Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Bono, Fergie, and Mick Jagger perform "Gimme Shelter". (Photo Henry Ray Abrams/AP)
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which turned 25 this year, held a benefit concert at Madison Square Garden on October 29. HBO filmed the concert and televised it as a 2-part, 4 hr special. With performers like U2, Springsteen, and Metallica, you could be sure there would be no shortage of glitz and glamour. The first hour and 15 minutes or so were not very memorable: 168-year old Jerry Lee Lewis sitting at the piano and mumbling his way through Great Balls of Fire; Crosby, Stills, & Nash, singing the same old songs, with David Crosby standing in living defiance of all actuarial tables; Metallica sharing the stage with not one, but two poorly chosen special guests: Ozzy Osbourne, now just a sad parody of himself; and Lou Reed, who looked as if he was literally sleep-walking on stage. The remainder of the concert did have some terrific moments. The first was Springsteen and Patti Smith joining U2 on stage for "Because the Night". The second was Mick Jagger joining U2 for a rendition of the Stones classic "Gimme Shelter". I've never been a fan of Mick Jagger strutting around the stage like some autistic rooster, but the real revelation of the song was special guest Fergie singing the soaring female vocal originally sung by Merry Clayton.
The unequivocal highlight, though, was Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello joining the Boss and the E-Street Band for an absolutely transcendent version of "Ghost of Tom Joad". Morello's guitar turns the Springsteen-penned folk song into the hardest rocker the E-street band has ever done. Watching Bruce and Tom trade guitar solos is a study in contrasts: Bruce, arms stiff as a statue, whole body tensed as if he's on the verge of a grand mal; Morello loose and fluid, at one with his instrument. Though the performance in the clip below is not from the Madison Square Garden concert, it shows Springsteen and Morello performing the same tune in Los Angeles last spring. Check it out.