With both present and past members being inducted (unlike with Kiss), the E Street Band made for a long line of acceptance speeches. Original E Street drummer Vini "Mad Dog" Lopez spoke, and keyboard player David Sancious praised front man Bruce Springsteen for writing songs concerned with "what life itself is about." Clarence Clemons' widow, Victoria, also spoke. Guitarist and consigliere Steven Van Zandt went last, thanking the Boss for "his relentless drive for greatness, and his insistence on continuing to write songs at an unnecessarily high level of quality that is unprecedented."
With Lopez and Sancious added to the lineup (but current member Tom Morello sitting out), Boss and band did a lively and loose three-song set of 1970s Springsteen, with extended versions of "E Street Shuffle" and "Kitty's Back" that bookended a somber version of "The River," ending in a spooky Springsteen falsetto coda.
Michael Stipe inducted Nirvana, honored in its first year of eligibility, 20 years after front man Kurt Cobain's death. Stipe said the band "tapped into a voice that was yearning to be heard. They broke though with crystalline, raging fury . . . a beautiful, fed-up fury."
In the big finale, a series of female singers took Cobain's part on stage with Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, and guitarist Pat Smear. The band sounded great, exploding with power. First up was Wynnewood's own Joan Jett, of whom Novoselic said, "I can't believe she's not in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame." She sang "Smells Like Teen Spirit" with raw, fitting fervor. She was followed by Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth, who delivered a screaming version of "Aneurysm."
"Lithium" was handled by Annie Clark, the guitarist and singer who records as St. Vincent. Asked before the show what she expected, she said, "I'm going to enjoy it on every level of the time-space continuum." With full-throated vocals riding Grohl's thundering drums, she, too, was terrific.
Novoselic switched from bass to accordion and introduced Lorde, the New Zealand teenage alt-pop star. She brought the evening to a close with a quiet, fraught version of "All Apologies."
Morello inducted Kiss in a rousing speech, celebrating the band's "impact, influence, and awesomeness." The band refused to perform because only the four original members were honored.
"We are humbled, all of us who stand up on this stage," Gene "The Demon" Simmons said in accepting. Co-frontman Paul Stanley was more combative, referencing the band's longtime status as "a people's band, not a critic's band."
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