Metallica lacked the bottom, that visceral pounding on your chest that you get at a live gig.  They proved conventional wisdom, that rock and roll doesn’t work on TV.

I stumbled into last night’s 25th Anniversary Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Concert during Paul Simon.  When Crosby & Nash joined him to sing "Here Comes The Sun" I felt warm all over.  I remembered playing the track two months after "Abbey Road" was released, when it finally stopped snowing after two days and the glowing orb emerged.  George Harrison seems to have been forgotten, this was a fitting tribute.  And it reminded us of a time when rock and roll drove the world, when nothing more important was happening than the Beatles.

Everybody took up a guitar.  Everybody listened to the radio.  We needed to get closer.  This was no Facebook, this was something fully alive, that got inside and made you feel powerful, allowed you to transcend your problems, you just wanted to get closer.

And when Art Garfunkel came out and joined his old partner I marveled that "Sounds Of Silence" was a hit fully forty four years ago, at this exact time of year.  To listen to the two men sing was to feel young and old at the same time.

Then the rockers hit the stage.  Ray Davies was out of voice, the Lou Reed number didn’t quite come together and Ozzy was hilarious but he looked younger than anybody on stage, having had way too much work.  They all tried.  But this was what it appeared to be, a special event, pairing buddies both old and new and leaving us…sadly somnambulant.  We were watching TV, we weren’t feeling TV!

Then came U2.  "Vertigo" was botched so badly at first I wasn’t even sure what song it was.

But one thing was clear.  In this context, where you could see him, it was indisputable that Bono was a phenomenal front man.  The moves, the words, they were beyond charisma.  Charisma is what an actor has, something surface, something vapid.  Whereas we want to get inside our rock stars, we want to see what makes them tick.

And when the number ended, Bono started to rap.  About going to Yonkers, to Queens.  But then he and his band took us higher than that, lifted us up over Madison Square Garden to the point we were hovering over the entire isle of Manhattan.

This was the treated guitar intro introduced on "Achtung Baby".  The dark sound that dared us to come inside, to join the experience. And then the twiddling lead, like a blinking star in the sky inviting our attention.  Then the rat-a-tat-tat of Larry Mullen, Jr.’s  drums. Eventually I saw Vinnie Colaiuta pound the skins behind Jeff Beck, but I enjoyed Mr. Mullen more.  Because just like Ringo, he perfectly complemented his band’s sound.  This was an attack, Larry was pounding bullets, imploring us, driving us forward.

And then Bono starts to sing like he means it.  They’re his words, not the rhymes of some hack in a back room.  He was feeling it, and as a result we felt it too.

Everything I thought I knew was wrong.  Not only soft music could work on TV, U2 was killing it!  Unlike what had come before, this was not nostalgia, but alive and kicking.  This was rock and roll!

Bono wasn’t playing to the back row of a stadium, seeming miles away.

He wasn’t playing for the YouTube audience.

He was playing just for us.

But it was better than that.  He wasn’t trying to convince the audience, he was showing the audience.  That’s what the Who specialized in, a veritable assault.  You didn’t nod your head and smile, singing along, your hair was blown back, you couldn’t believe what you were seeing.

This number was brand new.  But it fit perfectly in U2’s canon, with "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "Until The End Of The World".

Mick Jagger took the stage and one could see the lineage, of someone who took over and demanded your attention, Bono was in a long line…well, maybe a short line of commanding performers.  And Fergie was better than could be imagined, but "Gimmie Shelter" never gelled, because unlike "Magnificent", it was never haunting, it lacked the ethereal quality of the original.

And Bono’s duet with Mick fell flat too, the song just wasn’t good enough.

But "Magnificent" was.  I couldn’t speak.  My eyes were glued to the tube.  I remembered what made me a believer.

From there it was downhill.

Until Sam Moore took the stage behind Bruce Springsteen’s amalgamation and took a bizarre victory lap that rang so true, as he poured out "Hold On I’m Comin’" and "Soul Man".

But it’s "Magnificent" that stuck with me.  Because it encapsulated exactly Bono’s description of rock and roll.  Liberation!

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