When Journey, Pearl Jam, and Rush all covered Neil Young

The final jam at the ending of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony is a perfect encapsulation of the establishment itself: overblown, overstuffed, too reliant on old history without actually paying any attention or respect to that old history. Most of the time, the assembled musicians bust through a simple blues inspired jam such as ‘Crossroads’, but there was something special about the 2014 induction ceremony.

If a band has a stadium-ready song with less than five chords in their repertoire, sometimes that’s what’s trotted out as the final jam of the night. But between Pearl Jam, Joan Baez, Electric Light Orchestra, Journey, Tupac Shakur, and Yes, there wasn’t exactly an easy choice. It would have been wild to see the entire stage fumble over ‘Roundabout’, but thankfully we were spared a final ‘Don’t Stop Belivin’ capper.

Instead, Pearl Jam pulled out a song that makes frequent appearances in their stage show: Neil Young’s ‘Rockin in the Free World’. Young was originally set to induct Pearl Jam that night, but he came down with an illness just before flying out, so David Letterman was tapped as a last-second alternative. Eddie Vedder and his band of grunge rockers decided that it would be apt to pay tribute to Young in his absence.

But they weren’t alone. The ending jam is a maximalist affair, so anyone involved in the night’s proceedings is welcome to plug in and take part. That included Journey’s Neal Schon, Yes’ Trevor Rabin, and even Rush’s Alex Lifeson, who was there with his bandmate Geddy Lee to induct Yes.

Also around is former Pearl Jam drummer Jack Irons banging on floor toms and Dhani Harrison, for some indiscernible reason. Geddy Lee eventually plugs in and joins the fun as Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament makes an impromptu switch to acoustic guitar. It’s chaotic – but in a rollicking and charmingly shambolic kind of way.

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