Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
March 29th, 2019 – Barclays Center, Brooklyn / New York
By Scott Gudell
When the first director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City was contemplating how to build the MOMA’s collection, he advocated maintaining “a respectful (time) distance” from the artist. As one MOMA expert stated, “…a minimal perspective was necessary before a definitive judgment could be passed on new works.” The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has borrowed a page from MOMA’s handbook. As Wikipedia reminds us about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, “artists become eligible for induction 25 years after the release of their first record. Criteria include the influence and significance of the artists’ contributions to the development and perpetuation of rock and roll.” So, as a result, a select few ‘best of the best’ are inducted into the rock hall every year. This year’s ceremony took place a few miles south of Manhattan’s MOMA – in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on March 29 (to be presented on HBO on Saturday, April 27, 2019.)
So let’s put on a show and play one of your best cards first, a Queen of Rock and Roll. Stevie Nicks, dressed all in black and looking confidently cool, was inducted as a solo artist this time around (she was inducted as part of Fleetwood Mac in 1998). She kicked the night off by playing fierce versions of “Stand Back,” “Leather And Lace,” “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” and “Edge Of Seventeen.” Supporting Ms. Nicks were longtime friends such as Waddy Wachtel and Carlos Rios, both raging away on guitar. Another even closer friend, Don Henley, sauntered on stage as the duo reprised their 1981 hit “Leather and Lace” followed by Harry Styles assisting Nicks on “Stop Dragging…” When Styles officially introduced Nicks, he pointed out that she was the “magical gypsy godmother” and kiddingly (I hope) stated that “on Halloween, one in seven people dress as Stevie Nicks (women, I hope.)” As Nicks accepted and pondered her solo career, she remembered when she was advised to tell follow Fleetwood Mac members “…that you will always put them first” which is a balance she has accomplished, for the most part, for decades.
Radiohead’s’ lead singer Thom Yorke was one of the no-shows and, probably for that reason (and the fact that the band has openly been indifferent at best about the rock hall), the attending band members elected to accept but not to perform. But a forever young and dapper Brian Ferry (but no formal evening jacket or tie this time around,) along with other key Roxy Music members, did perform and were in top form. Over the course of eight studio albums and countless live performances through the years, Ferry reminded past fans and the crowd that the bands’ influences were as varied as “do wop and German music.” Collectively, they were sleek, stylish and dapper as they presented iconic songs such as “Love Is The Drug,” “Avalon” and “More Than This“.There was an unofficial bathroom break as Steven Van Zandt took the stage with a randy “Hello Brooklyn!” salutation and introduced a half dozen singles that would represent, for only the second year, the official honoring of songs with a nod to those artists who (subjectively) recorded the definitive version of the song. Songs included the mid-sixties masterpiece “Leader of the Pack” as recorded by the Shangri Las and “Tequila,“ by The Champs, the first rock instrumental to hit number one back in 1958.
Then back to live performances by the inductees. British Goth Rock darlings of the 1980s, the Cure, did perform and offered a combination of hits and deeper cuts. Unleashing a bit of tongue-in-cheek nervous energy, Smith quipped “Do I have time for one more (song)? F#*king Stevie Nicks,” who deservedly consumed close to 45 minutes of the evening as the unrestricted headline opener. Later, in the backstage press room, a hesitant Smith verbally stumbled a bit yet courteously answered a question about how he felt being inducted. It’s a bit of “a cultural” thing but, at the same time, he acknowledged that “people in it are my heroes.”
Time for another Queen. Janet Jackson was another ‘do you want to give me an award or do you want me to perform’ attendee but, with a little help from firecracker presenter Janelle Monae, the duo shined, nonetheless. As Monae reminded the audience in her articulate intro, Janet was and is the “queen of black girl magic and our fearless leader.” At 180 million records sold – according to Monae– there’s a lot of people who agree. As for Jackson, she serenely and calmly accepted and then respected her elders including her brothers, her producers and so many others who were there to help guide her along the rocky (and R&B) way.
Next up were a few Brits who hit the top of the charts 50 years ago. As the Zombie’s pointed out, it was exactly 50 years to the day – March 29, 1969 – that they grabbed the Number One slot on the music charts with “Time Of The Season,” one of several songs they performed (including another classic, “She’s Not There.”)
Def Leppard brought everything in for a landing as the closing inductees performed heavy metal originals including “Rock Of Ages” and “Photograph” after being introduced by one more Queen, Brian May, who remains in today’s headlines for various reasons, including because of the monumental success of the movie Bohemian Rhapsody. While people in the press room were accurately (I assume) singing along to each and every song performed by 1980s the Cure and Def Leppard, I was quietly singing along with Stevie and Bryan and their (mostly) 1970s hits. A grand finale, with surprise guest vocalist Ian Hunter, as well as Brian May and others, took the stage and brought the 34th annual ceremony to a close with “All the Young Dudes.” The song includes a reference to 1970s glam rock titans T. Rex so let’s hope it’s a melodic hint to the rock hall about a band that should have been inducted decades ago. Let’s see what happened in 2020.