If the first night of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 25th anniversary concerts were about looking back and celebrating legacies, night number two was about looking forward. From the performances — which focused heavily on punk, post-punk and metal — to the conversations that took place backstage, Friday night at Madison Square Garden was a testament to rock's continued relevance, and the struggles it faces weathering a decade in which tastes have gone niche, genre-hopping is de rigueur and grand, unifying bands are few and far between.
Artist after artist spoke about their fondness for the era in which they were nurtured, and how that era seems to have given way to a newer, stranger time. "Its fun to do a revue, like an old school rock & roll show," said Steven Van Zandt, describing his set with the E Street Band the night before. "We're just a good band, a working class band. We're a dance band." When asked who he thought had been overlooked for inclusion in the Hall of Fame, he quipped, "How much time you got?" before making impassioned pitches for both Darlene Love and the Hollies. He came across not only as a rock and roll performer, but as one of its most ardent, enthusiastic fans.
But his tone noticeably shifted when talking about the future of rock music. In discussing his own Little Steven's Underground Garage radio show he said, "We've been trying to rebuild the whole infrastructure of rock and rollâ€¦ We [the rock legends] need to be replaced, and it's not happening. There's no infrastructure to support these [young] bands. When our generation goes, there's nothing there to support them. So we're doing everything we can to support new bands."
Ozzy Osbourne said he was supporting new bands by doing what he's always done: rocking as hard as possible. "I'm a small cog in a big wheel. If they say my music has helped them get on with theirs, that's great, that's all we can do to keep the torch going."
Aretha Franklin, when discussing the future of music, didn't see roadblocks, but opportunities. "I donâ€™t think it's a demise," she said of the industry, "it's just a different business now. It's not what it used to be. You've got iTunes and Starbucks and Walmart and QVC and everybody's in the game now. It's still the music industry, but itâ€™s a different industry." She recalled fondly when Atlantic Records co-founder Ahmet Ertegun took her to London on tour in her youth. "I think my most favorite memory is when we we went to London and Ahmet drove us around in the big Rolls Royce — he took us down to Carnaby street and we shopped, we had lunch. I loved it."
Franklin's stage partner Annie Lennox, who had moments earlier joined her for a thrilling take on "Chain of Fools," also spoke of pop's changing climate. "In life, you know, there's nothing new under the sun," she said, "but at the same time, fresh things come in. Innovation is interesting. To young artists I would say: 'Don't sell out. Stay true and do this for the right reasons.' "
It was a sentiment echoed by Jeff Beck. Fresh from a moving rendition of the Beatles' "A Day in the Life," the guitar legend offered advice to young artists with dreams of their own Hall of Fame induction: "I would encourage them all to go with good intentions," he said, after a moment's consideration. "Do it for the music, not just to be famous and rich." If there was one thing that connected all of the evening's disparate performers, it was exactly that: purity of intention, and the notion that a Hall of Fame induction was a reward — not an end goal.
More Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:
• Mick Jagger Joins U2, Metallica, Aretha Franklin at the Rock Hallâ€™s Epic 25th Anniversary Bash
• Night One in Photos: Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Simon & Garfunkel, CSN and More
• Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Turns 25 With All-Star Sets From Springsteen, Wonder and More
• Photos: Backstage at the Rock Hall 25th Anniversary Concerts
• Morello, Raitt, Crosby Pay Tribute to Fellow Legends Backstage at First Rock Hall Concert
For complete Rock Hall coverage, visit our Rock and Roll Hall of Fame page.