Rock Hall party lacks its usual buzz
Bon Jovi brought it, but overall it was a puzzling night
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.
Lauryn Hill pays tribute to Nina Simone at the Rock Hall induction.