HBO is presenting a 246-minute version of the 25th Anniversary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Concert held at Madison Square Garden in October 2009. A diverse and significant roster, representative of the Rock and Roll Hall’s inductees, perform in this surprisingly energetic and entertaining performance. HBO is also broadcasting in two parts for those who can’t take in all 246 minutes at once.
For the skeptical who have labored through the mostly disorganized RRHOF induction ceremonies, this concert is nothing like them. With only a few missteps, almost all the acts perform flawlessly while creating some natural rock and roll magic.
Among the showstoppers:
- An inspired pairing of Mick Jagger and Fergie performing Gimme Shelter, backed by U2, might have been the evening’s highlight. While oversinging a bit, Fergie rocked in her black leather and pitch-perfect vocals – intimidating the usually unflappable Jagger. I would love to see RRHOF inductee Madonna hit those notes.
- Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello is playing an over-the-top guitar that oddly fits into Springteen’s dark and originally acoustic Ghost of Tom Joad.
- A giddy Metallica is backing Ozzy Osborn on Iron Man and Paranoid. “Let’s F’ing Party People! God Bless You!” as only Ozzy could deliver it.
- Stephen Stills showed the guitar skills that made him buddies with Hendrix, while Crosby and Nash continued to add lush background vocals with the help of James Taylor. Whoever thought they, especially Crosby, would still be alive, let alone sound so good?
- Stevie Wonder and Jeff Beck doing the song Wonder wrote for Beck only later decided to do it himself. This version of Superstition was excellent, as was Wonder’s singing with BB on the Thrill is Gone.
- Jeff Beck’s performance of his nightly showstopper, the Beatle’s A Day in the Life.
- The E Street Band’s complete mastery of a variety of styles. In addition to rollickingly backing John Fogerty and Sam Moore, they performed Born to Run for what has to be the millionth time and made it sound fresh. The Boss killed.
There were also a few low lights:
- Aretha and Annie Lennox’s collaboration didn’t catch fire. Neither did John Legend with Stevie Wonder. Ray Davies didn’t sound good, either.
- Sting’s Grecian formula beard.
- After the Boss announced, “If there is any justice, this next artist will be inducted in 2010!” Darlene Love then demonstrated why she shouldn’t be inducted.
These are minor criticisms. Overall the concert succeeded in being extraordinary, rising above any concert video within recent memory. With the right behind-the-scenes bonuses, the 25th Anniversary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Concert could become one of the best concert videos.
And, it might be the last chance for so much historically tested talent to perform together.