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Blu-ray Review: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: In Concert

“Rock and roll is not an instrument. It’s not even a style of music. It’s a spirit. That’s what connects us all.” – Ice Cube at the induction ceremony for NWA (the 31st overall ceremony in 2016).

Established in 1983, music’s hallowed Hall of Fame celebrates musicians, producers, technicians, and other notable people. Though it’s located at 1100 Rock and Roll Boulevard in Cleveland, Ohio, the Hall’s past induction ceremonies rotated between its Cleveland home, Los Angeles, and New York City. This exclusive (Time Life) retail home video set’s performances, as well as all future induction ceremonies, alternate between Public Hall in Cleveland and the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

The DVD (four discs) and Blu-ray (two discs) sets offer a high amount of music history among the four ceremonies from 2014 to 2017 (the 29th to 32nd). This Blu-ray version reviewed here contains 674 minutes of great material.

The 53 live performances include Cheap Trick, Chicago, Deep Purple, Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), Peter Gabriel, Green Day, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Journey, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ringo Starr, Rush, and Yes. There are also rare collaborative performances, celebrity appearances, special honorary speeches, and more.

Bruce Springsteen joins inductees (his) E Street Band on “E Street Shuffle.” Annie Clark (St. Vincent), Kim Gordon, Joan Jett, and Lorde join in on Nirvana’s induction performance with the two surviving members, Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic. The Red Hot Chili Peppers perform Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” with Billie Joe Armstrong, George Clinton, Slash, and Ronnie Wood. These are just some of the memorable performance highlights in this quality home video set.

Pearl Jam’s performance also ranked high on my list along with David Letterman’s declaration that the band is “a true living cultural organism.” Their set, which included “Alive,” “Better Man,” and “Given to Fly,” impressed with energy, raw talent, and driving emotion.

At the 30th induction ceremony, Ringo Starr’s induction performance with Paul McCartney and Joe Walsh on “It Don’t Come Easy” and “I Wanna Be Your Man,” plus “Boys” with Green Day, rocked the house and ended the evening. Green Day energized the middle of the event with “American Idiot,” “When I Come Around,” and “Basket Case” after a great beginning set from Joan Jett & the Blackhearts with “Bad Reputation,” “Cherry Bomb,” and “Crimson and Clover.”

Some bittersweet performances included Journey performing three classics: “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart),” “Lights,” and “Don’t Stop Believin'” without longtime lead singer Steve Perry, though he did share the stage with the band for the induction speeches. Patti Smith accepted for Lou Reed’s induction, John Mayer inducted Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, with Jimmie Vaughan accepting on behalf of his brother Stevie, and Peter Wolf inducted The Paul Butterfield Blues Band with Elvin Bishop and Lee Butterfield accepting on behalf of his father Paul Butterfield.

Cat Stevens’s performance of “Father & Son” provides nice variety among the louder, rock anthems, but is no less powerful. Joan Baez continued her social activist causes among her folk song performances, which included (Woody Guthrie cover) “Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos).”

Memorable reunion performances include original Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos joining the band for the first time in six years on “Dream Police” and “Surrender” and original members of Chicago performing together for the first time in 25 years.

Complete Hall of Fame induction speeches include Coldplay’s Chris Martin inducting Peter Gabriel, Stevie Wonder inducting Bill Withers, Metallica’s Lars Ulrich inducting Deep Purple, and (E Street Band guitarist) Steven Van Zandt accepting the Ahmet Ertegun Lifetime Achievement Award for songwriter, producer and record label executive Bert Berns.

One of the biggest omissions was guitarist/producer Nile Rodgers’ acceptance of the Award for Musical Excellence at the 32nd induction ceremony – for his solo career, not for his 11-time nominated band Chic – but at least Snoop Dogg’s acceptance speech on behalf of Tupac Shakur was included. It’s unfortunate NWA did not perform at the 31st induction ceremony because this set would have benefited from even more variety.

Home video audiences only get the highlighted and chosen experiences here. It’s always a nice advantage to avoid long waits, sounds issues and high costs, though sometimes there is nothing like a live performance. This set does a great job capturing the moments that honor expert musicianship that satisfies audiences on several levels.

Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Nicks, Sheryl Crow, and Carrie Underwood performed well supporting Linda Ronstadt at the 29th Annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in 2014 on “It’s So Easy.” The remaining songs in that memorable set are “Blue Bayou,” “Different Drum,” “You’re No Good,” and “When Will I Be Loved.”

My personal favorite on this set, Peter Gabriel, summed up music the best with the following quote:

Watch out for music – it should come with a health warning. It can be dangerous. It can make you feel so alive, so connected to the people all around you and connected to what you really are inside. And it can make you think that the world could and should be a much better place. And just occasionally, it can make you very, very happy.

This highly recommended set (3.5 stars out of four) has an excellent DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix, but unfortunately no optional English subtitles or SDH captions. An included booklet provides a physical list of content for viewers.

No bonus features are included here, but if you’re looking for more music, then Time Life also offers the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Concert Digital Album Collection – five digital releases respectively spanning the ceremonies from 2010-11, 2012-13, 2014, 2015, and 2016-17. This collection includes some groundbreaking live performances from these home video sets plus bonus performances from Heart, Darlene Love, Leon Russell, The Stooges (with Iggy Pop), Rush, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Alice Cooper, Donovan, Dr. John, The Hollies, The Small Faces/The Faces, Tom Waits, and others. The digital releases are available on iTunes, Amazon, and all other leading digital retailers.

Photo credits: Time Life

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