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No Hard Feelings At This Year's Rock Hall Of Fame Inductions
CLEVELAND -- As one of its most famous members sang, love was all anyone needed at the 24th annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Saturday night (April 4) at the Cleveland Public Auditorium.
Though its history has had moments of rancor and ambivalence from inducted bands and artists, the 2009 affair had everyone feeling the love -- between the musicians themselves, between the stars and the first-ever general public audience to attend the event and, most of all, between Cleveland, home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, and the event, which is usually held in New York and hasn't visited the banks of Lake Erie since 1997.
The ceremony marked the end of an exuberant week-long celebration in Cleveland that included an array of parties and special concerts. About 5,000 people scooped up the general tickets, priced $75 and $35, for the upper deck and brought a fresh and charged energy to the four-hour show that was felt down at the high-priced ($15,000-$50,000) VIP tables on the main floor.
''It makes it all the better,'' said Aerosmith's Joe Perry, who came to celebrate the induction of some friends -- notably Jeff Beck and Run-D.M.C. -- and also took part in one of the show-closing all-star jams. ''That's why we're up there (on stage), because of those people. It's good they're gonna be there for all this to go down.''
Also joining the Hall's class of 2009 were Metallica, Bobby Womack and Little Anthony & the Imperials. Rockabilly star Wanda Jackson was inducted as an Early Influence, while the Sidemen category included keyboardist Spooner Oldham, who's recorded and toured with Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Aretha Franklin among many others, and Elvis Presley's original rhythm section of drummer DJ Fontana and the late bassist Bill Black.
And if there was any question of just how much sentimental was involved in this year's ceremony, consider Metallica -- one of the hardest hitting groups in rock 'n' roll history, which stood on stage visibly humbled and proud, thanking their families and associates both present and past, including some 150 that the group flew in and put up at hotels for the weekend. ''We were there when Blondie got inducted'' in 2005, noted guitarist Kirk Hammett, ''and there was so much bitterness. That night we looked at each other and said, 'That's not gonna be us. We're gonna celebrate and do it right.''
Metallica's induction was indeed the highlight of Saturday's ceremony. With both former bassist and Battle Creek native Jason Newsted and his replacement, Robert Trujillo, on stage, the group tore through its own ''Master of Puppets'' and ''Enter Sandman,'' then hosted Perry, Beck, Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page (who inducted Beck), Rolling Stones guitarist Ron Wood (who inducted Womack) and Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea (who inducted Metallica) for a rendition of Tiny Bradshaw's ''Train Kept A Rollin'.'
Beck and Wood also joined in on the night's other finale was a rough 'n' tumble romp through Presley's ''Jailhouse Rock'' -- with lyrics scrolling on a massive teleprompter in the middle of the floor -- that featured the other inductees as well as Rosanne Cash, who inducted Jackson.
The other musical performances featured potent medleys by Womack and Little Anthony & the Imperials, while Beck and Page, onetime bandmates in the Yardbirds, paired ''Beck's Bolero'' with an instrumental portion of Led Zeppelin's ''Immigrant Son'' before Beck took his own flight on the ''Peter Gunn Theme.''
The warm reunion between the two guitarists, who have had their own rivalries in the past, spoke to the general feeling of the evening. ''We've known each other since we were...11 years old,'' Page said backstage after their performance. ''We've vibed on the same things, and music's been the main common denominator of us meeting in the first place. So that's always been there. We're respectful of each other's playing and solo endeavors and all the rest of it. Mutual respect, man.''
Beck, who joked that it was Page's ''fault'' that he was ousted from the Yardbirds in 1966, was ''very pleased'' with his induction. ''If you're going to be recognized, this is the place to be recognized, and maybe the world at large will understand where I was going all these years,'' said the eclectic guitarist, who's worked in rock, blues and jazz fusion.
Beck said it was also more satisfying than his previous induction, in 1992 with the Yardbirds.
''I didn't really enjoy the first one,'' recalled Beck, who actually cursed at his former bandmates on that occasion. ''I felt kind of frustrated that I had to go back and be part of a band. This means a whole lot when you're recognized for your playing alone and not just (as) part of a successful pop band.''
The surviving members of Run-D.M.C., who have not worked together since the shooting death of DJ Jason ''Jam Master Jay'' Mizell in 2002, were the only inductees who did not perform on Saturday. But the group was feted by a warm speech by Detroit rapper Eminem, who sported the group's trademark black Fedora and leather jacket. ''Two turntables and a microphone -- that's all it took to change the world,'' Eminem told the crowd. He proclaimed Run-D.M.C. ''the first rock stars of rap'' and joked about being in ninth grade when the group released its ''Raising Hell' album in 1986 -- and STILL being in ninth grade when its successor, 1988's ''Tougher Than Leather'' was released.
Motown great Smokey Robinson, meanwhile, was on hand to induct Little Anthony & the Imperials, calling them ''my brothers'' and remembering a warm relationship between the Imperials and his group, the Miracles. Robinson, however, left the venue immediately after his presentation.
The Rock Hall inductions are slated to return to Cleveland every three years. Saturday's show was also the first to be broadcast live -- on cable's FUSE TV Network -- and the Hall of Fame is gearing up for a 25th anniversary celebration expected to be held during November in New York City.
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