By Brian Ives
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony has come a long way, and its evolution has mirrored that of rock and roll itself: whereas it used to be a drunken, freewheeling event held at New York’s Waldorf Astoria that would stretch to all hours of the night, today it is an arena rock spectacle that is (gasp!) open to the public. Lots of people have lots of feelings about this. But last night’s event had stunning moments that won’t soon be forgotten. And, as it turns out, it still goes way past bedtime (or at least the 11:15 pm curfew).
The induction ceremony took place at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center and sold out within minutes, thanks to a star-studded list of inductees: KISS, Nirvana, Peter Gabriel, Daryl Hall and John Oates, Linda Ronstadt and Cat Stevens, as well as Bruce Springsteen‘s E Street Band. Also being inducted were industry legends, Andrew Loog Oldham (former Rolling Stones manager, among other things) and the late Brian Epstein (who managed the Beatles).
Oldham was one of the people with a strong opinion about the annual throwdown: he declined to attend, saying at a recent public appearance, “I won’t be there. I’ll tell you why…. It’s a television show. Twenty years ago it was an incredible party in the Waldorf-Astoria where everybody could behave exactly as they could 20 years ago. And then it became a business.”
Of course, some artists conduct their business on their own terms. Peter Gabriel, who took the stage next, made that fairly clear by opening his set with “Digging In The Dirt,” from 1992’s Us: not a song that would count as one of his biggest hits. On the other hand, he didn’t attend his first induction (as a member of Genesis, back in 2010), so at least this time he showed up. Following an introduction by Chris Martin of Coldplay, who noted his many achievements, including “He helped John Cusack get his girlfriend back in Say Anything!” Gabriel then made a gracious speech, thanking his musicians and engineers (remember, this is a guy who has taken up to a decade to put out an album) and his father. After that, he got behind his piano, accompanied by Martin, for another Us tune, “Washing of the Water.” Not that he’s totally allergic to his hits: after that, he sang “In Your Eyes,” accompanied by Nigerian singer Youssou Ndour, who sang on the original.
A lot of fans have argued the merits of KISS to their detractors over the years, but few with the zeal and eloquence that Rage Against the Machine leader (and current touring member of the E Street Band) Tom Morello did last night. “Impact, influence and awesomeness: KISS had all three in spades!” Despite the smack talking between band leaders Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley and their former bandmates Ace Frehley and Peter Criss (and also Simmons/Stanley vs. the Hall of Fame itself), the vibes during their portion of the evening were warm. Simmons was particularly gracious, saying “We are humbled,” and affectionately speaking of the other founding members of the band, Ace Frehley (“his guitar playing has often been imitated but never equalled”), Peter Criss (“nobody else has that swing and style”) and his longtime partner Paul Stanley (“You couldn’t ask for a better partner!”). Read our full report on the KISS induction here.