Joan Jett fronting Nirvana for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony was one of the worst kept secrets in rock n’ roll but it turned out to be a red herring. The news went viral Tuesday after The Foo Fighters posted an Instagram photo of Jett’s iconic Gibson Melody Maker guitar alongside the instruments of surviving band members Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear, but in the end the group had much more planned for the night…
First they blew the roof off Brooklyn’s Barclays Center with an impassioned performance featuring Jett, Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, St. Vincent and girl of the moment Lorde taking turns on the mic before heading up the BQE to perform a surprise set at the rock club Saint Vitus with the aforementioned singers plus Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis and John McCauley of indie rockers Deer Tick standing in for legendary fallen frontman Kurt Cobain.
Though the weeks leading up to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony were awash with stories about the ongoing Kiss drama, Nirvana’s induction and performance were the only thing people were talking about afterwards. The band, who are truly the flagship band of the early 1990s alternative rock revolution, were inducted their first year eligible. R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe, who was a musical inspiration and personal friend to Kurt Cobain, gave a moving induction speech. In an interview with VH1 News (watch above) Stipe said “I’m a huge fan of their music and a huge fan of the guys personally…it does bring back memories and some of them are not easy, some of them are difficult, but I’m really happy to be here.”
After Michael Stipe’s speech, surviving Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl and bassist Krist Novoselic took the stage with members of Kurt Cobain’s family including his mother Wendy O’Connor and widow Courtney Love. The induction also brought about a reconciliation of sorts between Love and the surviving Nirvana members who have battled over the band’s legacy in the past, with Love declaring “This is my family,” punctuated by an emotional embrace between her and Grohl. Absent were Cobain’s daughter Francis Bean Cobain and founding drummer Chad Channing whom Grohl called “my absolute drumming hero.”
Nirvana, including Foo Fighters guitarist Pat Smear who played on their final tours, then took the stage to rapturous applause as they hit the first iconic chords to their breakthrough song “Smells Like Teen Spirit” with Joan Jett taking lead vocals. This was followed by Sonic Youth bassist and close friend of the band Kim Gordon singing the b-side “Aneurysm,” indie rocker St. Vincent performing “Lithium” and Lorde taking over for the moving finale of “All Apologies.” The band then went from one part of Brooklyn to another, playing an unannounced set at 2:30 in the morning at the underground rock club Saint Vitus with the Hall of Fame singers plus Mascis and McCauley performing other highlights from the band’s legendary catalog.