20 Best Moments at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2014 Induction - Rolling Stone
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20 Best Moments at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2014 Induction

The funniest speeches, loudest performances and most touching reconciliations

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The night was ripe for drama: Kiss' founding lineup were taking the stage together; Courtney Love and Dave Grohl were standing inches apart. But last night's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony at Brooklyn's Barclays Center was full of surprising hugs, landmark onstage collaborations and superfans in full face makeup. After the final strains of Nirvana's "All Apologies" faded into the night, these were the event's most memorable moments.

By Patrick Doyle, Caryn Ganz, Andy Greene, Brian Hiatt, Christian Hoard, Nick Murray and Simon Vozick-Levinson

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Best Icebreaker: Chris Martin on Peter Gabriel

When Chris Martin took the stage after Gabriel and his band's opening performance of "Digging in the Dirt," he relayed to the crowd some of his mother's advice: When you're nervous, always look for a passage from the Bible. Martin’s crowd-pleasing reading, however, turned out to be a hilarious version of the "Book of Genesis," where Gabriel was in conversation with a wise drummer named Phil the Collins. When he moved on to the proper speech, the Coldplay singer recalled a day he spent in Paris with only Gabriel's music to keep him company and even nodded to the new inductee's dancing, claiming that Gabriel pioneered "the school of English Unchoreographed," a style that singers like he and Thom Yorke still practice. "He helped John Cusack get his girlfriend back in Say Anything," he announced. "He repopularized the goatee." It was surprisingly entertaning way to kick off what became a long night of speeches.

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Best Rock & Roll Endorsement: Tom Morello’s Speech for Kiss

Some members of the Kiss Army were dubious about the choice of Tom Morello to induct the band: Unlike Kiss, he was rock-establishment-approved – hell, he's even touring with the E Street Band. But in a speech that was as impassioned as it was hilarious, Morello made a powerful and personal case for the band he worshipped as a kid. The speech hit its peak when Morello explained the band's "awesomeness": "What if you wandered into a dive-y club in your hometown and saw Kiss in all their glory, crashing the place to the ground? One guy belching fire and spraying blood past his gargantuan tongue? A guitar player so incredible, his axe billows smoke and shot rockets? A frontman flying back and forth across the joint like a superhero Tarzan? All of them, in frightening, horror-movie sexified Kabuki makeup… The place blowing up with explosions and heavy duty, liberating rock & roll? What would you say if you saw that? You'd say, 'That band's fucking awesome!'"

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Best Shocker: Courtney Love Hugging Dave Grohl

Many Nirvana fans were probably holding their breath last night when Courtney Love walked up to the podium. She's done little to mask her feelings about Dave Grohl over the years and one never know what she'll say in front of an open microphone. But Courtney seemed overwhelmed by the moment — particularly after watching Kurt Cobain's mother cry — and she completely abandoned a long speech she prepared and used the time to pay tribute to her Nirvana "family," speaking for no more than a minute. When she got to "Mr. Grohl," she teared up, walked over and gave him an enormous bear hug. It was one of the emotional high points of an extremely emotional night, and a very classy move for Courtney. ​

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Best Supergroup: Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Nicks, Carrie Underwood and Sheryl Crow

Linda Ronstadt couldn't attend her induction due to an ongoing battle with Parkinson's disease. But five of her famous fans filled the void (and then some), covering Ronstadt's signature tunes. Underwood belted "Different Drum"; Bonnie Raitt and Emmylou Harris harmonized beautifully on "Blue Bayou," and Sheryl Crow was very good on "You're No Good." Stevie Nicks — who, backstage, referred to the fivesome as "Linda's Girls" and talked about how Ronstadt had inspired her as a teenager — killed on "It's So Easy." Then, everyone (plus the Eagles' Glenn Frey, who inducted Ronstadt) joined together for "When Will I Be Loved," an Everly Brothers tune Ronstadt covered on her hit 1974 album Heart Like a Wheel. Throughout the set, the singing was bold, brassy and spot-on, as if each performer was terrified to let Linda down. Suggestion: Call these ladies the Duchesses of September and take this show on the road.

