The Rock Hall Ceremony Will Never Be the Same Again
31. That’s the number of induction ceremonies that came before this year’s event in Brooklyn. 31 times fans and industry big wigs alike sat in anticipation as the year’s chosen few took the stage to receive their illustrious award and cement their name amongst the greatest of all time. 31 moments of respect and admiration for the bands that influenced generations of musicians and left catalogs worth of hit songs and unforgettable albums for music lovers to cherish for the rest of eternity. 31 induction ceremonies didn’t prepare them for Pearl Jam and the arrival of the Faithful. The Rock n Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony will never be the same again.
Earlier in the day, hundreds of fans gathered to unite with friends, new and old, at the Wishlist pre-party at Kings Beer Hall just a few blocks from the venue. This event and the fan-gathering the night before it, was a wonderful warm up to the ceremony, giving fans a chance to build up the anticipation and support great causes. In the background, a video playing a show from August 5th of this past year at Fenway Park in Boston, the chilling opening of “Release”, and the crowd gathered singing in unity gave a sneak peek as to the excitement in each fan’s heart. We were only hours away, only blocks away, but no one cared, what seemed like an eternity slowly became a reality as the clock continued to tick towards doors opening.
They came from all across the globe. From Boston to Brazil, Los Angeles to London, fans gathered at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY to share in the festivities and welcome the newest members to be enshrined into the Hall of Fame. Some came for Yes, others came for Journey, still others came to honor Tupac, but no band was more represented than Pearl Jam. Debbie Wall, a longtime fan from Long Beach, CA, spoke for most in the crowd, “When Pearl Jam was nominated, I knew they would win, and when they were inducted, I knew I would be there.” From the moment Jann Wenner, Rolling Stone publisher, began to announce the names of the induction class in his introduction, the anticipation to those two words being spoken became almost too much for the crowd of 18,000+ to handle. When the time came, the crowd erupted into such a deafening roar that, for a long, wonderful moment, the show came to a halt. The band seemed overwhelmed by the response and the other members of industry looked around in awe as the crowd showed no signs of letting up. Chants of “Eddie!, Eddie!, Eddie!” filled the room as the Faithful opted to allow the show to continue, but really it was to save their voices for the main event. The wait had begun.
Flash forward through almost five phenomenal hours as the other deserving music legends of the Class of 2017 were enshrined into the Hall and which included tributes to the legendary Chuck Berry and the unequivocal Prince. "All of the sudden I was living in Seattle," recalls Eddie Vedder with a laugh. The crowd erupts. It’s 10:55pm and main event had begun. Footage depicting the bands devoted followers and unrivaled live shows scrolled across the screen leading to the appearance of former late night talk show host David Letterman who was there to induct the band. Letterman spoke of the band and his relationship with Eddie, but one particular sentence stands out above all. When speaking about the performances of the evening, Letterman was reminded of all the wonderful bands that graced his stage from his years on late night television, echoing one powerful message, “What a gift live music is. Never take that for granted.”
The band took the stage shortly after and each had their moment to address the crowd, even former drummer Dave Krusen, who joined the band on stage for the first time in decades. Each made heartfelt thanks to those who had helped the band all these many years, thanked the bands that helped shape them in their youth and beyond, and even thanked the “Jamily”, a nod to the millions of dedicated fans both in the building and around the world. Ed spoke of climate change and reminded us that life still existed outside these walls and we needed to continue to fight for the future of mankind, a powerfully sobering message, but a necessary one for sure.
With a thunderous applause, the band took its place, Dave Krusen behind the kit, and “Alive” rang out amongst the masses. The crowd gave Krusen his due as Matt Cameron rejoined to complete the performance. Vedder singled out Michael J. Fox and thanked him for including the song in his book before breaking into “Given to Fly”. The deafening vocals of the crowd continued as Eddie plucked the opening riff of “Better Man” (with "Save It for Later" tag for the diehards in the crowd) without introduction. A set list targeted to appeal to the casual fan and the diehard alike. The band closed with an All-Star performance of “Rockin’ in the Free World” with the other inductees, a perfect ending to a stellar evening. Shannon McGooey, who had come from Fort Worth, TX, told me despite all the chaos of getting to New York, “it was worth all the trouble to get to the greatest five hours of my life.”
25 years this road we traveled together and it leads us to this place. As I sit thinking about the accomplishment and longevity of this band, I am reminded of how special a road it’s been. On the train back from Barclays I had the opportunity to speak to Miles, a fan from New Jersey who said, “The night felt like one big family reunion, overflowing with warmth and pride that one of our own was taking their rightful place in the pantheon of musical legends.” Not many bands make it to the mountain top, many are still climbing, hoping to one day see their names on that wall, but today our boys are standing on top and they stood in front of the world and accepted their accolades with grace and appreciation. Vedder would say that they were, “lucky and grateful” to be accepting this award as he stood with his bandmates on stage glancing out at the sea of people and taking it all in. I am proud to have been part of this moment and I look forward to many more years of gratitude and love for this band from 2,800 miles away who are the catalyst in many of our lives. This chapter has now closed, what comes next is the beginning of our new journey….see you along the way.
Photo by Jason Wright