Rock & Roll Of Fame
29th Annual Induction Ceremony

April 10, 2014
Barclays Center
Brooklyn, NY

Review by Ralph Greco, Jr.

So here’s what I learned at the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame 29th annual induction ceremony held at Brooklyn’s newest concert venue, the Barclays Center…

The big Kiss controversy over will they/won’t they play was less a roar than a whisper. Yes, the hometown crowd was on their feet and cheering when the band was announced at the initial opening roll call of artists being induced this night. A video of the band chronicling their colorful history played across the screens during Tom Morello’s speech (the best speech of the night).

It was obvious from where they were sitting — Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley with Eric Singer, Tommy Thayer and Bruce Kulick at one table;  Peter Criss and his crew a few tables in front of them; and Ace Frehley and company (including That Metal Show host Eddie Trunk) clear across the floor — that the hoped-for reunion was going to take place, at least not in performance.

The four original members of KISS did appear on stage together, however, to graciously accept their induction. All I can say is: it’s about time.

Peter Gabriel truly picked a great band to play with, as was evident for “Digging in the Dirt” and “In Your Eyes” (with Youssou N’Dour) after Chris Martin’s stuttering induction (though clearly across the floor of the arena I could see a scrolling video teleprompter). The Coldplay frontman joined Gabriel on “Washing of The Water.”

Yusuf  Islam (aka Cat Stevens) pretty much sounds like he did in the 70s, playing a rousing three-song set of “Father and Son,” “ Wild World” and “Peace Train” (with guitarist Waddy Wachtel fronting David Letterman’s house band ). This performance was the highlight of the night, as the man’s voice, presence and music simply connect as much now as they ever did.

You can always count on Bruce Springsteen being as clever and funny as he was when he inducted the E Street Band. Seizing the opportunity, some present and former E Streeters made some exceptionally long speeches! I could see the teleprompter flashing a “Please Speed It Up” message during some of them; so long, in fact, that by the time Springsteen led everybody through “The E Street Shuffle, “The River” and “Kitty’s Back,” everyone was ready to move on to the next induction. Still, it was great to see original E Street drummer Vinnie ‘Mad Dog’ Lopez playing alongside present E Street drummer Max Weinberg. KISS could have learned a thing or two from this.

Linda Ronstadt, who is unable to sing since being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, did not attend. However, Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris, Stevie Nicks Carrie Underwood and Sheryl Crow sang a three-song tribute. “It’s So Easy (To Fall In Love)” was especially poignant with Crow managing the “ooh ah ooh ah’s” at the end perfectly.

Hall & Oates, while not the most rocking act of the night, had their three-song set speak for itself after a quick acceptance. Their tight knit group (with a special nod to long time keys and reed man Charles DeChant) blew the E Streeters off the stage.

The Nirvana induction led by a Michael Stipe saw the crowd erupt. When one considers KISS and Nirvana getting inducted in the same year (no slight to Nirvana as I do believe they should be in), it’s hard to reconcile the injustices of the former getting in 15 years after their first year of qualification , while the latter gets in their very first year. Seeing Joan Jett out in front with Dave Grohl on drums, Krist Novoselic on bass and the under-sung Pat Smear on guitar playing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was fantastic. They also tried a couple other Nirvana classics with supreme mumblers Kim Gordon and Lorde fronting.

At the end of the night, it was obvious that this was more of a show than a concert (that’s apparently why Andrew Loog Oldham, inducted along with the late Beatles manager Brian Epstein as a non-performer, chose not to attend). Was the crowd of contemporaries, often too cool to clap as they sat in all their fettered finery, too distracting to the audience and performers alike? Certainly. Were the speeches too long? Of course. Is the whole Rock & Roll Hall of Fame clueless exclusionary voting process arcane? No doubt. But it was still a great night. The Barclays is an amazing venue and I got to see Cat Stevens.

And this is what I learned at the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame 29th annual induction ceremony.

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