Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 27, 2020)
Ever since the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies started in 1986, that event became a big part of the musical calendar. With a two-Blu-ray set called Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: In Concert Encore, we get to watch four ceremonies.
For each year, we see the speeches by inductors and inductees as well as a variety of live musical performances. Here’s what we get – and unless stated otherwise, the inductee plays the songs:
Genesis: Inducted by Trey Anastasio. Live performances of “Watcher of the Skies” (Phish). Omitted song: “Turn It On Again” (Phish).
This package starts with two disappointments. For one, founding member Peter Gabriel didn’t show for the ceremony, and we feel his absence.
In addition, Genesis didn’t play. Four members came for the induction – the same four who continued as Genesis after Gabriel left in 1975, and the same three who account for the band’s most popular iteration.
I don’t recall why the four – or at least three – members in attendance didn’t play. While Phish give us a more than credible version of “Watcher” – a Gabriel-era song – it still stinks that we don’t actually hear Genesis.
Phish’s Anastasio also appears via his induction speech, one that seems earnest, awkward and not very interesting. Three of the Genesis members in attendance all speak as well.
Mike Rutherford keeps his part short, as does Steve Hackett. We don’t hear from Tony Banks at all, but Phil Collins offers a longer speech. Like Anastasio’s intro, it fails to make much of an impact.
The Stooges: Inducted by Billie Joe Armstrong. Live performances of “Search and Destroy”, “I Wanna Be Your Dog” (with Armstrong).
After the lifeless Genesis section, this one fares better. Armstrong isn’t as funny as he thinks he is, but he offers a lively intro that offers a clear improvement over the first section.
Surviving Stooges Iggy Pop, James Williamson and Scott Asheton speak. As expected, Pop gives the most interesting of the three speeches, though he doesn’t go as crazy as one might expect. Williamson and Asheton come across as nervous and bland.
Unsurprisingly, the two Stooges songs come across as much more dynamic than the sterile Phish performance we got earlier. They don’t actually sound very good, but I prefer their energy to the dull proficiency of Phish.
The Hollies: Inducted by Steven Van Zandt. Live performances of “Bus Stop” (Allan Clarke and Graham Nash with Jesse Carmichael, Adam Levine and Paul Shaffer and the Hall of Fame Orchestra), “Carrie-Anne” (Allan Clarke and Graham Nash with Jesse Carmichael, Adam Levine and Paul Shaffer and the Hall of Fame Orchestra), “Long Cool Woman (In a Black Dress)” (Allan Clarke, Graham Nash and Terry Sylvester with Pat Monahan, Steven Van Zandt and Paul Shaffer and the Hall of Fame Orchestra).
The Hollies are one of those marginal 1960s acts that took forever to earn induction. Artists become eligible 25 years after their first releases, and it took the Hollies 21 years past that point to finally make it.
Van Zandt brings some good humor to his speech. However, he takes too long to actually discuss the Hollies, so his induction feels a bit long-winded.
As for the acceptance speeches, bassist Eric Haydock throws out some funny remarks in his brief moment. Fellow bassist Bernie Calvert proves unintentionally amusing because he botches his comments. We laugh with him, not at him, though, as he tries to recover. The other three Hollies seem pleasant but forgettable.
I’d say the same for the three-song performance. Honestly, I always viewed the Hollies as a pleasant but forgettable band, and this short set doesn’t make me rethink that appraisal. There’s a reason it took them 21 years past the minimum to earn HOF induction.
Paul Shaffer: Inducted by Jann Wenner.
Best-known as David Letterman’s bandleader and comedic foil, Shaffer also led the HOF orchestra for years. Wenner’s short speech doesn’t say much, and neither does Shaffer. The whole segment lasts less than two minutes, so that tells you how much – or rather how little - to expect.
ABBA: Inducted by Barry Gibb and Robin Gibb. Live performance of “The Winner Takes It All” (Benny Andersson with Faith Hill and Paul Shaffer and the Hall of Fame Orchestra).
Though all of ABBA’s original members were alive in 2010 – and still are in 2020 – the band split in 1982 and have steadfastly refused any and all attempts to get them to reunite. The Rock Hall has brought together plenty of acts who seemed unlikely to ever come back, but ABBA wouldn’t join those ranks.
