Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum Live Review

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum has always been something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it performs an invaluable service by preserving for future generations one of the (if not the) most important creative movements of the last century in almost exhaustive detail. On the other, it turns rock and roll into something it quite probably isn’t: something to be put in a museum, where bored schoolchildren are shipped off to in buses in the hope that they’ll learn something. This new set, put out by the museum itself, more or less perfectly encapsulates that dichotomy, and makes a strong case that the devil’s bargain for immortality might still be the best one on the table.

Over the course of nine discs, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame voids its archives of nearly everything that it has in terms of speeches, performances, rehearsal footage, and other backstage clips from their annual induction ceremony (several musical acts are inducted into the hall of fame every year, chosen by a vote of about a thousand music industry professionals, academics, and others, with the only requirement for induction being that twenty five years have passed since the artist’s first). The ceremony itself is a major fundraiser for the museum, drawing serious industry talent every year, with artists such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and most of the other ones who lived to see the 1980s being fairly well represented in all of these videos. The ceremony has drawn some criticism in recent years (the Sex Pistols notoriously did not attend their own induction ceremony, referring to the museum as ‘piss in wine’), but, judging from this footage, one thing really cannot be denied: it looks like a hell of a party. I’m not going to try and list all of the artists represented here, because it would be futile, but rest assured that if you’re wondering if anyone is here, he or she is. They perform their own songs, covers of one another’s songs, covers of classic songs, and, every once in a while, perform as something called the Rock Hall Jam Band, which can contain up to 6 or 7 recognizable faces performing in relative unity (though Bob Dylan standing in the corner with his guitar is always kind of perplexing). In general, they perform songs. Hours and hours of songs. Some of them are clearly better than others (I was especially fond of Melissa Etheridge and Jackson Browne performing ‘Wake Up, Little Susie’, even if I kind of hate the Everly Brothers), but the overall character of the music can be described as joyful and fun, if never especially confrontational, which can’t help but take some of the edge out of something that was frequently linked with Satanism (and just plain old Satan) during its formative years. All of these artists were well past their creative prime at the time they’re seen here, which doesn’t make them any less fun to watch, but does serve to underscore just how revolutionary they were in their youth.

So what is the cumulative effect of all of this footage? Kind of odd, actually. The performances and speeches are presented without any sort of structure to it, any context, or any introduction. There isn’t even a host. Whether or not you’re into all of this stuff, it’s hard to imagine a situation where someone would want to sit down and watch 9 discs of it, especially when the discs don’t appear to be divided up in any really meaningful way. One can imagine this making a good album, or a great Youtube channel, which the Hall of Fame seemed to have the foresight to understand, because each disc clearly marks who is on it and what they perform. There’s no false advertising, but it takes a rare kind who might want to spend the time on this that the set is all too willing to offer.

I guess, in the end, the set can be best likened to those Led Zeppelin U.S. tour t-shirts that are frequently worn by people who clearly did not purchase them at the original concerts. They’re cool, no doubt, and they’re a nice bit of merchandise, but they’re exactly that: merchandise. The kind of commemorative cup or poster that you would get at a concert that’s very nice, and reminds you of the nice time you had (or would like to have had, if you had been there), but it is in many ways superfluous to the experience itself.

DVD Bonus Features

In addition to the live footage, there's also a fair deal of backstage rehearsal footage, which shows stars interacting with one another. Pretty cool.

Purchase Note: The 9-disc set is available exclusively at www.RockHallDVDs.com for $120. The item offered on Amazon.com is a 3-disc version of the set (missing 2/3 of what's offered in this set).

"Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum Live" is on sale October 20, 2009 and is rated NR. Concert-Film. Directed by N/A. Starring Various.

Oct
22
2009
Anders Nelson • Associate Editor

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