Normally I eschew award ceremonies (other than the Oscars), but last night I found myself intrigued by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction proceedings, which aired on the Fuse Network (whatever the heck that is). Being inducted were Genesis, the Stooges, the Hollies, Jimmy Cliff and ABBA, along with some songwriters and music mogul David Geffen. My initial interest stemmed from one of my favorite bands, Phish, inducting Genesis, another of my all-time favorites (at least during the Peter Gabriel years and early post-Peter years). The show opened with Phish playing the Genesis classic “Watcher of the Skies,” and it was flawless:
Genesis has had a unique career – with Gabriel, they were a theatrical progressive rock band, known as much for their long, complex compositions as they were for Gabriel’s on-stage costumes and performance art-like expressions. Following his departure, the band found enormous commercial success with mainstream pop hits year after year, with drummer Phil Collins now captaining the ship. Phish recognized that era of the band as well, playing “No Reply at All” after singer Trey Anastasio officially inducted the band and Collins, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford and Steve Hackett gave short speeches. I had heard that Gabriel would not be attending – the official excuse was that he is planning a European tour…but I think it’s safe to say that I’ll never see a complete Genesis reunion show, something that is on my musical “bucket list” (if there is such a thing).
The Stooges had a very profound influence on the punk movement – and they still have that punk attitude and raw power in their music. Iggy Pop gyrated around the stage, shirtless, in his rubber-limbed style. And then, quite poignantly, he headed into the crowd during “I Wanna Be Your Dog” – it was a very punk image, seeing Iggy bop around in front of older, stuffy tuxedoed folks who seemed a little uncomfortable but tried to keep smiling.
But the most amazing part of the show revolved around Jimmy Cliff, the Jamaican reggae star. I was not familiar with much of his music, but I knew he was almost as important as Bob Marley in terms of his bringing reggae music and Jamaican culture to the rest of the world. As they showed clips of his performances during the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, I began to realize that his brand of reggae was fairly unique – there was a lot more soul and R&B infused into his music, almost like a cross between Motown and reggae. Cliff’s stage presence was also very entertaining – part James Brown, part Elvis. I was captivated. After Wyclef Jean inducted him and Cliff gave a very humble, slow-paced speech, he took the stage…and blew me away. The first song was “You Can Get it if You Really Want it,” a somewhat straight-forward, high-energy reggae song, but Cliff’s voice was great as he danced around the stage. He followed that with a slower tune called “Many Rivers to Cross.” His voice was so amazing, so soulful and passionate – he made Marvin Gaye sound like Tiny Tim. By the end, I’m not ashamed to admit, I was nearly moved to tears. It really was that good. Wyclef then joined him on stage for “The Harder They Come,” a fantastic upbeat number. The crowd gave Cliff a huge ovation, deservedly so. I immediately purchased “Jimmy Cliff: In Concert” online, and it’s terrific. I’ve never been a big fan of reggae, but I’m now a huge Jimmy Cliff fan.
Finally, I’m pretty apathetic when it comes to ABBA, so I barely paid attention during their segment on the show (only two of the members attended). But then keyboardist Benny Anderson went to the piano and Faith Hill sang “The Winner Takes it All”:
It was a fantastic performance – best ABBA ever, for me anyway.
And that’s what I thought of last night’s festivities. Happy listening.