Indeed, only two members showed up for this ceremony: Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad. She offers an uninspired acceptance, but Andersson shows a little humor and charm.
As for the two then-surviving Bee Gees, they offer a moderately charming speech. They lack the personal connection to ABBA found in the best inductions, though, so they don’t bring a particularly memorable intro.
The performance of “Winner” by Hill seems perfectly competent and that’s about it. At least they left attendee Meryl Streep in the audience and didn’t attempt a Mamma Mia reunion.
The 2010 package completely leaves out the induction of Jimmy Cliff and his musical set.
That omission caps a disappointing year. No reunions for Genesis or ABBA plus an unusually forgettable collection of speeches and performances turn this into a weak induction ceremony.
Dr. John: Inducted by John Legend. Live performances of “Right Place Wrong Time”, “Such a Night” (with Legend).
As an SCTV fan, I’ll always have affection for Dr. John via his appearance on that series. His music leaves me cold, though.
Dr. John’s speech disappoints, as he fails to match up with his outrageous appearance. Legend can’t produce more than banal platitudes, so don’t expect much from him either.
Dr. John’s live performance also doesn’t match with his gaudy look. One might expect him to showboat on stage, but he remains restrained. Still, he sounds good, so he plays the songs well.
Darlene Love: Inducted by Bette Midler. Live performance of “Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah”, “(Today I Met) The Boy I’m Gonna Marry”, “He’s a Rebel” (with Midler).
After so many dull speeches, I hoped Midler would bring us something more engaging – and she does. Fun and charming, she offers the most enjoyable induction so far.
Love can’t match with Midler’s wit, but she does fine for herself. She seems lively and likable.
As a live performer, Love does fine. Her voice isn’t what it was in her prime, of course, but she still sounds good, and with Springsteen on guitar, this becomes an enjoyable set.
Alice Cooper: Inducted by Rob Zombie. Live performances of “Eighteen”, “Under My Wheels”, “School’s Out” (with Zombie).
In theory I appreciate Zombie’s odd looseness, but he seems annoying in his self-conscious weirdness. He mixes funny comments with annoying shtick.
Reminder: “Alice Cooper” means the band in addition to the renamed Vincent Furnier. That’s why Michael Bruce, Dennis Dunaway and Neal Smith offer acceptance speeches along with the former Mr. Furnier.
Unsurprisingly, Cooper’s comments become the most memorable – and he brings his famous snake with him. His bandmates seem less compelling.
The sole rock band to earn induction in 2011, I can’t say Alice Cooper’s set does a lot for me. Still, given the non-rock nature of the rest of the show, I kind of enjoyed it.
Tom Waits: Inducted by Neil Young. Live performances of “Make It Rain”, “Rain Dogs”, “House Where Nobody Lives”.
Should one expect a particularly compelling speech from Young? Of course not, but he offers loopy charm, and his looseness allows him to give us an entertaining induction.
No one should expect a tight chat from Waits either, but that’s also a positive. He offers funny stories and turns this into one of the package’s more endearing pieces.
Too bad his musical performance doesn’t follow suit. Waits is an acquired taste, and I never acquired that taste.
Waits acts like a mentally disabled homeless man on stage. Some view that as a positive – I don’t. Waits is a capable songwriter whose tunes work well in the hands of others, but as a performer, his style becomes nails/chalkboard.
Leon Russell: Inducted by Elton John. Live performances of “Delta Lady” (with John Mayer), “A Song For You” (with Mayer).
John clearly possesses a lot of affection for Russell – indeed, the two did an album together in 2010 – and that comes through via his warm induction. Elton’s a real student of music and his comments seem sincere.
A clearly not-especially-healthy Russell says little in his speech, but that’s fine. It’s good to see him, even if he didn’t seem able to provide much.
Earlier I noted that Dr. John didn’t show much presence during his set. However, Dr. John seemed like late 50s Jerry Lee Lewis compared to the barely-there Russell.
As noted, Russell clearly wasn’t physically well in 2011, so it’s probably enough that he can perform at all. Don’t expect much from his mumbly set, though.
The 2011 package completely leaves out the induction of Neil Diamond and his musical set. Apparently a severely jet-lagged Diamond offered a loopy speech, so maybe that’s why he wasn’t included.
