Monday, April 16, 2012

Induction highs & lows

Highlights and lowlights of the Rock Hall induction ceremony:

Highlight: Ron Wood (right), still a badass at 64, smoking at his table on the floor of Public Hall (who's going to stop him?); canoodling with his latest 30-years-younger girlfriend, Sally Humphries; and leading the Faces through a spectacular three-song set, including the raucous one-night-stand anthem "Stay With Me." (More on the Faces set here.)

Highlight: Green Day. They started the show with a ferocious pair of songs, including "Letterbomb" (fan video here), with Billie Joe Armstrong F-bombing the audience until they got on their feet. Inducting Guns N' Roses 4 1/2 hours later, Armstrong also provoked debate, asserting that Appetite For Destruction was the best debut album in rock 'n' roll history (speech text here).

Lowlight: The 5 1/2-hour marathon length of the show. The Rock Hall needs to trim its inductee classes and enforce time limits on speeches, like the Oscars, with swelling music if necessary. Less talk, more rock.

Highlight: Slash's guitar solos on three Appetite for Destruction songs, especially "Sweet Child of Mine," in a three-fifths reunion of the classic Guns N' Roses lineup.

Lowlight: Bette Midler's speech explaining Laura Nyro to a new generation was passionate, but a mess. She bombed with her line about New York in the 1970s being worse than Cleveland ever was -- a failed attempt at solidarity that came off as a burn. "The Divine Miss Bitch!" my date exclaimed.

Highlight: Sara Bareilles saving Nyro from Midler's mess with a gorgeous version of "Stoney End."

Lowlight: The red carpet was nearly bereft of star power. Most of the stars slipped through a back entrance, leaving the front-door scene-stealing to two guys dressed in homage to the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" video and George Clinton, arriving in the Euclid Beach Park rocket ship car.

Highlight: Celebrity-watching from the balcony. Bird's-eye view of Chris Rock and Kid Rock at same table with Mellencamp, Midler, and Meg Ryan (Mellencamp's date). Little Steven at the next table, Michael J. Fox near the front.

Highlight: The Freddie King induction, with his daughter Wanda ad-libbing one of the night's best speeches, confounding the teleprompter, and two ZZ Top guys tearing through King covers.

Lowlight: Kid Rock, the Roots & Co. tried, but couldn't substitute for the Beastie Boys, who didn't perform. MCA, diagnosed with cancer three years ago, did not attend. Ad-Rock and Mike D likely refused to perform without him. That's understandable, but LL Cool J's appearance on stage briefly had me dreaming of a one-time Def Jam reunion that was not to be.

Highlight turned lowlight: Chuck D and LL Cool J's dual (dueling?) induction speeches for the Beasties. Interesting insights about the Boys' role in '80s hip-hop, but they got lost in the long talk.

Highlight: Donovan. Ever the Scottish mystic, Donovan accepted induction with a poem written for the occasion. (Who is the woman, now in the grave, who stole his art?) He played his breakthrough ballad "Catch the Wind" and "Sunshine Superman" before tearing through "Season of the Witch" with John Mellencamp.

Highlight: Darlene Love singing "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" in tribute to songwriter and TV host Don Kirshner.

Lowlight: Axl Rose not showing, of course.

Highlight: Chris Rock's induction of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, with an aside dismissing the Axl controversy (at 12:30): "Even if he was coming tonight, he wouldn't be by now."

Highlight: The Chili Peppers -- Flea and Anthony appropriately shirtless -- doing "By the Way" & "Give It Away." Ron Wood, Slash and George Clinton joining them for the finale, Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground."

Photos by Wanda Santos-Bray/City of Cleveland Photography