by Doug MacGunnigle, WPRO and Associated Press reports
Pearl Jam, Tupac Shakur, Joan Baez, Electric Light Orchestra, Journey and Yes were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Friday night at a ceremony held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Nile Rodgers received a special honor at the event which included presenters David Letterman, Snoop Dogg, Pharrell Williams, Dhani Harrison (son of late Beatle George Harrison), Pat Monahan of Train, Jackson Browne and Alex Lifeson of Rush.
The first artist to be honored Friday night however was Chuck Berry, who died last month and was the first artist inducted into the Hall of Fame 32 years ago. Rolling Stone Magazine publisher Jann Wenner opened the ceremony with remarks about Berry, saying “no one would be in this room if it wasn’t for this man.”
Following a tribute video including statements about Berry’s influence from Keith Richards, Bruce Springsteen, and Paul McCartney, new inductees ELO played their version of “Roll Over Beethoven” to honor Berry. The arrangement included a string section that incorporated parts of some of Beethoven’s symphonies. Jeff Lynne was the only member of the classic lineup of ELO to perform, however original member Roy Wood was also on hand to collect his statue.
Lynne’s ELO band also performed “Evil Woman” and “Mr. Blue Sky” which sounded stunningly similar to the recorded versions.
Following the performance the band was inducted by the Dhani Harrison, the son of the late George Harrison.
Folk singer Joan Baez was inducted by singer songwriter Jackson Browne. “My granddaughter had no clue who I was until I took her backstage to a Taylor Swift concert,” said Baez, who added that her granddaughter took a selfie with Swift and now had “newfound respect for her grandmother.”
Baez performed “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” as well as the politically charged “Deportee” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” During the latter two Baez was joined by Mary Chapin Carpenter and The Indigo Girls.
Progressive rock icons Yes were inducted by Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson of Rush. Lee sat in on bass with the reformed classic lineup which included original singer Jon Anderson and keyboardist Rick Wakeman, whose dirty-joke filled acceptance speech was a highlight of the evening. The band performed “Roundabout” and “Owner of a Lonely Heart.”
Snoop Dogg inducted the late Tupac Shakur. Dogg, a former label mate and friend of Shakur, says he was at Friday night’s ceremony at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to make sure the rapper, actor and poet is remembered as a “strong black man that stood for his.”
Alicia Keys performed a medley of Shakur’s songs on piano, including “Dear Mama” and “Changes.” T.I. and Treach of Naughty by Nature also performed.
One of the night’s most anticipated performances was Journey’s. But despite earlier reports, Steve Perry did not perform with the current Journey members. Instead, Perry’s replacement Arnel Pineda sang lead as the band performed “Seperate Ways,” “Lights,” which included original drummer and keyboard players Aynsley Dunbar and Gregg Rolie sitting in, and of course ”Don’t Stop Believin’.”
Perry, estranged from the band for many years, did embrace guitarist and co-founder Neal Schon onstage.
“You’re the ones who put us here,” Perry said to the Journey fans, earning one of the night’s loudest applauses. “I’ve been gone a long time but you’ve never not been in my heart.” Perry did not appear with the group for photos following their performance
Rocker Lenny Kravitz performed moving renditions of “When Doves Cry” and “The Cross” as a tribute to the late Prince, who died last year shortly after last year’s ceremony. Both songs were radically rearranged and featured a large gospel choir.
Producer and songwriter Nile Rodgers received a special recognition award presented by Pharrell Williams.
Pearl Jam capped off the evening with a hilarious induction speech by a fully bearded David Letterman. The band performed “Alive” with original drummer Dave Krusen for the first time since 1991, as well as “Given to Fly” and “Better Man.”
The evening’s all star jam featured Pearl Jam, joined by members of Journey, Yes, and Rush, as well as Dhani Harrison, on a scorching version of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World.”
The ceremony will air in edited form on HBO on April 29th.
To be eligible, all of the nominees had to have released their first recording no later than 1991.