Rock Hall party lacks its usual buzz

Bon Jovi brought it, but over­all it was a puz­zling night

USA TODAY International Edition - - LIFE - Maeve McDer­mott

It’s not ev­ery Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in­duc­tion when the night’s big­gest name opens the show.

But that was the case Satur­day at the 2018 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame cer­e­mony, when Bon Jovi, the cer­e­mony’s un­of­fi­cial head­lin­ers, were the first band to take the stage, with Howard Stern on hand to in­tro­duce them.

The Cars, Nina Si­mone, Dire Straits, The Moody Blues and Sis­ter Rosetta Tharpe joined Bon Jovi as the Rock Hall’s 2018 in­duc­tion class, many of whom gath­ered in Cleve­land to speak and per­form for the crowd. The taped cer­e­mony airs May 5 on HBO.

From the Bon Jovi re­union to Lau­ryn Hill and the Roots’ pow­er­house Si­mone trib­ute, here are the cer­e­mony’s most no­table mo­ments:

Bon Jovi’s re­union

Jon Bon Jovi, David Bryan and Tico Tor­res re­united with former band­mates Richie Samb­ora and Alec John Such to cel­e­brate the group’s in­duc­tion, and their open­ing set proved to be a tough act to fol­low.

Stern in­tro­duced the group with an ir­rev­er­ent speech, roast­ing Bon Jovi’s hair and Samb­ora’s ro­man­tic prow­ess in be­tween mo­ments of ap­pre­ci­a­tion.

“Aside from the in­cred­i­ble mu­sic ac­com­plish­ments, they are some of the nicest men I ever met, hum­ble and gra­cious,” he said. “When­ever I would see them over the years, even with multi-plat­inum success, they each had a smile on their face in a wel­com­ing way, (and an) ap­pre­ci­a­tion for their craft and their fans.”

Ad­dress­ing the crowd, Samb­ora got ex­is­ten­tial.

“Songs are very pro­found in a way, be­cause you’re con­nect­ing with hu­man­ity,” he said. “Ev­ery­body’s more alike than they are (dif­fer­ent), and es­pe­cially now in to­day’s world, that’s re­ally im­por­tant.”

Bon Jovi’s speech stretched past the 15-minute mark.

“I’ve been writ­ing this speech since I first strummed a broom and sang at the top of the stairs of my child­hood home,” he said. “I’ve ac­tu­ally writ­ten it many ways, many times. Some days I write a thank you speech, and other days I write an (ex­ple­tive)-you speech.”

Nina Si­mone’s all-star trib­ute

The night’s best mu­si­cal trib­ute came from Hill, An­dra Day and the Roots, who gath­ered to per­form Si­mone’s songs.

The Roots served as the set’s back­ing band as Day sang I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ song I Put a Spell on You, which Si­mone fa­mously cov­ered.

The high­light was a sur­prise ap­pear­ance from Hill, who de­liv­ered a sung rapped show­stop­per of Ne Me Quitte Pas, Black Is the Color of My True Love’s Hair and Feel­ing Good.

Si­mone died in 2003. Her brother, Sam Way­mon, ac­cepted the tro­phy on her be­half af­ter Mary J. Blige gave an in­tro­duc­tory speech re­mem­ber­ing the “high pri­est­ess of soul.”

“I’m gonna say this to all my black young girls: If you want to be a queen you are a queen,” Way­mon told the crowd. “If you think you’re a king, you’re are a king. If you want to be like my sis­ter and you have a dream, don’t let any­thing stop you from your quest.”

Dire Straits’ strange night

Be­tween Jour­ney’s re­union for last year’s Rock Hall cer­e­mony and Satur­day’s Bon Jovi per­for­mance, the in­duc­tion of­ten sees bands’ orig­i­nal line­ups team­ing back up to cel­e­brate the event, even if they had bro­ken up.

That was not the case for Dire Straits as front­man Mark Knopfler de­clined to at­tend Satur­day af­ter weeks of backand-forth drama. Knopfler never pub­licly com­mented on the Rock Hall in­duc­tion or why he was skip­ping. His brother and band­mate, David, also de­clined to at­tend, say­ing in a Face­book state­ment that the Hall “re­neged” on its prom­ise to pay for his travel costs.

As if that weren’t bleak enough, for the first time in in­duc­tion-cer­e­mony his­tory, no­body in­tro­duced the band. For rea­sons un­clear, the job was left to bassist John Ill­s­ley, who took the stage with key­boardists Alan Clark and Guy Fletcher to in­duct his own band.

“I know it’s a lit­tle bit odd, but it’s my honor to wel­come Dire Straits into the Hall of Fame,” he said.

The band did not per­form.

Moody Blues’ off­beat end­ing

No­tably, the cer­e­mony didn’t end with the group jam ses­sion that has be­come a Rock Hall tra­di­tion.

The cer­e­mony in­stead ended with The Moody Blues’ in­tro­duc­tion from Heart’s Ann Wil­son. Con­sid­er­ing the band has been el­i­gi­ble since 1990 but was nom­i­nated only this year, their ap­pear­ance felt par­tic­u­larly cel­e­bra­tory as they closed the show with a per­for­mance of Nights in White Satin.

“We’re just a bunch of Bri­tish guys,” singer Justin Hay­ward joked, “and it’s quite hard ex­plain­ing the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame over on the other side of the At­lantic.”

Yet, as charm­ing as the Bri­tish rock­ers were, their ap­pear­ance lacked the “wow” fac­tor of some of the even­ing’s other block­buster mo­ments. As au­di­ence mem­bers streamed out dur­ing Moody Blues’ set, it raised ques­tions about why the Rock Hall chose to end the 2018 cer­e­mony on a sleepier note.

DAVID RICHARD/AP

Lau­ryn Hill pays trib­ute to Nina Si­mone at the Rock Hall in­duc­tion.

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