On Saturday, May 31, HBO will air a three-hour special of the 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction. If that sounds like a long ceremony, consider that the event itself — which took place April 10 in Brooklyn, New York — ran nearly two hours longer.
If you’re a Nirvana fan, though, the HBO special is required viewing, as it includes nearly every moment of the band’s triumph that night. The band’s four songs, each sung with a female lead singer, are all included, and so are the full induction speeches by Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic and even Kurt Cobain’s widow, Courtney Love.
The Nirvana segment ends the broadcast, as it did the actual ceremony, and it is the high point of the night. If anything, the HBO video edit gives more power to the music than the cavernous Barclays Center offered, and the sound is well mixed and edited.
In his induction speech, Grohl jokes that he was “the quiet one in Nirvana” but his drumming, particularly on “Aneurysm” — which he, Novoselic and Pat Smear play with Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth — is stellar. Grohl demolishes these songs, as if he’d been waiting 20 years to play them again.
Joan Jett adds an authentic punk edge to the guitar on “Smells Like Teen Spirit” that even Cobain could rarely capture, even if her voice lacks his smoothness. St. Vincent sounds great singing “Lithium,” and Lorde’s take on “All Apologies” is quirky, but interesting.
Every Hall of Fame induction seems destined to have a moment when one band member goes off the rails, which is one of the reasons watching the show can feel like high drama. Before the April ceremony, the even money was that Love would provide that controversy.
Instead, she says only a few sentences and hugs both Grohl and Novoselic, a coming together of warring parties — at least for the TV cameras. It’s the most surprising moment of the evening.
The drama instead comes from the members of KISS, who continue their long-running feud onstage. Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley refused to perform with Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, and Simmons’ speech has many moments of obvious sarcasm. Criss, in contrast, talks about how he’s survived male breast cancer, while Frehley speaks about his sobriety, and they come off as gentlemen; Simmons, in contrast, sounds embittered.
Most of the musical segments have been edited, though songs from Cat Stevens, Peter Gabriel and a Linda Ronstadt tribute are particularly well done.
Michael Stipe of R.E.M. inducted Nirvana, and his speech was emotional at the event, and even more so on the small screen.
“This is not just pop music; this is something much greater than that,” Stipe says.
Few who watched Nirvana on the rise in Seattle — or who will watch this powerful HBO broadcast — would argue.
‘2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony’
8 p.m. Saturday, May 31, on HBO.