N.W.A, Cheap Trick, Deep Purple Enter Rock Hall at Hit-Packed Ceremony
With the enormous exception of N.W.A, this year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony was all about honoring guitar groups that reached the zenith of their fame around the time of Jimmy Carter’s inauguration. Chicago, Cheap Trick, the Steve Miller Band and Deep Purple have all been off the pop charts for decades, but they’re all touring machines and came into Brooklyn’s Barclays Center ready to play their hits and revel in long-overdue glory.
Sticking with the mid-1970s theme of much of the evening, the festivities kicked off with the Roots, David Byrne and Kimbra honoring David Bowie with an extra funky rendition of “Fame.” This is one of the songs the Roots were supposed to play at the Carnegie Hall and Radio City Music Hall Bowie tributes last week before a tussle over equipment-sharing caused them to back out of the shows. Their loss was the Hall of Fame’s gain and it set the bar high for the rest of the evening.
Deep Purple were the first honorees of the evening, and they were inducted by Lars Ulrich, a man who reveres the metal pioneers so much that he has a photo of the group on his nightstand with his own face superimposed on drummer Ian Paice’s body. “With almost no exceptions, every hard rock band in the last 40 years, including mine, traces its lineage directly back to Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple,” said the Metallica drummer. “So in my heart – and I know I speak for many of my fellow musicians and millions of Purple fans when I confess that – I am somewhat bewildered that they are so late in getting in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”
Current members Ian Gillan, Ian Paice and Roger Glover took the stage alongside 1970s singer/bassist Glenn Hughes and vocalist David Coverdale, but fans hoping for a last minute appearance by Ritchie were disappointed. The present-day lineup of the band wanted to play without any former members, and Blackmore didn’t want to stand on the sidelines.
But even without the guitar god, the group ripped into “Highway Star,” “Hush” and, of course, “Smoke On The Water.” Keyboardist Don Airey played a bit of “Green Onions” as a tribute to the late Jon Lord, and guitarist Steve Morse replicated Blackmore’s guitar parts with near-flawless precision. Still, had Gillan and Blackmore somehow put together a 15-minute peace it could have been one of the great reunions in Hall of Fame history.
Steve Van Zandt walked out next to present the late Bert Berns with the Ahmet Ertegun Award for Lifetime Achievement. The songwriter/producer is a criminally underrated figure in rock history that was responsible for “Hang on Sloopy,” “Twist and Shout,” “Piece of My Heart” and “Under the Boardwalk” as well as launching the careers of Van Morrison and Neil Diamond. “The music industry only had him for seven years before a damaged heart took him at the age of 38,” said Van Zandt. “But I’ll need the talking speed of Chris Matthews to mention all of the accomplishments of the incredible songwriter, producer and label boss.”
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