roth bailed because he wanted to do "Jump" and Velvet Revolver doesn't have a keyboardist. They wanted to do "Jamie's Cryin'" which would've been a better choice anyway. Oh well, "Diamond" Dave's loss.
Jay-Z was fully 21st century reading his induction speech for Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five off of his Blackberry.
And man, they were exuberant, both in their acceptance speech-- Melle Mel called on a reduction in violent imagery in rap-- and in their well-rehearsed set, which seemed calculated to put the industry on notice that GM and the FF are still ready to throw down. It made me a bit sad to see them basically plead to get a job. But yo, somebody needs to call and give "The Message" masters a shot to play live again. They're clearly in great shape, with the obvious exception of Cowboy, who passed away in 1989 and who was represented by his trademark Stetson last night.
The inductions ended with Eddie Vedder's heartfelt words about "big brothers," R.E.M., and humorous theory about why drummer Bill Berry quit the band. (All those darn photo shoots!) Also it was a nice shout out to the late Kurt Cobain who was a big R.E.M. fan.
Mike Mills and Michael Stipe did a nice job with their speeches. Stipe had everyone who ever helped the band who was actually in the audience stand up, and joked that it seemed like a "cheap way to get a standing ovation." Then they did spot on versions of "Begin the Begin," "Gardening At Night" and "Man on the Moon" with Vedder lending a helping hand.
Then Patti Smith joined them for the Stooges "I Wanna Be Your Dog."
The grand finale was quite a spectacle as all of the inductees-- except Flash and a pair of Furious Fivers-- came onstage for Smith's anthem "People Have the Power." Paul Shaffer scurried around pointing at people for solos-- including Keith Richards, Stephen Stills and Lenny Kaye-- and the unbelievable sight of Hagar with his arm around the waist of Smith almost made up for the ungainliness of the group sing.
VH1 Classic is re-airing the whole nutty shebang this Saturday at 9.
About Sound Effects
ContributorsSarah Rodman is a staff music critic for the Boston Globe.
James Reed is a staff music critic for the Boston Globe.
Jonathan Perry is the Globe's Scene & Heard columnist, covering local music.
Michael Brodeur is the assistant arts editor for the Boston Globe, covering pop music, TV, and nightlife.
Julian Benbow is a staff writer at the Boston Globe, covering sports and music.
Katie McLeod is Boston.com's features editor.
Rachel Raczka is a producer for Lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment at Boston.com.
Emily Wright is an Arts & Entertainment producer at Boston.com.