Blu-ray Review: Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: In Concert

The best part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame elections is the performances. Sure you can argue all day about who should have been inducted in a certain year. But at some point the conversation turns from “do they belong” to “they better play.” In the end, the music is what matters. Originally the ceremony was a semi-private affair with the performances trickling out through odd ways. But eventually the ceremony was broadcast so fans across the world could appreciate the show without paying a step price for a seat at one of the banquet tables. Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: In Concert boxset contains the highlights of 8 recent ceremonies and also the two night 25th Anniversary Concerts. Now all of these musical moments are being presented on Blu-ray so you get the high definition experience.

Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary Concerts took place in that place you sell out when you’re finally a massive rock star: New York City’s Madison Square Garden. The shows had various inductees team up for collaborations that hadn’t been seen before. The three disc set also includes a few performances that didn’t even make it into the HBO broadcast of the events. Crosby, Still and Nash join forces with James Taylor for “Love The One Your With.” Stevie Wonder and B.B. King remind us that “The Thrill Is Gone.” Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel reunite. Metallica get busy with team ups featuring Lou Reed, Ozzy Osbourne and Ray Davies of The Kinks. U2 gets deep into “Because the Night” with Patti Smith and Bruce Springsteen. Bruce does a superstar duo with Billy Joel on “New York State of Mind” and “Born to Run.” Jeff Beck meets Sting. The show is full of surprises if you didn’t watch it on HBO nearly a decade ago.

The 25th Induction Ceremony from 2010 in paid tribute to the British Invasion, Punk, Prog and Swedish Pop. First was bringing together Genesis for a night although Peter Gabriel couldn’t make it because of tour commitments. Steve Hackett got to see his old bandmates. However instead of playing they let Phish perform “Watcher in the Woods.” The Stooges finally got inducted with a little help from a previous ceremony when Madonna had them perform her set. Now Iggy Pop got up on the stage with the remaining members and legendary bassist Mike Watt (Minutemen) for a set of their own as they tore into “Search and Destroy” and “Now I Wanna Be Your Dog.” Why did it take so long? Iggy exposed what a bunch of phonies the posh audience. As he stripped off the formal wear and got to barechested glory in showed that the tables were lame. Why was Dr. Oz there? “Show me you’re not too rich to be cool!” he barks at the audience. The Hollies finally got their turn and replay the moment with “Bus Stop,” “Carrie-Anne” and “Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress). Paul Shaffer (formerly of Late Night With David Letterman) gets an award since he’s been leading the house band since it all started. Finally there’s Abba! Some of Abba made it. Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad accept the hardware. The song is “The Winner Takes It All” with Faith Hill singing as Benny plays the piano. Not quite the reunion that the clog wearing masses desired. Jimmy Cliff is missing here except for a shot in the crowd.

The 26th Ceremony in 2011 appears to be the last induction ceremony at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. The intimate setting is perfect for the triple threat induction of Tom Waits, Dr. John and Leon Russell. The legendary pianists dominate the ballroom stage with their sets. Tom Waits gives three songs including “Rain Dogs” with his unique approach music. Dr. John delivers “Right Place Wrong Time” before having John Legend (his inductor) pull up another piano for a duet of “Such A Night.” Leon Russell gives a subdued performance of “Delta Lady” and “A Song For You.” John Mayer helps out on guitar. Russell’s white hair and beard looks great in high resolution. These are three performers that probably wouldn’t have delivered so well if stuck on the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn. Bette Midler, Paul Shaffer and Bruce Springsteen are thrilled to play along with Ronnie Love’s set. Alice Cooper returns to his roots for “Eighteen,” “Under My Wheels” and School’s Out.” The big absence is Neil Diamond.

The 27th Ceremony took the show to Cleveland, the home of the Hall of Fame. The late Freddie King gets some fine attention including his induction by two-thirds of ZZ Top. They perform his tracks “Hide Away” and “Going Down” with Joe Bonamassa and Derek Trucks. Donovan gets to bring his acoustic charms to the stage for “Catch the Wind,” “Sunshine Superman” and “Season of the Witch.” John Mellencamp joins in with vocals to make it sound a little spooky. The Small Faces and the Faces got inducted together which is a fine way to treat a band that had a major shift when members split. Sadly Rod Stewart didn’t show up to jam with Ron Wood (now with The Rolling Stones), Kenney Jones (once the drummer with The Who) and keyboardist Ian McLagan. Instead we get Mick Hucknall (Simply Red) getting to sing “Ooh La La” and “Stay With Me.” Does a fine job filling in for Rod. The Beastie Boys showed up without a member because Adam Yauch was in final battle with cancer. An all-star group did a tribute to the band that sadly included Kid Rock. The final induction is the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The missing acts for this season includes the late Laura Nyro and Guns N’ Roses. G’n R did play without Axl. There was also massive induction of backing bands including The Famous Flames, The Midnighters, The Miracles, The Crickets, The Comets and the Blue Caps. You can guess who was their inducted leader.

