I finally had the chance to catch HBO’s highlight show from the 2013 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Now, I don’t need to raise my blood pressure by pondering why Donna Summer got in before Deep Purple, or how Public Enemy hijacked the show with their eye-rolling claims of importance, political grandstanding, and not one but two over-the-top inductors, so we’ll stick to the areas of classic rock…
Randy Newman opened the show with a buoyant version of his stinging valentine to the ceremony’s host city with “I Love L.A.” (fronting a not-to-shabby backing band that included Tom Petty, Jackson Browne, and John Fogerty). And if you only know Newman from “Short People,” you are robbing yourself of experiencing one of rock’s most wry and sardonic lyricists (and let’s hope this induction paves the way for Warren Zevon).
Friend and inductor Don Henley summed it up best when he said of Newman’s music after a recent Texas concert “When you can get 2,000 Texans to stand up and applaud a song like ‘Rednecks’ in a state that has elected Rick Perry three times in a row, you are a helluva artist.” The pair then performed a duet on Newman’s “I’m Dead and I Don’t Know It,” a biting piece about…aging rock stars.
John Mayer inducted blues great Albert King who – while not classic rock – did heavily influence players ranging from Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton to Stevie Ray Vaughan. And Mayer used his guitar and some sweet runs to show that link.
I was most anticipating the induction of Heart, not for the sentiment, but to see how well co-leaders (and only current inductee members) Ann and Nancy Wilson would play with their fellow inductees from the band’s classic lineup, guitarists Roger Fisher and Howard Leese, bassist Steve Fossen, and drummer Michael DeRosier. As one of the better episodes of “Behind the Music” showed, the tangling business, bitterness, and romantic relations between the two divided sex factions have not been great, and there is still a lot of resentment.
But thankfully, there was no repeat of the times when John Fogerty, Elvis Costello, and Deborah Harry‘s pulled their Star Cards and refusing to play with former members of their groups with whom there was bad blood. So fans got to see the six rip through “Crazy On You,” before the current lineup – augmented by Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready and Alice in Chains’ Jerry Cantrell – did “Barracuda.”
Two observations about Ann Wilson: Fuck, she can still hit all those high notes. But what the hell was up with that huge black hat that covered the top half of her head??
That rumble that came toward the end of the ceremony, though, came from the Great White North as fans of Rush – who clearly bought most of the public tickets to the ceremony – made their presence known. Inducted by excited fanboys/Foo Fighters Dave Grohl (“When the fuck did Rush become cool?”) and Taylor Hawkins, the estimable prog rock trio of Geddy Lee, Neil Peart, and Alex Lifeson finally got their statues.
The band was humble and appreciative in their comments, and Lifeson’s acceptance speech – which consisted entirely of different inflections of the phrase “blah blah blah” – was hilarious, if best seen and not read about.
Grohl, Hawkins, and a drummer then emerged in full-on wigs and white silk kimonos to echo the ’70s era Rush (taking the joke of their earlier showing an infamous publicity still further) to play a bit of “2112”, before the real group took over for high-spirited takes on “Tom Sawyer” and “The Spirit of Radio.”
Who will make the final list of inductees for 2014? Let the guessing games begin…let’s just hope that Peart’s deep purple nose is a bit of foreshadowing…