“This has got to be the largest AA meeting in the Western Hemisphere.”
That one-liner from 2015 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee Bill Withers is one of the funnier nods to the, ahem, well-traveled club he just joined. It’s also featured in Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: In Concert, a wonderfully comprehensive collection of the four induction ceremonies between 2014 and 2017. This 2-disc Blu-ray set features over 10 hours of content, including full induction speeches, 53 musical performances, and reunions that will have classic rock fans drooling. (Not to mention some notable snubs.)
The 2014 and 2015 ceremonies are featured on Disc 1, while the 2016 and 2017 ceremonies can be found on Disc 2. Let’s dive right in!
The 29th Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
E Street Band
This strong and eclectic class kicks things off nicely for In Concert. After Peter Gabriel opens the show with a propulsive rendition of “Digging in the Dirt,” Coldplay’s Chris Martin sets the cheeky tone for the evening by reading from “The Book of Genesis” while inducting Gabriel into the Hall. Gabriel and Martin also established the evening’s spirit of collaboration by teaming up for Gabriel’s “Washing of the Water.”
The most effective collaborations were the various women — Joan Jett, Kim Gordon, Annie Clark, Lorde — who took turns subbing in for the late Kurt Cobain during the Nirvana segment. On the other hand, the collaborations went a little overboard during the Linda Ronstadt portion; since Ronstadt didn’t attend the ceremony, it was up to the likes of Carrie Underwood, Emmylou Harris (experiencing unfortunate mic issues at the start of her first song), Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Nicks, Sheryl Crow AND Glenn Frey (phew!) to pay musical tribute on stage.
Speaking of Frey, it’s bittersweet watching the late Eagles legend talk about Ronstadt and credit her for giving him and Don Henley a career. (Frey passed away in January 2016, less than two years after he’s seen here.) I also enjoyed Cat Stevens embracing his decidedly non-rock and roll lifestyle during his acceptance speech, along with Courtney Love doing Courtney Love things in her brief time on stage during Nirvana’s induction. But the (literal) showstopper, of course, was the segment where Bruce Springsteen inducted the E Street Band. This portion alone lasts almost an hour by itself(!), but it’s a rollicking good time and each E Street Band member — and there are a LOT of them — gets a chance to shine.
Peter Gabriel: “Digging in the Dirt,” Washing of the Water” (featuring Chris Martin), and “In Your Eyes” (featuring Youssou N’Dour).
Cat Stevens: “Father & Son” (with Paul Shaffer and the Hall of Fame Orchestra), “Wild World” (with Paul Shaffer and the Hall of Fame Orchestra), and “Peace Train” (with Paul Shaffer and the Hall of Fame Orchestra)
Linda Ronstadt: “Different Drum” (performed by Carrie Underwood with Paul Shaffer and the Hall of Fame Orchestra), “Blue Bayou” (performed by Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt and Carrie Underwood with Paul Shaffer and the Hall of Fame Orchestra),“You’re No Good” (performed by Sheryl Crow, Glenn Frey, Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, Carrie Underwood with Paul Shaffer and the Hall of Fame Orchestra), “It’s So Easy” (performed by Stevie Nicks, Sheryl Crow, Glenn Frey, Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, Carrie Underwood with Paul Shaffer and the Hall of Fame Orchestra), and “When Will I Be Loved” (performed by Sheryl Crow, Emmylou Harris, Stevie Nicks, Bonnie Raitt, Carrie Underwood with Paul Shaffer and the Hall of Fame Orchestra).
E Street Band: “The E Street Shuffle”
Nirvana: “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (featuring Joan Jett), “Aneurysm” (featuring Kim Gordon), “Lithium” (featuring Annie Clark), and “All Apologies” (featuring Annie Clark, Kim Gordon, Joan Jett, and Lorde).
The 30th Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band
Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble
With seven inductees, this is definitely the most jam-packed ceremony on this set. It’s also probably the most free-wheeling (Withers’ induction speech is all-around short, sweet, and hilarious) and profane (Miley Cyrus opens her induction speech for Joan Jett by recounting the first time she wanted to have sex with her).
Cyrus also chewed the scenery during her team-up with Jett for “Crimson and Clover.” Fortunately, there were plenty of other musical highlights from this ceremony, most notably Stevie Wonder’s note-perfect cover of “Ain’t No Sunshine” with Withers by his side. It was also a treat watching a more adult Green Day do their thing and (of course) Paul McCartney pick up a bass guitar and join his old buddy Ringo for “I Wanna Be Your Man.”
Not surprisingly, McCartney’s charming induction speech — praising Ringo’s professional musicality when he first heard him play and recounting the origins of the Beatles — was a major highlight. We also got some great emotional moments courtesy of Patti Smith (who recalled the day in NYC when she heard that Lou Reed had passed), and other funny one-liners (Mike Dirnt of Green Day thanking the Ford Motor Company for making the Econoline van they toured in back in the day).
Joan Jett & The Blackhearts: “Bad Reputation,” “Cherry Bomb” (featuring Dave Grohl and Gary Ryan), and “Crimson and Clover” (featuring Miley Cyrus, Gary Ryan, Dave Grohl, and Tommy James).
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band: “Born in Chicago” (performed by Zac Brown, Tom Morello, Jason Ricci with Paul Shaffer and the Hall of Fame Orchestra).