Freddie King: Inducted by Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill. Live performances of “Hide Away” (Joe Bonamassa, Gibbons, Hill, Derek Trucks) and “Going Down” (Bonamassa, Gibbons, Hill, Trucks).
The first posthumous inductee in this Blu-ray package, King’s daughter Wanda accepts for him.
ZZ Top’s Gibbons and Hill offer a polite and largely forgettable induction. Wanda King compensates with a warm, witty remembrance of her dad.
The musical performance feels like an extension of the Gibbons/Hill induction: capable but not especially memorable. The musicians seem a little afraid to go wild, so the songs come across as a bit restrained and safe.
Donovan: Inducted by John Mellencamp. “Catch the Wind”, “Sunshine Superman”, “Season of the Witch” (with Mellencamp).
Heartland rocker Mellencamp seems like an odd choice to introduce the folksy Donovan, but he does well. Mellencamp seems gruff and self-effacing, which leads to a funny and entertaining speech. It’s one of this package’s best.
Donovan offers the polar opposite, as his acceptance seems pretentious and airy-fairy. It’s such an odd contrast to Mellencamp that it almost works – almost.
Musically, Donovan always came across like an inferior, hippie version of Bob Dylan. His whiny performance here does nothing to dispel that notion.
Small Faces/Faces: Inducted by Steven Van Zandt. Live performances of “Ooh La La” (Kenney Jones, Ian McLagan and Ron Wood with Mick Hucknall and Conrad Korsch), “Stay With Me” (Jones, McLagan, Wood, Hucknall, Korsch).
Little Steven again? Van Zandt offers another good but not great speech.
Members Wood, McLagan and Jones accept along with Mollie Marriott, the daughter of Steve. All offer short and not especially memorable comments.
In the category of absent performers, head Face Rod Stewart becomes a prominent no-show. It also seems odd that the HOF inducted the Small Faces side of the band but we only got performances of Faces songs.
Hucknall offers a more than competent replacement for Stewart, though. No one will mistake this Faces set for the 70s version, but they deliver decent renditions.
Beastie Boys: Inducted by Chuck D and LL Cool J. Live medley performance of “No Sleep Till Brooklyn”, “So What ‘Cha Want”, “Sabotage” (The Roots, Black Thought, Travie McCoy, Mix Master Mike, Kid Rock).
Chuck’s induction tends to feel too long and not very interesting. Cool J’s seems stronger and a little more entertaining.
Given the band’s reputation, one might expect a lively acceptance from surviving Beasties Mike Diamond and Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz. Instead, they bring fairly bland comments, though it’s nice we get a speech from beyond the grave from Adam Yauch.
I appreciate and respect the fact Horovitz and Diamond didn’t perform without Yauch. I could live without the presence of noted douchebag Kid Rock, but this group provides a pretty good take on the Beasties’ tracks.
Red Hot Chili Peppers. Inducted by Chris Rock. Live performances of “By the Way”, “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie”, “Give It Away”, “Higher Ground” (with “Hall of Fame Jam Band”).
One would expect a funny induction from Rock, and he delivers. This might not be the most hilarious speech ever, but Rock does what he needs to do.
I anticipated a sassy collection of comments from the various Peppers, but they bring fairly earnest speeches. Heck, Flea even gets teary-eyed! They offer pleasant remarks but nothing memorable, especially not as a follow-up to Rock’s intro.
The Peppers are one of those bands I felt I should’ve liked but didn’t. Their set works just fine, but they don’t change my mind. Still, they do well, and given how many “incomplete bands” we tend to find at the Rock Hall ceremonies, it’s good to get one that remains intact – even if they’re on their 97th guitarist.
2012 brings the most prominent omission yet: Guns n’ Roses. The late Laura Nyro’s induction also doesn’t appear here.
Randy Newman: Inducted by Don Henley. Live performances of “I Love LA” (with Tom Petty, Jackson Browne, John Fogerty), “I’m Dead (But Don’t Know It)” (with Henley).
Now best-known as a movie composer than a singer-songwriter, Newman seems like a borderline choice for the Rock Hall. Still, I wouldn’t argue too strongly against his induction, and Henley makes a good argument for his inclusion. Heck, noted sourpuss Henley even manages some funny bits.
