BROOKLYN — There are certain things that can only happen at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Concert.
Where else can you experience the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens perform "Peace Train"? The reclusive Yusuf Islam rendered his classic anti-war hit just after the feuding members of Kiss picked up their HOF hardware (they did do so in a civil manner).
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band jammed with former members for the first time in 40 years. And then the surviving members of Nirvana played songs written by the late Kurt Cobain for the first time in more than 20 years, with four different female singers.
The 2014 class of Hall of Famers is stellar. Aside from the aforementioned recording artists, Peter Gabriel was inducted for a second time (2010 with Genesis). Linda Ronstadt is a new member of the special club. Suburban Philadelphia natives Hall & Oates were inducted by the Roots’ ?uestlove.
It was ironic Hall & Oates were honored on the same night Nirvana was placed into the hallowed halls. During a 2008 interview, John Oates said Nirvana was part of the reason Hall & Oates were dumped from the charts after a long, hit-laden run.
“What we do is music," Oates said. “What Nirvana does is anti-music.”
There was no friction between Nirvana and Hall and Oates. That wasn’t surprising on this night of endless praise and smiles. However, it was surprising to see Courtney Love hugging it out with Dave Grohl after she made a number of creepy claims and hit the leader of the Foo Fighters with a couple of lawsuits.
Some of the words and actions were sincere. Who better to induct the E Street Band than its boss. Springsteen strolled down memory lane like only he can. He talked about what it was like on the eve of his own induction into the HOF.
“Sixteen years ago I stood in my darkened kitchen along with Steve Van Zandt... he was petitioning me to push the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to induct us together. I listened, but the Hall of Fame has its rules and I was proud of independence.”
Springsteen was inducted by himself into the Hall in 1998 despite Van Zandt’s belief that it was all for one. Van Zandt eventually got the message.
“Yeah I understand,” Van Zandt said to Springsteen. “But Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band, that’s the legend.”
It’s true. There’s something missing when Springsteen isn’t flanked by his E Street Band, which deserves its place in the hall. Each member and the son of late keyboardist Danny Federici and Clarence Clemon’s widow gave speeches. But the highlight was an emotional "E Street Shuffle" and a searing "Kitty’s Back," which included former drummer Vini "Mad Dog" Lopez and keyboardist David Sancious.
Springsteen and the E Street Band nearly raised the roof with their intensity. However, the night belonged to Nirvana, which was inducted by Cobain’s close friend, Michael Stipe.
“I remember the first time I met him,” Stipe said backstage. “He was late. There was nobody like him. I’ll always remember those eyes, they were so blue.”
Stipe waxed eloquently and seriously about the band when he addressed the capacity crowd of 20,000 at the soldout Barclays Center. “Nirvana were artists in every sense of the word,” Stipe said. “Nirvana tapped into a voice that was yearning to be heard.”
Stipe elaborated about how the band connected with the disenfranchised and made significant change. It’s true. You could practically hear the hair-metal bubble burst when Nirvana altered the sonic landscape in 1991.
It was no secret that a version of Nirvana would hit the stage but in what configuration? Joan Jett joined Novoselic on bass, Grohl behind his drum kit and guitarist Pat Smear, who helped flesh out the band’s sound during its final tour, at the stroke of midnight for "Smells Like Teen Spirit," which was the highlight of the night. The song still feels as cathartic as ever.
Kim Gordon was looking good dancing around while singing "Aneurysm," until she fell halfway through the song. Fortunately, she didn’t break her 60-year old hip. St. Vincent joined the band for a gritty "Lithium." St. Vincent aka Annie Clark even growls like Cobain. Lorde, who was born two years after Cobain died, closed the night with the sad and emotional "All Apologies."
Hall & Oates impressed during a three-song set. Both members were funny and glib during their thankfully terse speech, which followed an 85-minute E Street induction.
“Lucky for you there’s only two of us,” Hall cracked. He then followed by extolling the virtues of his Philly roots. Oates did the same. He thanked his parents for moving from New York City to the Philly burbs. “Otherwise this (Hall & Oates) never would have happened.”
Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Nicks, Emmylou Harris and Carrie Underwood honored Linda Ronstadt, who is suffering from Parkinson’s disease, by nailing a number of old hits such as "You’re No Good" and "It’s So Easy."
Peter Gabriel, who was inducted by Chris Martin, was compelled to toss in an obscurity, "Washing of the Water." But that’s hardly surprising considering Gabriel always does what he wants to do.
Everyone, even the enigmatic members of Kiss, seemed to be happy. There was no reason for discord during a memorable night.