Bill Withers: “Ain’t No Sunshine” (featuring Stevie Wonder and the Paul Shaffer Hall of Fame Orchestra), and “Lean on Me” (featuring John Legend, Stevie Wonder with Paul Shaffer and the Hall of Fame Orchestra).
Green Day: “American Idiot,” “When I Come Around,” and “Basket Case.”
Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble: “Texas Flood” (performed by Double Trouble with Doyle Bramhall II, Gary Clark Jr., John Mayer, and Jimmie Vaughan).
Lou Reed: “Satellite of Love” (performed by Beck, Jason Falkner, Roger Joseph Manning Jr., Nate Ruess with Paul Shaffer and the Hall of Fame Orchestra).
Ringo Starr: “Boys” (featuring Green Day), “It Don’t Come Easy” (featuring Joe Walsh with Paul Shaffer and the Hall of Fame Orchestra), and “I Wanna Be Your Man” (featuring Paul McCartney, Joe Walsh with Paul Shaffer and the Hall of Fame Orchestra and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Jam Band.)
The 31st Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
This is certainly the most sparse and (sorry to say) disappointing Hall of Fame induction ceremony on this set. Yes, there are only 5 inductees here — same number as the 29th annual ceremony in 2014 — but only three of them get musical tributes.
Cheap Trick acquitted themselves very nicely at the end of the show, but this ceremony was more notable for the people who weren’t there. While Deep Purple and Chicago also took the stage to perform, they did so without former band members Ritchie Blackmore and Peter Cetera, respectively. (Cetera, in particular, seemed to be playing a “will he/won’t he show up” game up until the 11th hour.)
Oh well, at least Deep Purple and Chicago got to play: N.W.A. didn’t get the benefit of performing (probably their choice, to be fair) nor did they get a tribute from a hip-hop artist they influenced. (I mean, Kendrick Lamar was standing *right there* after inducting them.) The iconic L.A. rappers did have the most memorable moment of the evening — besides Kid Rock stumbling through the teleprompter script during his Cheap Trick induction — as MC Ren took his time on stage to respond to Gene Simmons’ belief that hip-hop doesn’t belong in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Deep Purple: “Highway Star” and “Smoke on the Water.”
Chicago: “Saturday in the Park,” “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” (featuring Rob Thomas), and “25 or 6 to 4.”
Cheap Trick: “I Want You to Want Me,” “Dream Police,” “Surrender,” and “Ain’t That a Shame” (featuring the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Jam Band).
The 32nd Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
Fortunately, In Concert goes out on a high note…and I promise that’s not just a nod to the fact that Snoop Dogg shows up to induct the late Tupac Shakur with a touching speech.
The show opens with ELO performing and paying tribute to the late Chuck Berry — who died shortly before this ceremony — with a rocking rendition of “Roll Over Beethoven.” At the other end of the spectrum, show-closers Pearl Jam dedicate a lively version of “Given to Fly” to actor Michael J. Fox. In between, we get some terrific performances from Yes and Journey; even though Journey performed with newer singer Arnel Pineda, original frontman Steve Perry was present and got to be inducted into the Hall with his former bandmates.
Still, the star of the show was Joan Baez, who gave one of In Concert‘s very best speeches. In addition to living up to her folkie/activist reputation by using her time to speak out against injustice, Baez also told a funny anecdote about how her granddaughter had no idea she was a music legend…until Baez was able to get her backstage at a Taylor Swift concert. If Baez’s granddaughter needs any more evidence, she can pick up this terrific Blu-ray set.
ELO: “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Evil Woman” and “Mr. Blue Sky.”
Joan Baez: “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” “Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)” (featuring Mary Chapin Carpenter, Amy Ray, and Emily Saliers), and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” (featuring Mary Chapin Carpenter, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers).
Yes: “Roundabout” (featuring Geddy Lee) and “Owner of a Lonely Heart.”
Journey: “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart),” Lights,” and “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
Pearl Jam: “Alive,” “Given to Fly,” and “Better Man.”
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: In Concert is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at an average of 12 mbps. Obviously, the bitrate is very much on the low end given the fact that there is a ton of content crammed into each of these two discs. This also isn’t the most visually dynamic presentation, since each ceremony pretty much looks the exact same. (Three out of the four take place at Brooklyn’s Barclay’s Center while the 2015 ceremony was at Cleveland’s Public Hall.) All that being said, this disc offers a remarkably clean and sharp image. There is some impressive fine detail on many of the artists’ wardrobe choices. There are also some surprising pops of color, including Green Day drummer Tre Cool’s green hair and Bruce Springsteen’s outrageous tan.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track can rock your living room when the occasion calls for it, most notably during more high-octane peformances from the likes of Nirvana, Joan Jett, Green Day, and Deep Purple. The music here gets off to a nicely understated start with the subs doing some dynamic work with Peter Gabriel’s percussive songs. Overall, the vocals remain in the front speakers, while there is a little less activity in the rears than you might expect. Still, this remains a dynamic and versatile presentation that does justice to the music legends on stage.
I’m honestly not even mad at the complete lack of special features: the fact that we get some deep cuts (like “The E Street Shuffle”) and the induction speeches in their entirety means this entire disc is basically one extended peek backstage.
This Time Life release also makes it easy for you to go directly to what you want to see. Each ceremony features a Play All option along with the ability to hop straight to your preferred inductee/musical performance. Yes, these concerts each aired on TV previously, but this set is a convenient way to have a little chunk of rock history in one place.