Leave it to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to put on a show.
Last night marked the first of a two-night stand at Madison Square Garden to commemorate the Rock Hall’s 25th anniversary. By all accounts it was a rousing success, with legendary performers like Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Bonnie Raitt, John Fogerty and Crosby, Stills and Nash – and an army of others – sharing the stage.
The highlights included Springsteen sharing the stage with Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave guitar wiz Tom Morello (below), who we profiled for you here in the Listening Room this summer.
(photo by AP/Henry Ray Abrams)
The second show is tonight, and should be equally memorable.
• Jerry Lee Lewis reminds the crowd of rock & roll’s ’50s roots by settling in at a white baby grand for “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.”
• Crosby, Stills and Nash add another layer of perfect harmony when James Taylor joins in on “Love the One You’re With.” The capper: one of many awe-inspiring guitar solos by Stephen Stills.
• Bonnie Raitt joins CSN for her own “Love Has No Pride,” and later tells the press, “To go back in my catalog and do something I rarely do live was angelic for me.”
• CSN break into “Midnight Rider” by the Allman Brothers on the anniversary of Duane Allman’s death. It’s a poignant moment, followed by another: Jackson Browne hits the stage to perform “The Pretender.”
• Paul Simon invites David Crosby and Graham Nash back onstage for very special reason: to honor “a dear friend of mine” who “was the first person to ever have a benefit concert here at Madison Square Garden — it’s called the Concert for Bangladesh — and it’s a man who I really loved and admired greatly, George Harrison.” The song: “Here Comes the Sun.”
• Paul Simon shouts out a pair of New York City neighborhoods when he invites Dion DiMucci and Little Anthony and the Imperials to the stage.
• Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel’s voices mingle on “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” The pair throw their arms around each other at the conclusion of “The Boxer.” Will the U.S. see this reunion again? Garfunkel admits their recent shows together “were a lovely falling back together again” but they have “no such plans,” after their set.
• Stevie Wonder turns a technical difficulty into a hilarious quip: “Aw, shit … stuff happens, you know what I’m saying?” and changes his set before it even gets going to kick off with a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind.” He later pays homage to Michael Jackson with a stunning “The Way You Make Me Feel.”
• Smokey Robinson emerges for a loose, warm rendition of “Tracks of My Tears.” Moments later, John Legend arrives onstage to pay homage to Marvin Gaye with “Mercy, Mercy Me.” Not enough? B.B King is up next, earning Stevie’s praise as “the king of blues for every city in the world” with “The Thrill is Gone.”
• Sting strides onstage popping the bassline to “Higher Ground,” and the song morphs into “Roxanne” and back again.
• Two words: Jeff Beck. The guitar legend joins Wonder for “Superstition” and breaks into an otherworldly solo on the break, flinging his bare right hand at the strings and tapping away.
• Bruce Springsteen hits the stage with his famous plea, “Is there anybody alive out there?” He gives even himself a jolt with guest Sam Moore, who he praises as “one of the all time great bandleaders.”
• Springsteen welcomes John Fogerty for “Fortunate Son” and a pair of sweet covers: “Proud Mary” and “Pretty Woman.”
• The E Street Band make their own Wall of Sound as Darlene Love joins Bruce and the gang for “A Fine, Fine Boy” and “Da Doo Ron Ron.” “We’re in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame now,” Springsteen exclaims.
• Tom Morello wah-s out a bone-crunching solo on a mind-blowing cover of “London Calling” with the E Street Band that nearly outdoes his earlier heroics on “The Ghost of Tom Joad.”
• Springsteen delivers a brief and hilarious speech about how New Jersey and Long Island were once a connected landmass as a way of introducing the night’s final very special guest: Billy Joel. E Street keeps cranking through “You May Be Right,” “Only the Good Die Young” and Joel’s hometown anthem “New York State of Mind.”
• Six hours after Tom Hanks took the stage to open the show, Springsteen brings the house down with “Born to Run” and reluctantly leaves after wringing the last possible “higher” out of “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher.” “That’s rock & roll!” he exclaims.
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