I recently declined the privileged opportunity to spend $1000 on Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame 25th Anniversary Concert tickets, but ended up spending slightly less money to watch HBO’s 4-hour “highlights” broadcast of the event last night. Granted, it wasn’t quite the same as actually being there, but on the plus side, I didn’t spend one thousand dollars, so, you know, six of one, half a dozen the other. (Ooops, for a second I thought I was writing for GrandpaIdioms.com – my bad!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
I had mixed reactions to the concert. On one hand, the star-studded Madison Square Garden event represented everything self-congratulatory and lame about the concept of a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with billionaire sixtysomething rockers inviting other billionaire sixtysomething rockers onstage to sing a song together then everyone onstage taking turns hugging one another in every possible permutation. I’m sure part of my discomfort stemmed from my sometimes-irrational, overly-conceptual hatred of the Rock and Roll Hall just on principle, but a lot of it also stemmed from billionaire rockers coming out to hug other billionaire rockers. They literally spent the entire night congratulating themselves; it couldn’t have been more the literal definition of self-congratulatory.
On the other hand, though, my conceptual aversion to the event (as well as the sadness of seeing several legendary artists struggle through their own compositions) wasn’t strong enough to wipe away my ongoing curiosity about the concert. It was the most star-studded frickin’ thing I’ve ever seen, with A-list guest stars pouring out with such impossible frequency, I couldn’t not watch the entire thing. Whine as I may about an event with $500+ tickets that more closely resembled a literal circlejerk than anything rock n’ roll related (though I supposed a circlejerk would actually be pretty rock n’ roll, depending on the context), I found the event fascinating. Sometimes for intentional reasons, sometimes for unintentional reasons, but still, undeniably fascinating.
I’ve listed my favorite and least favorite parts of the event after the jump — feel free to leave your own in the comments:
— A reunited Simon & Garfunkel singing “The Boxer” (and two other standards) was a sight to behold — not only seeing them side-by-side without a palpable “James Lipton pretending to enjoy Will Ferrell make fun of him” tension, but also because both of them still sounded amazing, and the songs, obviously, are beyond timeless.
— Lou Reed popped out to sing “Sweet Jane” with Metallica, and while like most herion-addled walking corpses, Reed doesn’t quite sound like he used to, I love the song, and Reed gets a free “Keith Richards” pass on anything for continuing to be alive. Well done.
— By far the funniest portion of the evening was the Bono / Mick Jagger duet, which quickly devolved to the two of them screaming into each others’ mouths, because they’re Bono and Mick Jagger and haven’t been aware of the concept of “ridiculous” for two and three decades, respectively. Also, my Dad referred Bono as “Bow-know” (like “Sonny Bono”), and my Mom made fun of him for an hour. Truly a weekend to give thanks.
— I couldn’t get over the haphazard order of the special guests. Mick Jagger walked onstage when there were still two damn hours left in the event. I kept thinking to myself, “Who could possibly come AFTER Mick Jagger? Maybe Paul McCartney? Obama? J.D. Salinger? John Lennon?” Turns out, the answer waaaaas………. Billy Joel. Wow, how’d they get HIM to agree to guest-star in a rock n’ roll event in New York City?! It’s like when Top Chef holds Elimination Challenges in one of Tom Colicchio’s Craft restaurants. They could’ve really brought the house down with a far more surprising Billy Joel non-appearance.
— Ozzy Osbourne…man. I’ve seen him in concert three times, and worshiped Black Sabbath and his solo albums all through high school, but he’s definitely become Ozzed. The name thing is just an amazing coincidence.
– Bruce Springsteen’s singing was, honestly, a liiiiittle too much, even by “Boss concert in which you have the ability to see closeups of his face” standards. I know he’s always a little too much, and I know he’s usually a little more than that, but last night, he was even more than that. Does that make sense? Watch the closeup shots of him from last night, and, well, it still won’t make sense, but you will have watched it.
— They chose the Black-Eyed Peas to fulfill the show’s under-50 requirement? Really? Couldn’t they have at least gone with the requisite Green Day or John Mayer appearance?
— Overall, though, the most disappointing aspect of the show — which I take some of the blame for, after not buying those tickets — was just how overwhelmingly square the crowd was. I suppose it’s always tough to tell on tv, but the crowd was barely moving and often seated, any time a singer would hold the mic out to them they’d barely respond, and a surprising number of songs were greeted with a just-above-golf-clap level of volume. James Brown performing on Jerry Lee Lewis’ shoulders in front of the Beastie Boys couldn’t have whipped that crowd into a frenzy.
Thoughts on the HBO Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Concert broadcast? How much, if any, did you watch? Favorite / least favorite parts? Comment away.