Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Pearl Jam, Tupac Shakur, Journey, Joan Baez inducted

Electric Light Orchestra paid tribute to the late Chuck Berry (above); and Joan Baez, the sole woman among the inductees, at the ceremony.
Electric Light Orchestra paid tribute to the late Chuck Berry (above); and Joan Baez, the sole woman among the inductees, at the ceremony. PHOTO: NYTIMES
Electric Light Orchestra paid tribute to the late Chuck Berry; and Joan Baez (above), the sole woman among the inductees, at the ceremony.
Electric Light Orchestra paid tribute to the late Chuck Berry; and Joan Baez (above), the sole woman among the inductees, at the ceremony.PHOTO: NYTIMES

NEW YORK • What is a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony without some drama?

But at its 32nd annual event, at Barclays Center in Brooklyn last Friday night, the usual controversies - band schisms, score-settling at the microphone - were mostly absent.

Pearl Jam, Journey, Electric Light Orchestra and Yes played their hits and thanked their fans, families and business managers, and rapper Snoop Dogg paid earnest tribute to Tupac Shakur.

Steve Perry, the long-estranged singer of Journey, hugged his former band mates and smiled, but did not sing with them, as fans had hoped.

The most daring statement of the night might have been when Joan Baez, the sole woman among the inductees, made a reference to United States President Donald Trump.

Bob Dylan had appeared on video to pay tribute to his fellow folk singer. "Joan Baez, she was staggering," he said.

Baez took her moment with the microphone to send a political message. "We the people are the only ones who can create change," she said. "I'm ready. I hope you are too."

In case there was any doubt to whom she was referring, she ended her rendition of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot with the line "carry me - you, us, even Donald - home".

The ceremony opened with Chuck Berry, the father of rock 'n' roll, looming large over the night's music and the stage itself. Berry, who died three weeks ago at age 90, was the first inductee to the Rock Hall, in 1986.

In his opening remarks, Jann Wenner, founder of Rolling Stone magazine and one of the creators of the hall, said to the assorted stars on the floor at the venue: "No one in this room would be here tonight if not for this man."

Moments later, string players onstage played the opening notes to Beethoven's Fifth and Jeff Lynne led Electric Light Orchestra in a version of Berry's Roll Over Beethoven.

As they played, still images of Berry, guitar in hand, were displayed on the huge stage backdrop, like a guiding spirit.

Snoop Dogg called Tupac "the greatest rapper of all time". "While many of you remember him now as some kind of thugged-out superhero, Tupac knew he was only human," said Snoop Dogg. "It's a fact that he never shied away from. He wore it like a badge of honour."

Singer-songwriter Pharrell Williams spoke in honour of Nile Rodgers, a legendary producer and songwriter who has worked with a who's-who list of musical greats, including Madonna, Diana Ross, David Bowie, Daft Punk and Lady Gaga.

Singer-songwriter Lenny Kravitz brought out a gospel choir to help him offer a powerhouse tribute to his friend Prince, with electric renditions of When Doves Cry and The Cross.

In the end, the night belonged to Pearl Jam.

Former late-night host David Letterman, who gave the induction speech on behalf of Pearl Jam, got almost as big an ovation as the band itself. He was a last-minute addition in place of Neil Young, who called in sick.

"The poor guy just can't stay up this late," Letterman said. "It was either that or he swallowed a harmonica."

In classic Letterman monologue form, he praised the band - "a true living cultural organism" that fights against injustice - for its mid-1990s fight against "those beady-eyed bloodthirsty weasels at Ticketmaster". It is thanks to that boycott, he said, that "all concert tickets in America are now free".

The sold-out Barclay Center roared with applause when Pearl Jam finally picked up their instruments to perform. They started with Alive before moving on to Given To Fly, Better Man and Young's Keep On Rockin' In The Free World.

NYTIMES, WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 10, 2017, with the headline 'Pearl Jam, Tupac Shakur, Journey, Joan Baez inducted'. Print Edition | Subscribe