Matt Carmichael
mattc@rocknroll.net
The concert for the rocknroll Hall of Fame
Al Green is singing his heart out already. And this is just the press conference. Some people illustrate their points with hand gestures, he does it with song. But what to you expect from a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, especially on this day, the opening of the Hall of Fame itself. In addition to a couple of numbers himself he tells us that he going to duet with Aretha on "Freeway of Love." She saw him in the parking lot after rehearsals and suggested it. He is modest about sharing a stage with the Queen of Soul, "I'll just tip-toe up to the mic and do my little thing," he says.

The King of Soul, James Brown, was on that stage as well. His performance at almost 2 am brought the audience back from the verge of slumber and kicked them into high gear. Little Richard, making his entrance standing atop his piano, carried on that wave with a neck breaking "Tutti Fruti."

This was a concert about legends doing what they do best: making the audience rock and roll.

Rock n Roll is about moments and scenes. Chuck Berry in a white tux doing his low down strut while playing "Johnny B. Goode." Jerry Lee Lewis kicking out a piano bench as "Great Balls of Fire" reaches a climax. Jams where the stars all just get up on stage and play. Springsteen and the E Street band joined Chuck Berry for the shows opener, "Johnny B. Goode," without even rehearsing it. "If you have to rehearse Johnny B. Goode, you shouldn't be playing it." says Max Weinberg E Street's drummer. "When [Chuck Berry's] foot goes down you play. When it comes up, you stop."

Perhaps this theory held true for some of the other unlikely combinations as well: Soul Asylum, fronted by Iggy Pop and then by Lou Reed, kicking out "Sweet Jane," in memory of former bandmate Sterling Morrison; Slash and Boz Scaggs doing Hendrix's bluesy "Red House"; The Man In Black, Johnny Cash, deathly cool playing "Ring of Fire" with John Mellencamp. The list goes on.

Dylan showed up, but the Brits, with the notable exception of the "Way-oh" screaming Kinks, skipped this party. No Who here, nor any Beatles or Stones. Of course with a concert as long as this, maybe less was more. The Beatles music was well represented by, of all people, Jon Bon Jovi who did classy covers of "With a Little Help from my Friends," and "Imagine/Give Peace a Chance."

The older artists belted out the tunes that helped shape music, and those who were shaped, such as Melissa Etheridge and Jackson Browne, played tributes to the artists who paved the way for them.

As the concert came to an abrupt halt after Berry, Springsteen, and Etheridge with the "house band" (Booker T. and the MGs with G. E. Smith) doing "Rock and Roll Music," some fans felt cheated out of the planned All-Star jams but they shouldn't have. What they got was six and one half hours of fame and fun. Rock history in a nut shell, played as it should be: Live, loud and fast.

c1996 Thompson Target Media