It comes as less of a surprise that Newman’s acceptance speech hits the right notes. We expect wry humor from Newman, and he brings a short and enjoyable acceptance.
Our two Newman performances also work. Buoyed by guests, these two tracks come across as lively and entertaining.
Albert King: Inducted by John Mayer. Live performances of “Oh, Pretty Woman” (Gary Clark Jr.), “Born Under a Bad Sign” (Clark, Mayer, Booker T. Jones).
Though Mayer has a good sense of humor, he plays it fairly straight here. Given that he inducts someone not all that well known to the public, though, he brings us a good overview of King’s appeal and makes this an effective history lesson.
King’s granddaughter Alice Johnson gives the acceptance, and his daughter Evelyn Smith joins her but doesn’t speak. Johnson offers a brief but heartfelt speech.
The performances of King’s songs seem fine but a little “safe”. That seems to occur when musicians cover others at the Rock Hall. They seem to be afraid to push the envelope, so you end up with renditions that lack fire. Still, the two tracks feel good, if not exceptional.
Heart: Inducted by Chris Cornell. Live performances of “Crazy On You” (with Jerry Cantrell), “Barracuda” (with Cantrell, Cornell, Mike McCready).
Cornell delivers a wholly perfunctory induction speech, one that lacks much passion. While he discusses what the band meant to him, it feels scripted and not very compelling.
As expected, the male members of Heart receive little screentime, so it’s the Wilson sisters who dominate. Both seem a bit on the self-serving side, so don’t expect interesting comments.
At least their performance fares better. You’d be hard-pressed to find a 70s rocker whose voice has held up as well as Ann Wilson’s, and she still belts (almost) like it’s 1977. Both their tunes sound great.
Quincy Jones: Inducted by Oprah Winfrey.
I doubt anyone else involved with the Rock Hall ceremonies has as much experience with public speaking as Winfrey, and that past serves her well. Not that Oprah offers a great induction, but she’s on-target and charming.
Jones can’t hope to keep up with Winfrey, but he does just fine. Heartfelt and reasonably engaging, Jones delivers a perfectly likable chat.
Public Enemy: Inducted by Spike Lee and Harry Belafonte.
With his speech, Lee ties PE into his film Do the Right Thing. This seems a little self-serving but makes sense given the prominence of “Fight the Power” in that flick.
Belafonte offers a more traditional induction, one that works fine. Given his generational disconnect to PE, though, he seems like an odd choice.
Of the PE members, Chuck D brings the best comments, especially when he responds to critics who claim hip-hop shouldn’t be in the Rock Hall. Flavor Flav stays on topic, but I suspect the program edits his speech severely. I seem to recall indications that Flav rambled on and on at the ceremony, so this would appear to be a much cut-down version.
Rush: Inducted by Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins. Live performances of “2112: Overture” (with Grohl, Hawkins, Nick Raskulinecz), “Tom Sawyer”, “The Spirit of Radio”.
As the veteran of multiple Foo Fighter concerts, I know how hilarious Grohl can be, and he provides a suitably amusing induction. Bandmate Hawkins seems less interesting, and to be honest, it’s not clear why he’s there, as Grohl would’ve been enough.
If nothing else, Alex Lifeson gets credit for the most unusual acceptance speech, as he gives us a presentation that consists of nothing more than “blah blah blah blah” for two minutes, 20 seconds. It’s a cute concept but it goes on way too long.
Neil Peart and Geddy Lee offer more traditional speeches, and they do fine. I do wonder if Peart intentionally said “indict” instead of “induct”, though.
For “2112”, Grohl, Hawkins and Raskulinecz all don wigs and garb to resemble mid-70s Rush. Like Lifeson’s speech, it’s cute, and at least it doesn’t go on very long.
I’m glad the remaining Rush songs proceed without guests, though. I never got into Rush, but they still sounded good at this stage of their career.
Note: during the induction speech, someone goofs. We find an edit that shows Lee and Belafonte on stage!
Omissions: we find no mention of Donna Summer’s posthumous induction. We lose some performances as well. Jennifer Hudson did two Summer songs, and Usher played Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You” to commemorate Jones’ induction. We also lose Public Enemy’s set.
As always, the edits and omissions bother me. Also as always, though, I won’t toss the baby out with the bath water. Despite the flaws, we get enough good material to make this a winning package.