Updated from 9:59 a.m. EST Friday wtih additional photos of Kiss and Tom Morello on page 3.
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- When Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are the lamest act on an all-star bill, you know you are having a good night.
But that's just one of many surprises from the the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony at Barclays Center in Brooklyn Thursday night, which included performances by unannounced guests Stevie Nicks, Sheryl Crow, Lorde, Carrie Underwood, Joan Jett, Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt and others.
There was a terrific Kiss appreciation by Tom Morello. Peter Gabriel trotted out African pop star Youssou N'Dour to accompany him and his band on In Your Eyes.
The audience was calling for "Bruuuuuuce" for most of the evening prior to the E Street Band's segment and his speech inducting his fellows was well received. One by one, the E Street members took a painfully long time to get past the thank yous and get on with the jam. The speeches were (mostly) moving, but with each bandmember laughing about spilling well past the allotted time (supposedly 30 seconds per speech), the E Street acceptance speeches had most of us squirming in our seats.
But something about the heavily scripted nature of the presentations and the time constraint on the performances left the performance by Bruce and the E Street Band feeling stilted and uninspired.
That letdown was more than made up for by performances earlier and later. In a massive tribute to Linda Ronstadt, who was inducted but could not attend as her health no longer allows her to sing or travel, a police lineup of the baddest female voices in the business took the stage one by one and then as a harmonizing chorus: Bonnie Raitt and Emmylou Harris, Carrie Underwood, Sheryl Crow and Stevie Nicks belted out favorite songs that Ronstadt had stamped during her long career.
Last in the evening's lineup, Nirvana's surviving members Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl were joined by another string of guests who performed with them in songs that late singer and guitarist Kurt Cobain helped make famous. We heard from Joan Jett, Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth, Annie Clark of St. Vincent and Lorde. The band was also assisted by guitarist Pat Smear.
Jett's performance had been rumored ahead of the evening, but the others were more or less a complete surprise.
Both the Ronstadt and Nirvana sets, particularly Nicks, Harris, Raitt, Crow and Underwood singing When Will I Be Loved and Jett singing Smells Like Teen Spirit, were everything the Springsteen set was not: authentic, spontaneous, electrifying.
Daryl Hall and John Oates' performance was equally compelling, proving that, if anything, the famous soul duo has only gotten better with age. While Springsteen had to harass the tuxedoed audience to get out of their seats, natural makeshift dancefloors formed when Hall and Oates played their short set, including the hit I Can't Go For That.
Yusuf Islam, also known as Cat Stevens, gave a bemused, rambling acceptance speech but followed with strong renditions of his youthful hits, including Father and Son and Peace Train.
Peter Gabriel was graceful and unassuming in his acceptance speech. His performances, including a joyful romp through In Your Eyes with N'Dour, were among the most successful of the evening.
"Watch out for music," Gabriel said in closing his acceptance speech. Music can overpower you and grab change you, he said, and every once in a while music "can make you really happy."
There were many speeches during the evening, including Michael Stipe inducting Nirvana, Glenn Frey inducting Linda Ronstadt, Peter Asher inducting the late Beatle manager Brian Epstein and Rolling Stones manager Andrew Oldham, Questlove introducing Hall and Oates.
But none was as brilliant as Tom Morello's induction speech for the theatrical metal band Kiss.
Famous for outrageous platform shoes, black-and-white makeup and spitting fire and blood onstage, Kiss inspired as much criticism as love during their careers, particularly when they first broke in the 1970s. Back then they were often vilified as a gimmick.
All that just made the band even more "f***ing awesome," Morello insisted. The band's arrival in the hall of fame finally closed the case on all that, giving the band the recognition and acceptance it always deserved.
"This night proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the bullies and critics were mistaken," he said.
The band did not perform, due to well-publicized differences over whether the four original members should be joined by current members Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer. But in their acceptance speeches, each of the bandmembers recognized the importance of the original lineup in building and cementing the reputation of the act.
An anticipated jam between some of the stars to conclude the evening didn't happen. The night's speeches and performances ran long and a perfunctory announcement told the audience, "The show's over" at the end of the Nirvana segment.
-- Written by Carlton Wilkinson in New York