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Rock Hall ceremony gets Detroit stamp from inductees, performers
CLEVELAND – Berry Gordy, Jr. beamed like a proud poppa – which, in a way, he was.
The Motown founder was here on Saturday night, April 14, for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 27th annual induction ceremony, and to in particular celebrate the induction of the Miracles, the label’s first group and, in fact, the artists who encouraged him to start his own company in 1959 rather than making records for other distributors.
“Because of the Miracles, so many other acts came – from Stevie Wonder to Diana Ross and the Supremes and so forth,” Gordy – a Rock Hall inductee himself in 1988 – said before Saturday’s ceremony. “So I am just overly delighted that they are being finally inducted…I’m delighted to be here.”
There was, of course, a lot of delight at Cleveland’s Town Hall on Saturday. There were some notable absentees due to health (the Beastie Boys’ Adam “MCA” Yauch, the Faces Rod Stewart) , rancor (Guns N’ Roses’ Axl Rose, who was roundly booed by the crowd of 7,000-plus any time his name was mentioned) and, of course, death. But disappointment, anger and mourning took a decided back seat in an epic and heartfelt celebration – much to the delight of everyone from those at the high-priced VIP tables to the 6,000 “real” fans whooping it up in the Town Hall balcony.
And the five-and-a-half-hour bash was packed with enough verbal and musical highlights to give HBO’s editors palpitations as they hone it down to two-and-a-half hours for its May 5 broadcast premiere.
Denizens of Detroit, of course, had plenty of reason to puff their chests out with pride on Saturday as the Motor City’s musical heritage got its due yet again from the Rock Hall. The Miracles waved the Motown flag as part of a package of groups whose frontmen – in their case Smokey Robinson – had been inducted years before. A visibly moved Robinson, who entered the Rock Hall in 1987, actually made the presentation for the Miracles and fellow Detroiter’s the Midnighters, following their frontman Hank Ballard.
“I’ve been working at this for many, many years,” Robinson said before the ceremony. “We love each other, so they were very happy for me. But I felt like the Miracles should share in that and be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I’m absolutely elated that this has finally happened.”
So were Miracles mates Pete Moore and Robinson’s ex-wife Claudette – who introduced herself as “the First Lady of Motown” – who accepted the award. “We, the Miracles, are the premier artists of Motown and very proud of our history,” said Claudette Robinson, who also invoked the names of the ailing Bobby Rogers, who remained in Detroit, and late members Ronnie White and guitarist Marv Tarplin. “Although it has taken a long time, we are very honored and grateful.”
Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith felt the same way when his band received its Rock Hall trophies – following a hilarious introduction by comedian Chris Rock that surely made Smith’s mother, Joan, blush a little. Like bandmates Flea and Anthony Keidis, the Boomfield Lahser High School graduate turned emotional as he thanked his mother “for letting me set up the drums in the basement all those years.” Smith also acknowledged his late father, as well as his brother and sister who had come in for the ceremony.
Detroit-born shock-rocker Alice Cooper, inducted in 2011, showed up with his wife, Sheryl, noting that, “I have no pressure at all t his year. I don’t have to do anything but sit there and watch people. Everybody that’s being inducted are friends of mine. It’s one of those family things.” And Kid Rock added even more Olde English D to the mix when he donned a green Adidas track suit to join the Roots and Gym Class Heroes’ Travie McCoy to perform a tribute medley to the Beastie Boys that included “Sabotage” and “No Sleep Til Brooklyn.” “That was the soundtrack of my life in seventh grade,” Rock said on Saturday afternoon. “I compared (the Beasties) to the Led Zeppelin of my day and age; I still stand by that. I think their music’s gonna live a long, long time. I think there’s a lot of nooks and crannies to be discovered. I still listen to it (and) discover something new and different every time.”
Rock said a friendship with the Beasties’ Mike D made performing in front of the Beasties “probably not as nerve-wracking as it should be. I’m honored.””
The medley was among the show’s many musical highlights – which included the Chili Peppers powering through its hits “By the Way,” “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie” and a rendition of “Give It Away” that flanked Smith with predecessors Cliff Martinez and Jack Irons. The group was also charged with the night’s all-star finale and coaxed the Faces’ Wood and Jones, Armstrong, Slash, onetime Beasties producer George Clinton and Funkadelic guitarist Michael Hampton on stage for a romp through Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground.”
The attending alumni of Guns N’ Roses turned the absence of Rose, founding guitarist Izzy Stradlin and remaining keyboardist Dizzy Reed into a positive by ripping through a three-song set fronted by Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge, who also sings in guitarist Slash’s current band, and joined by onetime GNR guitarist Gilby Clarke, who was not included in the group’s induction. Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, which inducted GNR, joined the group for “Mr. Brownstone,” while “Sweet Child O’Mine” and “Paradise City” had the Town Hall crowd on its feet and shaking its collective fists.
Ron Wood, Kenney Jones and Ian McLagan of the Small Faces/Faces also refused to be brought down by the strep throat the forced Rod Stewart to miss the induction. The group skied in Simply Red’s Mick Hucknall – who’s been playing shows in Stewart’s stead the past couple of years – played strong versions of the Small Faces’ “All or Nothing” along with “Ooh La La” and a particularly rocking “Stay With Me.” Donovan, meanwhile, capped his three-song set by dueting with inductor John Mellencamp on “Season of the Witch.”
The spirit of the posthumous inductees inspired some memorable performances, too. A consortium of ZZ Top’s Billy F. Gibbons and Dusty Hill, Derek Trucks and Joe Bonamassa tore through renditions of “Hideaway” and “Goin’ Down” to honor Freddie King. Sara Bareilles sang Laura Nyro’s “Stoney End” after an emotional induction speech by Bette Midler, and Paul Shaffer did his famed “Saturday Night Life” impression of Don Kirshner to introduce 2011 inductee Darlene Love’s tribute rendition of “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.” Ledisi, meanwhile, sang “At Last” for the In Memorium section,
And as the show wound down towards 1:30 a.m., the Chili Peppers’ Keidis thanked everyone for “sticking around” – as if they’d choose the alternative.
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