Rock and Roll Hall concerts bring together the greats

Published Wednesday, November 4, 2009, 3:11 PM

The highlights in the pair of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th anniversary concerts that took place at Madison Square Garden last week were too numerous to mention, and since this is an Irish newspaper let’s focus on the Irish highlights, shall we?

U2 rocked MSG on Friday, the second night, and their set opened with a frantic read of “Vertigo” that was dripping with punk energy. “Mysterious Ways” is now caked with a swampy mud in a live setting without losing a bit of funk, and “Magnificent” from “No Line on the Horizon” is emerging as a highlight in a set full of highlights!

Bono introduces “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” with a long speech: “Here in rock and roll’s great cathedral, Madison Square Garden, think about all the pilgrims and pioneers that got us all here, the saints and the heretics, the poets and the punks that now make up the Hall of Fame.

“It’s a dangerous thing, this business of building idols, but at least rock and roll is not at its best about worshiping sacred cows. It’s about thousands of voices gathered at once in a great unwashed congregation, like tonight. For a lot of us here, rock and roll means just one word: liberation. Political, sexual, spiritual liberation.”

Bruce Springsteen soon strode onstage with E Streeter Roy Bittan, and after Bono’s long winded rant Springsteen cut his friend off like a designated driver escorting a drunk home. Alas, The Boss had had enough. "Let's have some fun with that," Springsteen said.

They performed “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” earnestly, with Bono and Springsteen trading lines. You don’t get better than that, you might say to yourself, until Patti Smith hopped on board and the band launched into a spine chilling version of “Because the Night,” a Springsteen-penned song made famous by the high priestess of punk. This was the first time the pair played it together, and Bono’s harmonies blended perfectly into their mix. The band played ferociously in the background as these legends belted out the anthemic chorus.

The Edge began a fluid guitar riff of “Gimme Shelter,” confirming the worst kept secret of the night. Mick Jagger, looking decades younger than his 66 years in tight pants and a navy jacket, was in the house!

He gyrated across the stage, cramming every sexy move he ever ripped off of James Brown into about two minutes of show time. You could tell this was a man who desperately missed not being onstage in about two years!

Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas, looking delectable in a short black skirt and thigh-high boots, broke into the female solo of the song made famous by soul singer Merry Clayton. “Rape, murder, it’s just a shot away,” she screamed, sending chills across the arena.

Bono stared at Jagger and Fergie, strumming his oversized green guitar absent-mindedly, seemingly unable to take in the sight before him. After a deafening applause and a bewildered “oh, my God” from Bono, the band broke into "Stuck In a Moment You Can't Get Out Of."

Jagger and his model daughter Elizabeth originally sang backup on this track when the band was recording it, but somehow their performance was left on the cutting room floor. Jagger is an amazing soul singer and I always wondered what he would do with this Motown-influenced track; he didn’t disappoint.

He was shaky for the first verse but by the time he sang “it’s a long way down from nothing at all,” he nailed the tune to the point that poor Bono just tagged along for the ride. It was funny to see these legendary lead singers step off to the side and play backup to The Edge, who sang the falsetto part of the song.

The set list ended with “Beautiful Day,” as if we didn’t know that it was already!

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