The 25th Anniversary Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Concerts DVD
" Some Classic Moments "

This three-DVD set starts with Tom Hanks' introduction: "For twenty-five years, a building on the lake in Cleveland has been calling out around the world that rock 'n' roll is synonymous with love and happiness, with peace and freedom, with joy and "RESPECT." Hail, hail rock 'n' roll!" Wow, what a typical clichˇ, boring! Come on Tom, can't you be a little more believable? Show some soul and depth!_ _On October 2009 there were two nights of shows at the Big Apple's Madison Square Garden celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Disc One: Hall of Fame Inductee Jerry Lee Lewis starts the proceedings with a solo performance of "Great Balls of Fire." It's an inauspicious start. Thankfully Crosby, Stills and Nash storm the stage with rousing versions of "Woodstock" and "Almost Cut My Hair." This band still sounds very youthful; outstanding vocals prevail and their dynamics and energy are still astounding. Of particular note is Stephen Stills who is an extremely underrated guitar player and really sparkles here on guitar. CS&N's guests include Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, and Jackson Browne, none of whom adds to CS&N's opening two songs.

Stevie Wonder and his band pounced on his classic "For Once In My Life." Smokey Robinson joins in with a lackluster "The Tracks of My Tears." Wonder miscues his words on "The Way You Make Me Feel" with John Legend, but it's more than fine as this song is thumpingly funky. B.B. King sits in with Wonder on a jazzy take of (what else?) "The Thrill Is Gone," and B.B. is given ample time to sing and solo. The interplay with Wonder's piano is spontaneous and ear catching; Wonder also adds trading vocals which work very well. Sting does well on vocals and on bass with Wonder's "Higher Ground," which smartly segues into the Police's "Roxanne" where Wonder adds strong vocals alongside Sting.

Jeff Beck's bombastic "Superstition" is mind-boggling. Beck really takes this classic into another stratosphere! There's a great video clip of 1950s-'60s Greenwich Village photos that are thoroughly enjoyable leading into Paul Simon's set. But Simon and company seem awkward, both vocally and in his persona. His vocal timing was off, which for the first time had me hitting the fast forward button on my remote. Art Garfunkel reconnects with Simon and is also unimpressive. Another dynamite video clip of Atlantic Records greats precedes Aretha's set, but with all due "respect" to the Queen of Soul, she ain't nearly what she used to be, nor is her band. The highlight of her set is when Annie Lennox picks up the pieces on an up-tempo "Chain of Fools."

Disc Two: OMFG! It's Metallica, yikes! Lou Reed joins them for an okay version of "Sweet Jane" (sans the fabulous "Intro" segment that Steve Hunter laid down on Reed's live recording Rock N Roll Animal. I won't comment about Ozzy's performance of "Iron Man/Paranoid" other than to say, "Ouch!" Believe it or not, Ray Davies performs with Metallica on a unmemorable "All Day and All of the Night" where I thought "You Really Got Me" might have been a better fit for these hard rockers. Nonetheless, Davies also seemed uncomfortable and looked relieved when he exited the stage as the band played on.

U2's set was okay, but not when Bruce Springsteen jumped in, especially when Bruce tried to trade vocals on "I Still Haven't Found What I am Looking For." Mick Jagger tries to add some spark to U2 on "Gimme Shelter" and the U2 band just does not connect, though I really enjoyed Fergie's powerful lead-in and ending vocals. Okay, enough of U2, on to Jeff Beck where there's yet another fine video segment of blues cats with nice footage of Muddy, Wolf, B.B., Clapton, the Yardbirds (with a young Beck), and Hendrix. Beck's band is impressive and perhaps his best-ever, especially with the wonderful Tal Wilkenfeld on bass and Vinnie Colaiuta's drumming. Beck is allotted four tracks here, the first with Sting's vocals on Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready" where Sting is just not soulful enough and does not play bass.

Buddy Guy sits in with Beck on Willie Dixon's "Let Me Love You Baby" and, man, do the sparks fly from both Buddy and Beck's guitars. Nice trade-off licks here! Billy Gibbons tries his best "Foxey Lady" but his vocals just don't work. Surprisingly his guitar work is far better than I expected and works well with Beck. Beck's finale is a tremendous cover of the Beatles "A Day In the Life." Whew! Beck is so ageless and timeless. Outstanding energy ensues, and his band accompaniment is magnificent. Wilkenfeld is given a short, but nice bass solo segment and improvises intuitively with both Beck and Colaiuta.

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band attempt to soul things up for Sam Moore (of Sam and Dave), but it doesn't work. No problems with Moore's vocals, it's the band that just isn't funky and soulful enough, not to mention Bruce's vocals, which don't fit here. Other E Street Band guests include Tom Morello, John Fogerty, and Billy Joel- yawn... Plus what makes matters worse is that Bruce is not a good emcee and I did not care for his political remarks, which really don't belong here. Saving Springsteen's set was his finale (Yay!), a tribute to Jackie Wilson on "Higher and Higher" where Darlene Love really sounds sharp, but the rest of the guests (especially Joel, Fogerty, and Springsteen) just don't make the grade.

Disc Three (Bonus DVD): CS&N's back with J.T. doing "Mexico" and a pretty lame "Teach Your Children" with guests Raitt, Browne, and Taylor. Stevie Wonder smartly segue's "Uptight (Everything's Alright)" into "I Was Made to Love Her." And tears through "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours." Last, but not least, John Legend and Wonder perform a very cool and hip cover of Marvin Gaye's "Mercy Mercy Me." Both Simon & Garfunkel and Metallica deliver nothing worth mentioning. Worse than that, an expanded version of the previously documented "Iron Man/Paranoid" caused me to punch the next track button on my remote. U2's "Mysterious Ways," nah, but the Black Eyed Peas assist "Where is the Love/One."

Alright, the Jeff Beck bonus tracks (yeah!) included here are a rollicking "Freeway Jam," where you better buckle up. This is a great workout for the entire band. If Tal Wilkenfeld isn't one of the best new bassists on the scene, than my ears are shot! Tal's bass playing is magnificent alongside Jeff on Beck's "Big Block." Unfortunately, they saved the worst for last. Springsteen dares to cover the Clash's "London Calling," an unfathomable choice. Executive Producer Tom Hanks should be tarred and feathered for programming this track after the outstanding Jeff Beck segment. What were the programmers thinking? A full blown "Higher and Higher" closes this three-DVD box, which is far, far better than the Clash cover, even though it is redundant having been previously covered on Disc Two.

Included within the packaging of The 25th Anniversary Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Concerts DVD is an excellent (un-numbered) thirty-six page booklet that contains the words of David Fricke and Brian Hunt, and photographs by Mark Seliger. The DVD's features 2.0 Stereo and 5.1 surround-sound options, where the audio is superb throughout and the video is brilliant as well.

In summary, the best performances (in order of magnitude) come from Jeff Beck; Stevie Wonder; and Crosby, Stills and Nash. The other performers and performances are just not my cup of music. Thank goodness for our trusty remotes! That thankfully makes personalized viewing options that make it more than worthwhile to plunk down your dollars for this three-DVD set. Enjoy!

Bob Putignano: