By Cyndy Drue, WMGK DJ and Event Reporter
The event took place at the Barclays Center sports arena in Brooklyn and was taped by HBO to begin airing on April 29th at 8 pm.
Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone Magazine and co-founder of the Rock Hall welcomed the 20,000 fans, stars and industry crowd to the 32nd annual, and introduced ELO who paid tribute to the recently deceased Chuck Berry, founding father of rock and roll. “No one in this room would be here tonight but for this man,” Wenner proclaimed. With that, Jeff Lynne’s ELO blasted into their version of Chuck Berry’s 1956 hit “Roll Over Beethoven” that appeared on Electric Light Orchestra's 1973 album Electric Light Orchestra II. They followed that up with their own “Evil Woman” and “Mr. Blue Sky.”
Singer Jeff Lynne was accompanied by members of his touring band, along with a few classical string musicians. Other original members, drummer Bev Bevan and keyboardist Richard Tandy weren’t able to attend, but multi-instrumentalist Roy Wood (The Move and co-founder of ELO) was there to accept, along with Jeff Lynne.
Jackson Browne inducted Joan Baez next, declaring the first album he bought (at the age of 14) was Joan Baez’s second. Ms. Baez confessed that young people don’t have a clue as to who she is. She quipped that it wasn’t until she took her granddaughter to a Taylor Swift concert backstage for a selfie that she finally realized her grandmother’s notoriety, and won her respect.
It was great to see Yes back together albeit without Chris Squire since succumbing to leukemia in 2015, and Bill Bruford, who was there but chose not to play, and Tony Kaye who was a no-show. Steve Howe, Rick Wakeman, Trevor Rabin all performed as Jon Anderson sang with his band for the first time in a decade. To take Chris Squire’s place on “Roundabout” it was Rush’s Geddy Lee who inducted Yes along with his band mate Alex Lifeson. Yes also played “Owner of a Lonely Heart” without Geddy on bass.
We got a taste of Rick Wakeman’s sense of humor during his acceptance speech that will probably go viral with his off color jokes about prostate exams and seeing his father in a strip club.
During their backstage visit with the press, I was able to send my regards from all of Philadelphia.
After the performance, Geddy Lee told the press backstage that Yes is a very precise band. “Chris Squire was one of the most inventive and original sounding bass players ever, so to play his parts, it’s one thing - to mimic his parts, and you can mimic anything if you practice enough, but to write those parts, it was sheer brilliance. It was a great honor for me.”
The big question going into the ceremony was, will Steve Perry show up, and will he sing with Journey? Well, he was there to accept the award but much to the disappointment of his fans, he did not sing. Their current singer, Arnel Pineda joined Journey on stage for their set of “Separate Ways,” “Lights” (that Neal Schon dedicated to Perry), and “Don’t Stop Believin.’”
All 7 inducted members of Journey gave a short acceptance speech. Steve Perry said “Speaking of fans – you’re the one who put us here. You are the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We would not be here if not for you and your tireless love and consistent devotion. You never have stopped. And from my heart I must tell you, I’ve been gone a long time, I understand that, but I want you to know, you’ve never not been in my heart. I love each and every one of you. Thank you so very much.”
According to the Rock Hall, Journey received the most fan votes. The top five artists from the fan vote comprised the fans’ ballot that was tallied along with the other ballots to determine the 2017 Inductees. Four of the groups from fans’ ballot (Electric Light Orchestra, Journey, Pearl Jam, and YES) were inducted.
David Letterman was a real highlight of the evening. Making his first significant public appearance since his retirement in 2014, he was met with a standing ovation that lasted a good while. He started by saying that Neil Young was supposed to do the inducting of Pearl Jam, but “the truth is, the poor guy can’t stay up this late.” He added, “I’ve known Neil Young for many, many years. We met a long time ago on Farmers Only dot com.”
Following Pearl Jam’s set that included “Alive,” “Given to Fly,” and “Better Man,” they led the All Star Finale with a blistering-hot version of Neil Young’s “Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World,” a song they often play at their concerts, sometimes with Neil joining them. Adding to this jam were Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, Trevor Rabin and Neal Schon.
Nile Rodgers received the Award for Musical Excellence. Outside of playing guitar with his and Bernard Edwards’ band Chic, his many producing roles include Philly’s own Sister Sledge on “We are Family,” Mick Jagger’s solo “She’s the Boss” and David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.” In his acceptance speech he revealed that he’s sold over 300 million albums and 75 million singles.
Hip Hop artist Tupac Shakur, was inducted posthumously by Snoop Dogg. Additional special guests were Pharrell Williams, T.I., Mary Chapin Carpenter, Lenny Kravitz, (who performed a tribute to the late Prince), Alicia Keys, Pat Monihan, (Singer in Train who inducted Journey) and Indigo Girls.
Next year, the ceremony will most likely be back in Cleveland, as they alternate between locations every couple of years.
The 2017 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Performer Inductees were chosen by more than 900 voters of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, as well as the aggregate results of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s online fan vote.