By Joel Barrios, Rock At Night Miami Correspondent
The 32nd Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, took place last Friday, April 7th, 2017 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York for the third time. You didn’t need to be a music nerd to realize how fantastic the 2017 Class roster was: Pearl Jam, Tupac Shakur, Joan Baez, Yes, ELO, Nile Rodgers of Chic, and Journey. The ceremony was also broadcasted live and uncut at The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. An edited version will air April 29 at 8 p.m. on HBO. The event had the media buzzing for weeks. One of the main rumors was the one about Steve Perry reuniting with his former bandmates in Journey for a surprise performance. The reclusive front-man, who quit the band 25 years ago, was confirmed to be in attendance; and while the band initially downplayed the possibility of an onstage reunion, other rumors pointed that Perry will in fact step up to the mic and sing a song or two.
The induction ceremony started later than originally scheduled, and everyone in attendance clamored as each of the 2017 inductee’s names are briefly mentioned. A beautiful tribute to Chuck Berry, who passed away on March 18th, kicked off the night, huge applauses dominated the airwaves when his name was honored in the opening comments. He was inducted during the first ceremony back in 1986. A video reel of his career’s highlights flashed across the screen with some of his biggest hits echoing in the theater. Jeff Lynne’s ELO opened the night with a rendition of “Roll Over Beethoven”, continuing with the infectious choruses of their 1975’s hit “Evil Woman” and closing with “Mr. Blue Sky” wrapped up in an orchestral finale.
Dhani Harrison took the stage to officially induct ELO into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He recounted memories of his father, George Harrison, describing one of his final conversations with his father, which revolved around Lynne’s talents. He credited Lynne for helping him through some of the hardest musical moments in his life. During a more than 10 minutes long speech he mocked the 2016 presidential election hinting people would probably rather be on ELO’s alien spaceship than here on Earth. Some moments later ELO got a standing ovation as the band was officially inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The group took the stage as 1976’s “Telephone Line” blasted through the theater.
When Yes was finally announced as an inductee into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on the third attempt, the classic and progressive rock community felt relieved. Even more so that Journey and Electric Light Orchestra, Yes has probably been featured on as many lists of Rock & Roll Hall of Fame snubs as any artist. Since 1968 the progressive rock combo has created some of the most iconic and technically excellent music ever to be written. From “Roundabout” to “Owner of a Lonely Heart” and beyond, the music of Yes has defined several generations.
Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson of Rush appeared on stage to induct Yes and they shared endearing stories of listening to Yes in their youth. “It changed the way I played and listened to music forever,” says Lee. “Yes helped give me the gift of music,” said Lifeson. “They helped me become a better musician.” And Geddy Lee summed up the feeling of Yes finally being inducted when he added: “It’s our great, great privilege and honor to right a terrible wrong and finally welcome Yes into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.” The Yes members received a standing ovation and Steve Howe offered an impassioned tribute to fans in his acceptance speech. Anderson’s fellow former Yes co-founders Bill Bruford, Tony Kaye and the late Chris Squire were also recognized. Rick Wakeman crushed the comedy with sexual jokes during his induction acceptance speech. He began by saying his first sexual experience actually happened decades ago just a few miles away from where the ceremony was taking place at the Barclays Center in New York tonight. He admitted it wasn’t very good — especially because he was by himself.
Fan roared at the first note of the 1971’s hit “Roundabout”, with Anderson joined by fellow inductees Steve Howe, Trevor Rabin, Rick Wakeman, Alan White. Confirming a long rumored appearance which was floating around for weeks, Geddy Lee chipped in by taking the spot of the late Chris Squire. Steve Howe began the tune with tenderly picked, exploratory lines on guitar, and the whole band lurched into action when the rhythm section arrived, goosed by Lee’s forceful, cinder block-sized bass notes. Following “Roundabout,” Lee left the stage and the remaining players turned their attention to Yes’ biggest hit, “Owner of a Lonely Heart”. Trevor Rabin’s riffs bent the air while Anderson pushed his voice to its most urgent registry, and by the end of the song Wakeman, who was wearing one of his trademark capes, came out from behind his embankment of keyboards and picked up a keytar, joining Rabin in a stroll through the crowd. April 29th can’t come soon enough for us to watch this over and over. Undoubtedly an historic moment in the history of music to be treasured forever.
The other long awaited moment of the night came with the unison cheer eruption the instant Journey’s highlight reel flashed onto the big screen and the band appeared on stage. Call it what you will – Arena Rock, Stadium Rock, Concert Rock – the music of Journey helped defined the big rock and roll sound of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Pat Monahan of Train took the stage to formally induct Journey into the Rock and said it’s always been his dream to induct Journey, who he calls the “Heart of San Francisco music.” “They weren’t afraid to be romantic and hold women in high esteem. I don’t believe in guilty pleasures – you either like it or you don’t”. He pointed out that Journey has sold more than 100 million albums worldwide, making them one of the best-selling bands of all time.
Journey -including Steve Perry- joined together on stage to accept their induction trophy. Every single soul in attendance was on their toes and cheering while Steve Perry waved to the crowd. He took the microphone and expressed his gratefulness for being able to perform with his fellow bandmates. He traced the band’s history, mentioning Herbie Herbert, who he said he wouldn’t had been here tonight if it weren’t for him. The audience exploded and chanted “Steve”, “Steve”! He said to the audience and the Journey fans how much they love them and how much their devotion played its part for Journey to be there. He said “You are the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. You put us here”.
Finally, Journey appeared on stage to perform “Separate Ways” with current singing Arnel Pineda. The band dedicated “When the Lights Go Down in the City” to Steve Perry. Next up was fan favorite “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Rumors proved to be wrong as the band finished their performance and Steve Perry did not participate.
His shots have graced many Rock at Night articles, as part of his press and photo coverage for music events throughout the US and big music festivals like Cruise to the Edge 2015, RosFest 2016, Morsefest 2016 and Progpower 2016 to name a few. His work has been also featured in the prestigious UK magazine Prog.