Say you want to put together a rock n roll show and you really want to drain the life out of every performance. How would you do that?
First, don’t invite Ozzy Osbourne, but more about that later.
Before watching The 25th Anniversary Rock n Roll Hall of Fame Concerts I did not know that this concoction was a Time Life product. Now I understand why the “concert” seemed a nightmare of geezerish reduction.
Problems? The musicians were some of the best of the last century but they were grouped in ways that robbed each person of their uniqueness. The viewer is further punished by the fact that every musician is damned to perform their most insipid or most heavily over-played song. It became a game for me once I realized that was going to be the case.
Wait, Lou Reed will play Sweet Jane. What are they going to do with Patti Smith? Oh, yeah, Bruce Springsteen is there. They will make her play Because the Night. Neither of these are bad songs. The have their charm. The words to Because the Night are ridiculous but when Patti sings she’s all the way there to sell it. If you take the individual artistic integrity away from these songs they suffer.
Bad Editing: The lineup of performers was insane. It made no sense historically, musically or in any other way. The first segment started out with a well-worn Jerry Lee Lewis performing Great Balls of Fire. His feigning of youthful contempt by kicking over the piano bench after his performance did not work. It looked ridiculous. After Jerry Lee threw furniture around, which seemed to take all his strength, of course we move right into Crosby, Stills and Nash performing Woodstock!
Many performers did not perform their own songs. Musicians of this caliber should be allowed to perform their own songs.
Thank god David Crosby got to do Almost Cut My Hair. David is a golden voiced god in all-too human body. Still the Woodstock/Freak flag emphasis was trite and TimeLife corny.
“Hey, arthritic 60s geezers, ‘member the good ol’ days of rebellion and mayhem? You’ll never have the energy to do that again, but you can buy this shitty trip down memory lane!”
David brought out his favorite Singer, the brilliant, soulful Bonnie Raitt who sang a Jackson Brown song, Love Has No Pride. Hey, Jackson Browne was there! He followed Bonnie and did The Pretender. Not something beautiful and real from his earliest days. No, play something form after he has become cynical and has begun to love that money train.
In keeping up with the California folkish sound, CS&N reassemble and invite James Taylor out. They play Stephen Stills’ Love The One Your With. Then James Taylor leaves. WTF?
Next we switch things up with a photo montage of the early days of the real folk scene in NYC. There is Rambling Jack Elliot, Dave van Ronk, the young Bob, of course, Jack Kerouac (was he a folk singer?) and that is the perfect segue to . . .
Paul Simon? Okay Paul is from New York. He wrote a lot of wonderful songs was he ever a serious folky? Playing the people music? I don’t think so.
What do they have him play in this spot? You Can Call Me Al! What?
I guess they had to have a sort of bland latin rhythm carry over from Love the One You’re With. Is this Rock n Roll?
Another segment had Stevie Wonder and his band for the night anchor the stage for a couple of guests. It’s really hard to screw up a Stevie Wonder performance. Stevie always sounds great and powerful. How did they throw a wrench in that machine?
They had him perform Michael Jackson’s The Way You Make Me Feel. They invited a very tired and overweight B.B. King out to do a half-baked, sit down version of The Thrill is Gone. Oh, yeah, and made sure Stevie had to endure technical sound problems.
Smokey Robinson made an appearance with Stevie. He did a beautiful performance of The Tracks of My Tears. Jeff Beck came out and played some hot guitar with Stevie on Superstition.
By this time I really couldn’t take anymore. We switched to the second disc looking for rock music. and there was Metallica!!! It was like a minor, studded miracle. I am a fan of Metallica in an ironic sort of way. They crack me up and loud bass is a really, really good thing. Kirk Hammett is cool.
Metallica play a song then call out New York’s greatest voice. Lou Reed? I’m so excited. Now things will be alright.
What? He sings The Wanderer. I like Dion. He was cool but how can you even conceive this segue. How? Am I on crack? Are the organizers of this shit on crack?
Lou Reed did come out, eventually, and play Sweet Jane with Metallica as his back up band. There will be no delicious Lou Reed leads.Kurt Hammett’s got the floor. Don’t get me wrong I love Kirk Hammett. Lou wasn’t allowed to sizzle and be Lou. The audience was hungry for Lou’s authenticity, his essence. They didn’t get it in the clips I saw. Wham, Bam, Thank you, Mam. Lou was gone.
Last night I loved Metallica. They got to host Ozzy Osbourne who tried his damnedest to get people excited and on their feet, get up fired up!
“Stand up people!”
There was a lovely medley of Iron Man and Paranoid. Hallelujah.
If you love real music, in its natural state, don’t watch the film The 25th Anniversary Rock n Roll Hall of Fame Concerts.