As the second night of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 25th anniversary came to its climax, after nearly four hours of jaw-dropping musical collaborations, almost anything seemed possible. By this point Metallica had played with Ozzy Osbourne, Ray Davies and Lou Reed; Jeff Beck had jammed with Sting and Billy Gibbons; and U2 brought out Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen and the Black Eyed Peas for their closing set. Yet, few people were prepared for what happened when U2 began playing the intro to “Gimme Shelter” with Will.i.am at the keyboard and Fergie recreating Merry Clayton’s apocalyptic vocal intro. Without a word of introduction by Bono, surprise guest Mick Jagger sprinted onstage as the capacity crowd at Madison Square Garden let out one of the loudest cheers I’ve ever heard.
The show began, as it did on night one, with Jerry Lee Lewis alone at the piano. This time he did “Great Balls of Fire” — concluding with the 74-year-old legend violently kicking over his piano stool. A short film about gospel and soul music preceded Aretha Franklin’s entrance, who looked radiant in a bright red dress. Backed by a huge band that featured her son Teddy on guitar and a horn section, Franklin’s set featured a cover of “New York, New York” and her 1970 hit “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied),” which she dedicated to the song’s co-writer, Ahmet Ertegun. Annie Lennox, who bowed down to Franklin as she took the stage, dueted on “Chain of Fools” and Lenny Kravitz joined the Queen of Soul for “Think.” An encore of “Respect” had the entire crowd singing “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.”
Eric Clapton was supposed to play next, but he pulled out last week after undergoing gallstone surgery. Like he did in 1965 when Clapton quit the Yardbirds, Jeff Beck took his place. Playing with his tight four-piece touring band (featuring the amazing 23-year-old bass prodigy Tal Wilkenfeld), Beck opened with an instrumental version of the Ray Charles classic “Drown In My Own Tears.” Sting came out for a powerful “People Get Ready,” and Buddy Guy joined Beck for the blues standard “Rock Me Baby.” “This guy inspired me so much in 1962,” a gushing Beck said of Guy. “He inspired Jimi Hendrix too.” ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons stepped in for a raw and bluesy cover of “Foxy Lady” and Beck ended his set with a stunning instrumental rendition of the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” that brought most of the crowd to their feet.
A montage of guitar rock from Chuck Berry through Deep Purple to the White Stripes introduced Metallica’s set. “We are Metallica and this is what we do,” James Hetfield said before tearing into “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “One.” “We wish we had written this next song,” Hetfield said before playing Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page.” “It fit us well since we are road dogs.” The metal giants have covered many songs in their quarter-century career, but they have rarely performed with other artists. “We’re a tight unit that doesn’t let many people in,” Hetfiefld admitted. Tonight they made an exception.
First out was Lou Reed, who took the lead on what may be the loudest and fastest versions of “Sweet Jane” and “White Light/White Heat” the former Velvet Underground singer has ever done. “The next singer doesn’t need an introduction,” a clearly excited Hetfield told the crowd. “He epitomizes the lead singer of a heavy metal band.” It could only have been Ozzy Osbourne, who got the posh MSG crowd to bang their heads along to “Iron Man” and “Paranoid.” “This next one threw us through a loop at first,” Hetfield said before bringing out Ray Davies. “Then we got schooled in early riff rock.” With that, Kirk Hammett played the infamous opening chords to “You Really Got Me.” Davies took it from there, and judging by the screams and the amount of people dancing in the aisles, this was one of the most electrifying moments of the night. Their set wrapped up with a scorching “Enter Sandman.” “Thank you for inviting us to this awesome fucking party,” Lars Ulrich said as the group walked offstage.
As the stagehands began setting up for U2, the anticipation was palpable. This was the only indoor date of their 360° Tour and nobody knew what surprises they had in store. A frenzied “Vertigo” opened their set, which lead into the No Line On The Horizon track “Magnificent.” “This is a very special venue for this band,” Bono said. “So we have to make something very special happen tonight, and this is the song we wish weâ€™d written. Itâ€™s a Bruce Springsteen song, so we’d like to ask him to come out here; it’s also a Patti Smith song, we’d like to ask her to come out here.” The two — who have rarely (if ever) sang their co-written classic “Because the Night” together — walked out with E Street Band keyboardist Roy Bittan to thunderous applause. The first take on the song almost collapsed when Smith missed her cue at the beginning and neither Bruce nor Bono seemed to know when to sing their parts. “Take two!” Patti said as they took it again from the top. This time they nailed it. Springsteen stayed onstage to duet with Bono on “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” which they previously played together when Springsteen inducted U2 into the Hall of Fame in 2005. Midway through “Mysterious Ways,” the Black Eyed Peas emerged and the song immediately morphed into their 2003 hit “Where Is the Love,” during which Bono traded lines with Will.i.am, Taboo and Apl.de.ap.
Until tonight Mick Jagger hadn’t performed live since the Stones’ last tour ended over two years ago, but from the first notes of “Gimme Shelter” it was clear his voice is in excellent shape. Dressed in a navy blazer and tight black pants, the Rolling Stones frontman busted out all of his signature dance moves as he slithered around the stage singing the 1969 classic with Bono and Fergie, who impressively belted out the high notes. “What a great house band U2 have been,” Jagger said, prompting Bono to crack “We do weddings, funerals and Bar Mitzvah’s too.”
Fergie and Will.i.am left the stage, but Jagger hung around to sing “Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of.” Watching the two most famous frontmen in rock history sing literally face to face was an absolutely incredible, and their voices blended perfectly together on the song. There was no all-star jam encore (what could possibly have topped what just went down?), but U2 came back out for a stirring “Beautiful Day” that seemed to perfectly sum up the magic of the past two days.
More Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:
• 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.