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Best Tribute: Clarence Clemons’ Family Affair

Many in the E Street family lamented the fact that Clarence Clemons couldn't be onstage last night, but the Big Man was well represented. Springsteen recalled the "dark and stormy night" when he first heard the saxophonist "unleash the force of nature that was the sound and the soul of the Big Man." The saxophonist's nephew, Jake Clemons, released some sound and soul of his own when the E Street Band rolled through "The E Street Shuffle," "The River" and "Kitty’s Back." (He was later seen standing next to Tom Morello, enjoying the Lorde-fronted Nirvana tribute). And Clemons' widow, Victoria, accepted the trophy on his behalf. "It would have meant so much to him," she told the crowd. "Music meant everything to Clarence since he was a child." She also inadvertently said one of the night's dirtiest lines — "He was known as the Big Man for many reasons" (when the crowd howled with laughter, she responded, "You guys are so bad"). She concluded by playing a recording her late husband had made while scat-singing in the car, a touching final word from a towering presence.

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Best Anti-Rock-Star Move: Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam’s Speech

Cat Stevens doesn't make all that many public appearances these days, and tours even less frequently. But he was clearly very happy to be at the Barclays Center last night. "I never thought I'd be on the same stage as Kiss, to be honest!" Stevens (a.k.a. Yusuf Islam) exclaimed in the midst of a heartfelt, lovably rambling speech that referenced Bach, Beethoven and Bo Diddley, among others. He closed by alluding to the late-1970s religious conversion that led him to renounce secular music for many years. "Considering that the judges have actually voted for someone who doesn't drink, doesn't smoke, doesn't throw televisions out of hotel rooms, and only sleeps with his wife," he observed, "I'd say that's a very brave decision, and one which is unexpected and strangely, outrageously… rock & roll! Peace!"

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Best Rafter-Shaking Tribute: Joan Jett. Kim Gordon, St. Vincent and Lorde With Nirvana

The night's final performance presented a heavy question: Who can stand in for Kurt Cobain as Nirvana's lead singer? No one, really. But the Hall of Fame's choice of four very badass women to join Nirvana's surviving members onstage – Joan Jett, Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon, St. Vincent and Lorde – was a brilliant way to honor the late hero's feminist cred and create an unforgettable rock & roll moment.

The tribute opened with Jett's tight, snarling "Smells Like Teen Spirit." The sheer emotional intensity of seeing Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic play that song for the first time in 20 years was huge – it probably could have been an instrumental and had the same heart-stopping power. Jett nailed her performance. But let's be real: Hearing Grohl and Novoselic smash through their majorly historic parts (that drum intro, that bassline!) was the real "holy shit" moment.

The next three songs offered no shortage of those. Gordon was the only one of the tribute singers who actually knew Cobain well – Sonic Youth were crucial mentors for Nirvana, and they memorably toured together in 1991. Fittingly, she was the one who most channeled Cobain's menacing energy. Gordon screamed herself raw on the raging "Teen Spirit" B-side "Aneurysm," seeming just on the knife's edge of a complete freak-out, which is exactly how that song should be performed. This was no time for calm.

Next up, St. Vincent (a.k.a. Annie Clark) had a star-making moment. The accomplished indie singer-guitarist has been playing a great "Lithium" cover at her own concerts lately, but damn if it doesn't sound 1,000 times bigger and better with Grohl, Novoselic and Pat Smear backing her. She owned that song, and she made it look easy. Much headbanging could be observed on the floor.

Jett, Gordon and Clark returned a few moments later to join Lorde on the MTV Unplugged version of "All Apologies." Lorde wasn't even born yet when Cobain died, but she's clearly absorbed his music. She did a deft job of singing that eternally haunting song with the feeling it deserves. It was a sweet, sad reminder of what the world lost with Cobain's death, and the ways that his legacy continues to reverberate around the world – from Seattle to Brooklyn to Auckland, New Zealand – two decades later.

