“Welcome to one of the greatest nights in music history,” said co-host Jared Cotter at the beginning of Fuse’s TV broadcast of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, demonstrating exactly the sort of grasp of music history you would expect from a former American Idol contestant. It wasn’t. In fact, much of the night felt a little B-list: Ron Wood instead of Mick or Keith, Max Weinberg and Garry Tallent instead of Bruce, Rosanne Cash instead of just about anybody else (nothing against Cash, but surely they could have found a bigger name to induct rockabilly pioneer Wanda Jackson). Poor Spooner Oldham, the quietly dignified classic-soul keyboard legend, had to endure a hammy induction speech from Hall of Fame-perennial Paul Shaffer.
That’s not to say this wasn’t a worthy bunch of inductees. Little Anthony and the Imperials, Wanda Jackson (how was she not in the HoF already?), Spooner Oldham, Bobby Womack, Elvis sidemen D.J. Fontana and Bill Black, Jeff Beck, Run-DMC, and Metallica all deserve their slots. But the ceremony itself was often tough to sit through. With no apparent time limit on speeches and EVERY SINGLE MEMBER of each act getting to talk, the night dragged on endlessly.
Things finally seemed like they might pick up when Eminem hit the stage to induct Run-DMC. It was a rare public appearance for the rapper, who’s gearing up for a comeback album that’s due this summer. Gaunt and a little subdued, he paid heartfelt tribute with a speech based on a recurring “two turntables and a microphone” theme that didn’t quite make sense (like no other artist in hip-hop history, Run-DMC’s sound was based on having TWO mics). It was a decent-enough set-up for a performance that sadly never came. Earlier they had announced they wouldn’t be performing out of respect for the late Jam Master Jay, a decision that was both admirable and a little disappointing.
It was up to Metallica to wake things up, which, of course, they did. Playing as a five-piece with former bassist Jason Newsted, they tore through “Enter Sandman” (something less predictable might have been nice, guys…) and the entire eight minutes of “Master of Puppets.” The night ended with the obligatory “jam session,” in this case a megawatt version of the Yardbirds’ “Train Kept a Rollin,” featuring Metallica along with former Yardbirds Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, Aerosmith’s Joe Perry, and Ron Wood. It was a fun cap to a mostly slow night, but as usual with these things, all that heavy artillery proved overwhelming. As Paul Shaffer pointed out earlier in the night, sometimes what musicians leave out is more important than what they put in. In this case, they didn’t leave out a single thing.
But what did you think of the ceremony? Is the Hall of Fame still a big deal, or is it getting a little tired?