ROCK & ROLL HALL OF FAME INDUCTIONS 2012
CLEVELAND, OHIO PUBLIC HALL April 14, 2012
By R.M. Engelman
Once again it was Cleveland’s time to host the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s annual induction ceremony, it’s 27th. The performing inductees were The Beastie Boys, Donovan, Guns N’ Roses, Laura Nyro, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Freddie King, and The Small Faces/The Faces (Rod Stewart previously inducted). Also in a new move, the Rock Hall now recognizes the backing groups of other frontmen previously inducted, The Blue Caps (Gene Vincent), The Comets (Bill Haley), The Crickets (Buddy Holly), The Famous Flames (James Brown), The Midnighters (Hank Ballard), and The Miracles (Smokey Robinson). These legends were graciously accredited and enshrined by Smokey. The non-performing inductee group included the legends behind the scenes, producer/songwriter Don Kirshner, engineer Cosimo Matassa, and producer/engineer’s Tom Dowd and Glyn Johns, all inducted by The Band’s Robbie Robertson.
The city’s gala at historic Public Hall unveiled the new walk of fame bronze stars commemorating this years inductees. Inductee Alice Cooper arrived to cheer on the newcomers (acknowledging Laura Nyro as one of his favorite songwriters), as did alumni George Clinton (noting that the Chili Peppers were family) arriving in his own “Mothership”, a big silver Zeppelin car/bus, with another Hall alumni “Kidd Funkadelic” guitarist Clevelander Michael Hampton, and the ominous “Minister of Funk” in black judge’s garb. George also performed with Cleveland born rapper Kid Cudi earlier in the week at a free concert put on by the Rock Hall. Actor David Arquette was here to do his best Don Kirschner impression during Carole King’s induction of her former boss, which also featured prior inductee Darlene Love performing Carole’s classic “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”. Cleveland biggies, Mayor Frank Jackson, Indian Chief Mark Shapiro, Brown’s head coach Pat Shurmur, and musician Jim Brickman were among the attendees.
The ceremonies went on with no Axl Rose (defiance), no John Frusciante (declined for reasons only he knows), no Adam Yauch (cancer), and no Rod Stewart (strep throat). Some behind the scenes scrambling had Simply Red’s Mick Hucknall taking the vocals with the Small Faces/Faces, Alter Bridge and Slash’s solo frontman Myles Kennedy leading the Guns N’ Roses configuration (including drummers Matt Sorum and Steven Adler), and the Beastie Boy tribute had Kid Rock, Gym Class Heroes’ Travie McCoy and the Roots’ Black Thought outfitted in matching old-school green jogging suits. The Beastie’s were inducted by rapper/actor LL Cool J, (who got his break when the BB’s gave his tape to producer Rick Rubin), and Public Enemy rapper Chuck D. The Chili Peppers brought out George Clinton, Billy Joe Armstrong, Ron Wood, and Slash for a finale of the some 5.5-hour gala, on Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground”. The Freddie King tribute including “Going Down” had Joe Bonamassa, Derek Trucks, and his inductors ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill performing.
Chris Rock’s R-Rated induction of the Chili Peppers included how he first saw them by accident when he went to the wrong club expecting to see Grandmaster Flash. He described how he couldn’t understand a single word they were singing, their tube sock fashion statement, and extreme energy. Cigarette wielding John Mellencamp inducted Donovan Leitch with the strangest rambling speech, while offering up the first Donovan record he ever bought and admitting he stole his complete act from The Don. Don on the other hand, gave an eloquent poetic acceptance address, fitting of a true musical scholar. John joined Don onstage for “Season of the Witch”.
After Bette Midler’s teary induction of singer/songwriter Laura Nyro, singer Sara Bareilles did a fantastic version of Laura’s “Stoney End”. The Chili’s Flea was also choked up during accepting while acknowledging his mother who was present. Green Day’s Billy Joe Armstrong gave a longwinded dissertation of whatever, while presenting GNR. BJA revealed that after first observing the antics of the multi-talented GNR that they were on course to end up either being dead or in jail. E Street’s Miami Steve Van Zandt inducted the surviving Small Faces/Faces members Ron Wood (Rolling Stones), Ian McLagan, and Kenney Jones by saying that they were fortunate enough to have the two best white soul singers ever in Steve (Stephen Peter) Marriot and Rod (Roderick David) Stewart.
The event and entire week of activities was extremely well executed, and came off making the city a winner. At least a zillion things needed to be done efficiently from the planning phase to the finish line in order to hit it out of the park. Everything from the accommodations to the security was well thought out and executed. Backing bandleader, Letterman’s own Paul Shaffer did a great job of both arranging and playing. I personally thought the performance highlight was GNR, as Myles and Slash really nailed everything down with a vengeance. Myles calmly hit the notes from high to low, being in great form from recently touring with Slash.
The event was simulcast at the Rock Hall. To get the full feel and vibe and all of the nuances and madness, catch the ceremony, which will be shown on HBO on May 5th.