Right, so I forgot that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (R&RHoF) Induction Ceremonies were last week, so I had to watch the two-hour reduction instead of the full live feed. On the one hand, I missed Jann Wenner's most-likely half-toasted introduction, some unedited acceptance speeches that remind us why a number of performers are not their own best editors, and the inevitable closing "jam." On the other hand, I missed Jann Wenner's most-likely half-toasted introduction...you get the bit, right? Onto the show, then, now in bulleted form!
- Mac "Dr. John" Rebennack was inducted by John Legend, which must have been as disappointing for the good doctor as it was for the viewing audience. John Legend, what, now? Aside from having one of the ironic self-inflicted surnames of all time, I don't get him. He, like Fergie, like Pink, like so many others whose name more than music springs to mind, occupies this middle tier in the music business. Like he's the regional manager for product development. Not the CEO, not the mailcart guy, just...there. In the middle. Doing some job that I don't care about or even really understand. His induction speech was flaccid and Teleprompter-heavy, and then, inexplicably, he played a piano duet with Dr. John on "Such a Night." Was everyone and anyone else who could have said something meaningful about Mac Rebennack dead or out of town? I mean, Christ, Robbie Robertson was in the audience! Dr. John played "Such a Night" at The Last Waltz! There's relatedness, right there! Or Liv Tyler looking quite lovely. Or Catherine Zeta-Jones likewise. I'd preferred to have watched Liv Tyler and Catherine Zeta-Jones freestyle an induction rap for Dr. John over watching John Legend's grade-school pageant presentation. Ugh.
- Bette Midler wearing an approximation of Bette Midler's face ca. the Divine Madness Tour inducted Darlene Love. *ha ha* I joke; she's had the good work done. And at least she read her speech with characteristic sass and oomph in contrast to the agent of entropy who preceded here. And Darlene Love spoke her acceptance sincerely, good lines well-delivered, from what the excerpts showed. The acceptance speeches were all intercut with the associated musical performances, so the absolute length of them is unknown to your reporter. She (and the others) may have spoken for an hour or two minutes. But she's got pipes, I tell you what. She ran through a few Spector classics with Paul Schaffer's Letterman ensemble, the usual house band for the event.
- Rob Zombie, looking like he ate Choo-Choo Charlie then stole his hat, inducted Alice Cooper. A clever speech delivered in an offhand way. The band performed two numbers; the inevitable incongruousness of the 62-year-old Alice Cooper né Vincent Furnier singing "I'm Eighteen" and "School's Out" overshadowed by the fact that all but the guitarist are original members and looked to be having a tremendous time as they rocked out.
- Neil Young now resembling a cantankerous Civil War veteran woken after a century's sleep offered offhand comments, essentially admitting he hadn't prepared remarks for the occasion, but, nevertheless, winged a funny, surreal performance piece in introduction of Tom Waits. I'd call this the marquee event. Tight-lipped and media-shy, Waits keeps a low profile, revealing print interviews of him as numerous as my hen's teeth. His acceptance speech is funny, likely rehearsed, but as engaging as you might imagine, punctuated by his eyes blinking as if forced into sunshine from the cool deep dark.
- In the evening's most personal introduction, Sir Elton inducted his idol and current tour partner, Leon Russell. He spoke of his encounter with Russell's music as a young musician and of his awe and respect then and Russell's help and advice to him, followed by his reconnection with the man 30 years later when Russell's fortunes were much reduced. A riches-to-rags-to-riches story underlined by Russell's speech wherein he noted that Elton had found him in the "ditch by the side of the highway of life" and treated him like a king. Now and for some time in fragile health, he performed "Delta Lady" and, affectingly, "A Song for You" in a shadow of his voice, particularly poignant given the film clips of him hollering and tearing it up onstage as a younger man.
- Paul Simon came out and kvetched humorously about it taking 20 years since Neil Diamond's first eligibility for him to be inducted. Paul looks like he hasn't had the good work, unfortunately. Maybe it's just crap makeup, but Paul Simon? Really? Whatever it is, he shouldn't look like Albin in La Cage at the Jewish Community Center of Flatbush. Neil Diamond offered a moving "I Am...I Said," with the weight of 45 years in the business behind it. Wistful, valedictory, a slow recognition of life's existential weight that ended in as many "no"s as Molly Bloom offered "yes"s. He then shifted gears suddenly--and somewhat unwillingly, if his expression was any barometer--to sing "Sweet Caroline." Pro that he is, however, by mid-song, he'd waded out into the audience to grab family members, shmooze other singers and, at one point, stand on a chair to lead the assembled in song. As I said, a pro.