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Best 1986 Flashback: Peter Gabriel’s ‘In Your Eyes’

Before accepting his trophy, Gabriel and Co. offered a performance of "Digging in the Dirt" that was both remarkably intense and tight. No one missed a cue, least of all Gabriel, who was jumping and headbanging through the downbeats. It was only topped by the ensemble's closing take on "In Your Eyes," which featured Senegal's Youssou N'Dour, coordinated jumping and more smiling than perhaps any of the night's other sets.

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Best Dive Into Band History: Bruce Springsteen’s Speech for the E Street Band

Bruce Springsteen has given some of the greatest induction speeches in the history of the Hall of Fame, so it was no big surprise that he delivered in a big way when it came time to honor his own band. What was surprising was how honest he got after explaining the crucial contributions of each member. "We struggled together," he said. "And sometimes we struggled with one another. We bathed in the glory and often the heartbreaking confusion of our wars together." He even revealed that Steve Van Zandt was extremely unhappy back in 1999 when Springsteen refused to challenge the Hall of Fame's decision to induct him as a solo artist. "We were somewhat estranged," he said. "Perhaps the shadow of some of the old grudges still held some sway." It was a very rare peek behind the curtain of the E Street Band, and one of the most engaging moments of the evening.

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Best Anti-Drama: Kiss’ Founding Four Members Reunite Onstage

After months of brutal back and forth between the original members of Kiss, who couldn’t get it together for a reunion performance, fans thought something crazy might happen when they took the stage together for their induction. Maybe Paul Stanley would insist on calling current Kiss musicians Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer to the stage? Or Gene Simmons would spit blood all over Ace Frehley and Peter Criss? Instead, the original foursome handled their induction with sufficient class and grace that it turned to be both moving and slightly anticlimactic. Everyone hugged each other. Everyone thanked each other – even if Criss insisted on calling his old bandmates "Mr. Stanley and Mr. Simmons." Still, it was hard not to mourn the performance that could have been, especially one dude in the audience yelled, "Play a song!"

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Best Peace-Out: Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam’s Performance

Can Cat Stevens please launch a North American tour tomorrow? His three-song set was a surprise highlight of the Hall of Fame ceremony. The singer-songwriter's voice is preternaturally well-preserved – listening to him sing "Father & Son," "Wild World" and "Peace Train" (the latter with a gospel choir), you could have closed your eyes and thought it was 1971. Many things in his life have changed since then, but those earnestly searching vocals aren't one. Gerald Ford was president the last time Stevens did a proper U.S. tour. It's been long enough.

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Best Jam: The E Street Band

The E Street Band have played in countless configurations over the years, but the Hall of Fame induction marked the first time that all members past and present came together for one super jam. That meant the unprecedented move of Springsteen playing with two drummers: Max Weinberg and his predecessor Vini "Mad Dog" Lopez. For E Street aficionados, it was fascinating to watch their two approaches side-by-side. Max is a master of power and control, whereas Vini's unrestrained approach was a key ingredient in the magic sound of Springsteen's first two records. Somehow, they merged together quite nicely. It also marked the first time that David Sancious — the keyboardist that actually lived on E Street — sat in with the band in decades. He recreated some of his parts on "E Street Shuffle" and "Kitty's Back," sounding absolutely amazing. The latter song was the perfect showcase for the talents of each member of the band. When they all bowed at the end, Bruce wisely stepped back and let his group have the spotlight for once. ​

Nick Murray

Best Fans: Kiss

No one at the ceremony was louder or more excited than fans of Kiss, and no fan of Kiss looked better than the one above, a doctor from Marine Park who not only painted his face but painted his face in a way that incorporated elements from each band member's signature look.

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Best Hometown Pride: Questlove’s Speech for Hall & Oates

"I'm gonna list all the duos in the rock era that were more popular than Hall & Oates," Questlove said, onstage in a T-shirt emblazoned with the band's name, pausing dramatically before announcing: "OK, I'm done." In his induction speech, the Roots drummer emphasized that like him, Hall & Oates are Philly guys, influenced by and an influence on the music of the City of Brotherly Love. In their acceptance speeches, both Daryl Hall and John Oates agreed, the latter thanking his parents for moving to Pennsylvania and the former noting that his group was now the only Philadelphia act in the Hall of Fame. "I'm not saying that because I'm proud of it," he told the crowd, "I'm saying it because it's fucked up."

