(Yahoo!) - Since KISS announced in advance that they absolutely would not perform at this year's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony without their current lineup — and the Rock Hall big-wigs only wanted to see a reunion of the original members — KISS did not rock and roll for even part of the night at Thursday's Rock Hall event at Brooklyn's Barclays Center. Instead it was Nirvana who provided all of the drama, excitement, and unpredictability upon which rock 'n' roll was founded.
Even so, for the band members and their fans, the induction was bittersweet. Almost exactly 20 years has passed since Nirvana singer and guitarist Kurt Cobain took his life, and Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic and drummer Dave Grohl (now the frontman for the Foo Fighters) haven't played Cobain's songs together in all that time.
"I'm probably going to cry," said Cobain's mother, Wendy O'Connor. "I'm already crying, because he'd be so proud. He'd say he wasn't, but he would be. I just miss him so much. I miss such an angel."
After the brief, touching words, Cobain's widow Courtney Love stepped up to the mic. "We all start bands when we're kids, and this is my family I'm looking at right now, all of you – brother Michael [Stipe, of R.E.M.], brother Krist, grandma Wendy, Mr. Grohl," she said. Love then hugged and kissed both Novoselic and Grohl, even though the three have remained distant through the years. "I just wish that Kurt was here to feel this and be this," she continued. "Twenty years ago, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame maybe wasn't… But tonight he really would have appreciated it. And I just want to give this [award] to Francis, our daughter, who's not here because she's ill."
The band was introduced by Stipe, who delivered an eloquent speech that addressed the power and historical importance of the band as part of a counterculture that somehow became mainstream. "Nirvana tapped into a voice that was yearning to be heard," he said. "In the '80s and early '90s, the idea of a hopeful, democratic country had practically been dismantled by Iran Contra, by AIDS, by the Reagan, Bush Sr. administrations. With their music and their attitudes, Nirvana blasted through all that with crystalline, nuclear rage and fury. Nirvana were kicking against the system to show a sweet and beautiful, but fed-up fury coupled with howling vulnerability. They spoke truth, and a lot of people listened. They were singular and loud and melodic and deeply original. And that voice… That voice. Kurt, we miss you."
Up until Nirvana took the stage, the big question of the night was who was going to fill Cobain's shoes. Grohl hinted in an Instagram post a couple days earlier that Joan Jett would join Nirvana onstage, and indeed, she did, performing "Smells Like Teen Spirit" with unbridled fury, clad in a black leather jacket and sawing her guitar with as much anger as elation. But there were bigger surprises to come.
Sonic Youth bassist and vocalist Kim Gordon sang "Aneurysm," and while she didn't even try to hit the notes, instead wailing atonally, she brought a previously unheard level of ferocity to the song. Nirvana's choice to include Gordon wasn't arbitrary. Sonic Youth were vocal supporters of Nirvana before "Nevermind" came out and invited the band to open for them right around the time "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was starting to hit the airwaves.
For their final two songs, Nirvana tapped two younger performers, also both female, which spoke for Cobain's strong belief in feminism and equality. Annie Clark, aka St. Vincent, performed "Lithium." The final vocalist was none other than Lorde, who sang "All Apologies" with a passion and vulnerability unanticipated from someone so young whose claim to fame is the pop hit "Royals." On that song, Jett and Germs/Nirvana/Foo Fighters member Pat Smear both played acoustic guitar, Novoselic manipulated and accordion, and Gordon filled in on bass.
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