Rock Hall Show Mixes Gratitude, Tributes + Controversy

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"NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 08: Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick performs onstage at the 31st Annual Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony at Barclays Center of Brooklyn on April 8, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Kane/WireImage for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame)"

Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick performs onstage at the 31st Annual Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony at Barclays Center of Brooklyn on April 8, 2016. (Photo by Kevin Kane/WireImage for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) Used with permission

The 30th Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony last night (4/9) spotlighted the institution’s unique position in the rock music world. On the one hand, it’s almost always an evening of gratitude for each year’s class of performers as they are honored by their induction. On the other hand, the HOF continues to generate controversy – including an epic rant from Steve Miller -and debate. This year’s event at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn also included what can be expected to become a regular if not growing aspect of the shows: tributes to rock artists that recently died. The ceremony began with David Byrne with The Roots and singer Kimbra saluting Rock Hall member David Bowie, who died in January, by performing his song “Fame.” The snippet below was shot by Cheap Trick drummer Daxx Nielsen, who abdicated his place on the kit for the evening to the band’s founding member Bun E. Carlos.

An edited version of the induction ceremony debuts on HBO Saturday, April 30th at 8 pm Eastern, with dozens of repeat airings across the various HBO channels throughout May.

Later in the ceremony, Sheryl Crow and Grace Potter paid tribute to Glenn Frey of The Eagles with a rendition of his band’s 1976 #1 hit song, “New Kid in Town,” which he originally sang and co-wrote.

Related: Deep Purple’s hard rocking opening set, and how original guitarist Ritchie Blackmore declined attending.

Steve Van Zandt traveled in from touring with Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band to induct songwriter/producer Bert Berns, best known for such songs as “Twist and Shout,” “Piece of My Heart,” Hang on Sloopy” and “Under the Boardwalk.” He said backstage to Rolling Stone correspondent David Browne that it irks him when artists don’t show to perform when inducted, like Blackmore and Peter Cetera of Chicago: “Well it’s the greatest honor of your life. It’s going to be the first line of your epitaph. Let me tell you something — being on the committee — it’s hard to get in. Okay? It’s hard to get in. And when people don’t show up, man, that pisses me off. Because it’s hard to get in.”

Rob Thomas’s comments on Chicago and the band’s set help overcome the stigma of mass appeal for the jazz-rock group.

The members of N.W.A. attended to accept their induction but bowed out from a planned performance because they felt the circumstances would not support the show they wanted to present. Rapper and actor Ice Cube addressed the debate about whether hip-hop belongs in the HOF ever since Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five were inducted in 2007: “The question is are we rock’n’roll? And I say goddamn right we’re rock’n’roll. Rock’n’roll is not an instrument. Rock’n’roll is not even a style of music. Rock’n’roll is a spirit… Rock’n’roll is not conforming. Rock’n’roll is outside the box and rock’n’roll is N.W.A.”

"NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 08: (L-R) Dr. Dre, Ice Cube and MC Ren of N.W.A. speak onstage at the 31st Annual Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony at Barclays Center of Brooklyn on April 8, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Kane/WireImage for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame)"

(L-R) Dr. Dre, Ice Cube and MC Ren of N.W.A. speak onstage at the 31st Annual Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony at Barclays Center of Brooklyn on April 8, 2016. (Photo by Kevin Kane/WireImage for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) Used with permission

Steve Miller delivers his hits and takes the Hall of Fame to task for some of its shortcomings.

Steve Miller ripped into the Rock Hall on a variety of issues. He told ABC Radio: “The whole [voting] process needs to be changed; from the top to the bottom. Doesn’t need to be this hard, there’s nothing fancy going on out there that requires all of this stuff,” he continued. “They need to get their legal work straight, they need to respect the artists they say they’re honoring, which they don’t — I don’t have any of my paper work…signed. I have no licensing agreement with these people, they’re trying to steal my footage, they’re tying to make me indemnify them.”

And more: “When they told me I was inducted they said, ‘You have two tickets — one for your wife and one for yourself. Want another one? It’s $10,000. Sorry, that’s the way it goes,’” he said. “What about my band? What about their wives?”

In his acceptance remarks, Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick mentioned that he had grandchildren numbers eight and nine on the way. Then flipped it into a backhanded remark that echoed Miller’s complaint about the high cost of tickets to the show for anything more than the pair of seats each inductee is given: “And thank you to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for charging so much that I didn’t have to bring [all his family] up here.” His son Daxx also alluded to not being able to afford to share the moment with the rest of his family in his Instagram comment above. Miller also called out the Hall for its all-male 2016 class and other matters of concern about the institution’s workings: “I encourage [the HOF] to keep expanding your vision, to be inclusive of women, to be more transparent in your dealings with the public and most importantly, to do much more to provide music to our schools.” Click here to read about Cheap Trick’s triumphant induction and show-closing set.

Best Classic Bands Staff
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  1. Brad Auerbach
    #1 Brad Auerbach 9 April, 2016, 16:54

    Great coverage, congrats. Although the HoF acknowledges that rock and roll indeed causes controversy, there must be a better way to allow inductees to include the family members that supported them to the point of such recognition. Ten grand per ticket seems excessive.
    And the past members who can’t overcome for one night the bitterness that caused them to leave the band does their fans a disservice. It was the fans that brought them the recognition in the first place. I concur with Little Miami Steve Van Zandt, it pisses me off when the past members and the current members can’t put aside their angst for one night.

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