They say that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is the house that rock built. And while there’s no disputing that statement, the truth is, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is also where dreams come true, for fans and musicians alike.
Last year, I drove to Brooklyn, New York to see my favourite band of all time, Yes, inducted into the Hall of Fame. Amazingly, for a group that currently has two versions out on the road and no love lost between members of either of them, the main players were able to put any animosity behind them, at least for one night, and play for their fans.
This year, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2018 Induction Ceremony was held in Cleveland, Ohio, where the actual museum is located. I’ve been visiting the Rock Hall on and off for more than two decades, and in a very real way, the place feels like home to this die-hard fan. If you’ve never been to the Rock Hall, and you remotely love music in all its forms and genres, you absolutely must see it for yourself. It’s a gorgeous building, full of jaw-dropping exhibits and historical artifacts that demonstrates the ongoing power of rock.
As a reader of Rolling Stone magazine since picking up a cover with U2 on it all the way back in 1988, the Rock Hall’s exhibit celebrating the mag’s 50 years was a phenomenal experience – a living history with all the news that fit. I caught myself counting the covers on display to see how many of them I once had in my own collection (it was a lot).
This year’s display devoted to the 2018 Inductees was packed with fans looking at instruments and attire from the various artists, while the walls displaying signatures of all of the Inductees was actually awe-inspiring. It actually meant something to me to see the names of my favourite artists enshrined, everyone from The Beach Boys and The Velvet Underground, to Lou Reed and, as mentioned above, Yes. In many ways, these walls are a representation of why music fans are so passionate every year about who should be getting inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. If you fiercely love a band, you want to see their names in gold. I know I do.
The wall of signatures leads directly to the theatre showing Power of Rock, a film showcasing the various performances and reunions that have been the highlight of Induction ceremonies past. Sadly, the film was the last to be directed by Jonathan Demme, the Academy Award-winning director of Silence of the Lambs, but who to me will always be the man who directed Stop Making Sense, the greatest concert film of all time (I dare you not to dance while watching it).
The power of rock was well on display at the Cleveland Public Auditorium this past Saturday night, as musicians and fans alike celebrated Bon Jovi, The Cars, The Moody Blues, Dire Straits, Nina Simone and Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Walking through the crowd, you couldn’t take more than a step or two before you’d bump into someone wearing a Bon Jovi t-shirt. No surprise, as the band continues to sell-out shows more than 30 years since the release of their seminal third album, Slippery When Wet. Coming in second place for most t-shirts on display came courtesy of fans of The Moody Blues, a band that continues to fill seats more than 54 years since forming.
Not only is the Induction ceremony a celebration, it’s also an education. Both Mary J. Blige and Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard spoke passionately and insightfully about inductees Nina Simone and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, respectively. Combined with musical tributes from Howard, Andra Day, and Ms. Lauryn Hill, the evening left me wanting to further explore the catalogues of both artists. Brandon Flowers of The Killers managed to demonstrate the influence rock has had on his own musical journey, when he and his band opened the show with a wonderfully joyful rendition of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ ‘American Girl’. Flowers later delivered a heartfelt speech to induct The Cars. Emotions were also on display when Alice In Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell and Heart’s Nancy Wilson delivered a stark version of Soundgarden’s ‘Black Hole Sun’, in memory of Chris Cornell.
Back to our dreams, though. While hopes of seeing Dire Straits reuniting may have been dashed when bandleader Mark Knopfler opted not to attend this year’s ceremony, fans were given the amazing treat of seeing The Cars perform live together for the first time in years (all of whom made sure to gratefully acknowledge band bassist/vocalist Benjamin Orr, who passed away in 2000). The New Wave pioneers delivered note perfect renditions of ‘My Best Friend’s Girl’, ‘You Might Think’, ‘Moving In Stereo’ and ‘Just What I Needed’, ably demonstrating why they’ve earned their place in the Class of 2018.
For the majority of fans gathered on Saturday night, though, it was the dream of seeing former Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora back on stage with his bandmates for the first time in five years, not too mention the return of original bassist Alec John Such as well. It was a reunion that delivered. Following a hilarious induction speech by SiriusXM’s Howard Stern and acceptance speeches by the band’s Jon Bon Jovi, Tico Torres, David Bryan, Hugh McDonald, Such and Sambora, Bon Jovi delivered a blistering four-song set of anthems. ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’, ‘It’s My Life’, and ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ were obvious picks to perform, but the standout (at least for me) was ‘When We Were Us’, a song from the band’s recently rereleased latest album This House Is Not For Sale. Though he isn’t on the studio track, Richie Sambora remained on stage for the song, a double-neck guitar in hand, and shared vocals with Jon Bon Jovi. It was a great, genuine rock and roll moment between two old friends who created a legacy that continues to resonate for millions of listeners.
Before too long, fans will no doubt begin the debate as to who should be a part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2019. However, let’s take a few more days to enjoy the afterglow of this year’s monumental evening, where the wildest dreams of rock and roll fans once again came true.
Listen to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2018 Induction Ceremony on Classic Vinyl:
Saturday, May 5th at 8 pm and 11 pm ET
Sunday, May 6th at 12 am ET