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Best Lightning in a Bottle: Michael Stipe’s Speech for Nirvana

R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe delivered one of the classiest speeches of the night, eloquently explaining how a trio of misfits from outside Seattle reflected and defined a generation. "It is the highest calling for an artist as well as the greatest possible privilege to capture a moment, to find the zeitgeist, to expose our struggles, our aspirations, our desires; to embrace and define their time," he said. "That is my definition of an artist. Nirvana captured lightning in a bottle."

Emphasizing how Nirvana came from a blue-collar town (not a hipster rock scene) and created a community without the benefit of digital social media, Stipe explored how Nirvana was a true product of the underground. "Nirvana were kicking against the system, bringing complete disdain for the music industry and their definition of corporate mainstream America to show sweet and beautiful but fed-up fury coupled with howling vulnerability," Stipe said. "They spoke truth and a lot of people listened."


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Best Surprise Kiss Fan: Stevie Nicks

While Stevie Nicks was thrilled to induct Linda Ronstadt ("She was a rock star!," she said), she was disappointed Kiss couldn't put their differences aside the way Fleetwood Mac did. "They should have played," she told us. "When we were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Lindsey's a little bit like, 'OK, whatever.' But let me tell you, when we walked up there and we were inducted, we stood up there and it is a moment like no other. Then you get to go and strum on your guitar and get your microphone and sing two or three songs to that audience on your day. It is their loss that they didn't play, because the Kiss Army is out there, right now screaming for them."

Nicks continued, "And they should have played for them, no matter how they felt about it. You know, Fleetwood Mac had about 500 people in it, too. They weren't all there. All 900 guitar players didn't get inducted. They weren't there. So the thing is, you know what? It's your moment. Take it. Go out there and play. It's the most important part. I like Kiss very much, and I think that they have done amazing. They're an amazing band."

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Best Dance Opportunity: Hall & Oates’ Performance

Questlove opened his speech by recalling when he heard "She's Gone" for the first time: "That song scared the bejesus out of me!" For their performance, the duo opened with that very song, then transitioned into a rendition of "I Can't Go for That" that climaxed with an extended sax jam that curiously spotlighted neither Hall nor Oates. If that one was for the head-nodders, closer "You Make My Dreams" was for the dancers, bouncy enough to inspire some genuine in-aisle stepping.

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Best Punk-Rock History Lesson: Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic’s Nirvana Speeches

As soon as he reached the podium, Dave Grohl was quick to shout out those who came before him: "Not a lot of people know this, but I was the fifth drummer of Nirvana," he told the crowd, taking a moment to list the previous four and pointing to the camera to thank Chad Channing for writing the riffs that he got to play after he took over. Turning his attention to his musical upbringing, Grohl then shouted out some of the most important D.C. punk bands of his youth, and thanked his mom because "I listened to some really fucked up shit and my parents never told me not to."

Novoselic, meanwhile, focused on Washington, remembering how, "Kurt was an intense artist, and he really connected with a lot of people." He went on to thank people and organizations like Buzz Osborne of the Melvins and Sub Pop Records, the label that released Nirvana’s first single. 

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Best Superfan: Bill Murray

Bill Murray is known to show up in the unlikeliest of places, and he did just that during Cat Stevens’ speech when he went onstage to give Yusuf Islam a water. Murray could be seen having a blast from  his front-row seat throughout the night, dancing during "The E Street Shuffle" and giving some loud talkers the evil eye during Michael Stipe’s Nirvana induction speech. Murray hit up the after party later, where he spent some quality time with Bruce.

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Best Unexpected Beef: Hall & Oates Vs. The E Street Band

Daryl Hall and John Oates got to the stage right after the E Street Band took nearly 40 minutes to deliver their speeches, totally throwing the planned running time of the evening out the window. To save time, the duo gave part of their speech together and Oates took a little shot at the E Street Band: "Aren't you glad there's just two of us?" he said. Daryl Hall dug in a little deeper backstage. "You don't give each member of a 12-piece band 20 minutes," he said. "You don't do that. That's just bad planning."​

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