The 28th Ceremony was at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles, the home of the Emmys. Correctly this is when the inducted Randy Newman so he could open the show with “I Love L.A.” Blues legend Albert King had been dead for 20 years so Gary Clark Jr played his music. Public Enemy is inducted without any music. The same is true for Quincy Jones. Ann and Nancy Wilson get recognition with Heart receiving Hardware. They bust out “Crazy For You” and “Barracuda” with Seattle pals such as Jerry Cantrell (Alice in Chains), Chris Cornell (Soundgarden) and Mike McCready (Pearl Jam). The big finale is stadium rocking Canadian Power Trio Rush! Because Dave Grohl had five minutes free, he rushed down to induct the band that sounds best when rolling polyhedral dice. Geddy, Alex and Neil tear into “Tom Sawyer” and “The Spirit of Radio” to show why they deserved the honor.

The 2014 ceremony at Brooklyn’s Barclay Center opens with the induction of Peter Gabriel by Chris Martin of Coldplay. The two duet on “Washing of Water” as Peter does “Digging In the Dirt” solo and brings out Youssou N’Dour for “In Your Eyes.” Cat Stevens returns to glory with “Father & Son,” “Wild World” and “Peace Train.” Linda Ronstadt wasn’t feeling up to appear on stage so the late Glenn Frey of The Eagles accepts her award while Emmylou Harris, Carrie Underwood, Stevie Nicks and Sheryl Crow perform her songs. The E Street Band induction might be the longest one on record, but at least at the end Bruce Springsteen performs with his band for “The E Street Shuffle.” Nirvana also has guest performers since Kurt Cobain has been dead for a while. But instead of having guys sing the lead, Dave Grohl, Pat Smear and Krist Novoselic share the stage with Joan Jett, Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth), Lorde and Annie Clark (St. Vincent).

The 2015 ceremony was held in Cleveland, the home of the Hall of Fame building. Joan Jett returns to be inducted with her Blackhearts. Paul Butterfield Blues Band gets inducted by Peter Wolf, but the tribute is sung by Zac Brown. There is a rare treat when Bill Withers appears on stage to deliver “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Lean on Me.” Green Day arrives to prove they haven’t sold out to Broadway. Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble’s induction has brother Jimmie Vaughn fill in for his departed sibling on “Texas Flood.” Even though the Velvet Underground were inducted, Lou Reed was placed in after his death. I love Lou, but with all the people not inducted why do they feel the need to reinduct people? Speaking so does Ringo Starr get back into the Hall after being in there from his time with The Beatles. Is there a reason? Of course, because he brought Paul McCartney for an end jam of “I Wanna Be Your Man.”

The 2016 ceremony took things back to Brooklyn with the crunch of Deep Purple. While the band is good going through “Highway Star” and “Smoke on the Water,” it’s sad that they couldn’t patch things up with original guitarist Richie Blackmore. While N.W.A. was inducted, there’s no performance or tribute performance. Chicago finally gets into the Hall along with Cheap Trick. The nice part of Cheap Trick is that they patched things up for the night with original drummer Bun E. Carlos to give us the real “Dream Police.” While Steve Miller’s set is missing, the Space Cowboy jams at the end with “Ain’t That a Shame.”

The 2017 ceremony kept the action in Brooklyn for the return of the Electric Light Orchestra although your dad will call them ELO. They break out “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Evil Woman,” and “Mr Blue Sky.” Joan Baez brings her folkie vibe to the festivities. Another band that should have been in a few decades ago is Yes. Sadly they perform without their leader bassist Chris Squire who died in 2015. Geddy Lee of Rush filled in that night, but Squire’s power would have been so much better on “Roundabout.” Jon Anderson did return for the night to sing. Fans must have been excited during the induction as Steve Perry stood with the band to receive their hardware. But the performance featured Arnel Pineda on the microphone. Tupac Shakur was inducted by Snoop Dogg, but nobody came on stage to give us “California Love.” Everything wraps up with David Letterman welcoming Pearl Jam into the Hall. Eddie Vedder gives an “Alive” that takes you back to the pit in 1991. The ability to get right to the music makes Rock & Roll Hall of Fame In Concert enjoyable. If I was forced to listen to the 8 hours of the E Street Band thanking everyone in New Jersey, I’d go nuts. But with a quick button push, we’re back to the rock and none of the talk. It’s a great sense of what you’d enjoy from a table at the induction ceremony and you don’t have to eat the chicken.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: In Concert is a massive rock boxset that will keep you rocking out for a weekend. There’s so many fine performances and special jam sessions to make you remember the good things about the inducted acts. Be prepared to crank up the surround sound to 11.

The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. You will be able to see which of your rock idols have aged best in the 1080p transfer. The Audio is DTS-HD MA 5.1. The levels are perfect for blasting apart your surround sound system.

Extra Songs that didn’t appear on HBO’s 25th Anniversary Concert broadcast.

Time Life presents Rock & Roll Hall of Fame In Concert. Starring: Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Deep Purple, Peter Gabriel, Yes, Cheap Trick and Joan Jett. Rated: Unrated. Running Time: 1485 minutes on 6 Blu-ray discs. Released: February 11, 2020.

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