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The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Concerts: A Behind-the-Scenes Timeline

This weekend, as the rest of the city was fighting off Halloween hangovers, and 40,000 really ambitious folks were running 26 miles, Vulture was trying to recover from two straight days of shuffling around the backstage gifting lounge and press room at Madison Square Garden for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 25th Anniversary concerts. We’ve already told you what happened onstage on Night 1 and Night 2. Here’s what you missed offstage.

Night 1

12:49 p.m.: Preview of the evening to come: We hear Bruce Springsteen and Sam Moore rehearsing “Soul Man.” A few minutes later, Tom Morello and Springsteen sound check “The Ghost of Tom Joad.”

1 p.m.: After sitting patiently in the official backstage gifting lounge while Logitech headphones are custom-molded to his ears, Tom Hanks politely turns down free popcorn. “Thank you, but no thank you, it’s bad for me.” Such discipline!

2:01 p.m.: Joel settles into his dressing room, starts sucking on a lozenge, and answers all our questions about touring while old (“Do you know how hard it is to hit the notes I wrote in my twenties now that I’m in my sixties? It’s really fucking hard, man!” Also, re: panties being tossed onstage: “now they’re weird sizes and strange shapes.”)

1:39 p.m.: Wendy Williams enters the gift lounge wearing boots so furry they could be part of a Sasquatch costume. She won’t explain her costume, but says it involves “a lot of hair and a lot of corseting.” Bigfoot in drag?

1:47 p.m.: “Why can’t I get this?” Billy Joel says while struggling to play the piano intro to “Only the Good Die Young.”

1:58 p.m.: Joel literally limps offstage after rehearsing a killer rendition of “New York State of Mind.” He seems dazed as a T-Mobile myTouch 3G, Zirh cologne, and Schott NYC leather jacket get thrust upon him, and beckons for Vulture to follow him down a long, dark hallway to “someplace that’s not so loud.” It’s not as kinky as it sounds.

2:01 p.m.: Joel settles into his dressing room, starts sucking on a lozenge, and answers all our questions about touring while old (“Do you know how hard it is to hit the notes I wrote in my twenties now that I’m in my sixties? It’s really fucking hard, man!” Also, re: panties being tossed onstage: “now they’re weird sizes and strange shapes.”)

2:10 p.m.: Upon leaving Joel’s dressing room, Vulture bumps into a very jovial Hanks, who’s on his way to see Jann Wenner. He talks to us while leaning against a poster of Hockey Hall of Famer Babe Pratt, “the true legend of Madison Square Garden.”

2:15 p.m.: Hanks says this concert feels like being at a “really special New Year’s Eve party where all these people are in the same house and they get around the piano and sing a bunch of songs.”

2:17 p.m.: Hanks reveals his music-buying habits: “Listen, I collect fifties cha-cha records on vinyl. I don’t know anything!” He also likes to go to sales of record collections, and says his kids turned him onto Adele and the Decemberists.

2:25 p.m. Sam Moore, 74, tries out Guitar Hero 5 in the gift lounge.

2:45 p.m.: Max Weinberg and Nils Lofgren of the E-Street Band head backstage to get their swag. Lofgren answers our all-important question about whether they still get panties thrown at them onstage: “We always used to complain in the E-Street Band that our audiences were heavy on the men side, so sadly we never had that problem with the underwear thrown on[stage].”

2:50 p.m.: Wenner trys on a Schott NYC leather jacket. Says it makes him feel “tough.”

3 p.m.: Ugly Betty’s Ana Ortiz worries out loud about being a bad mother because she hasn’t bought her newborn baby a Halloween costume.

3:10 p.m.: Lofgren, apparently not satisfied with just some free stuff, comes back to the gifting suite and gets a leather jacket, then mistakenly (we think) makes off with Ortiz’s T-Mobile myTouch 3G.

3:30 p.m.: Mark-Paul Gosselaar — who, we are warned, will run away if we say the words “Saved By The Bell” — handily beats Ortiz, and everyone else in the gifting lounge, on Guitar Hero 5. “People say games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band are killing music, but I disagree with that,” he says. “I think it helps, it gets kids excited in older music that still fuckin’ rocks. It got me to play guitar. Two and a half years ago I bought Guitar Hero, got into it for about six months, then woke up, and went, ‘What the fuck? I can play hard!’ So I picked up a real guitar.”

3:35 p.m.: Despite the proximity of E-Street band members coming off rehearsal, Gosselaar says he’s looking forward to Night 2’s lineup more, and that, while he respects Springsteen, he doesn’t quite get it. “I’m not from the East Coast,” he says. “I’m not from Jersey.”

4:00 p.m.: Copious swag in hand, Gosselaar sits down to watch Stevie Wonder rehearse, then gets up and leaves after about three minutes.

4:30 p.m.: Stevie Van Zandt enters the gifting lounge in great mood, joking and taking photos with everyone. His open shirt reveals an impressive mat of chest hair.

4:45 p.m. Van Zandt frets that rock stars have become an “endangered species,” and that over the past twenty years, “there’s been no development; there’s been no nurturing of future artists.” He explains: “You know nobody is born great; you have to develop it. Most of us had our success in our fourth or fifth album, and, well, nobody is even getting that far anymore. So we’re going to have to start from scratch, going to have to be a bit like 1962 all over again, before the Beatles. Pop music was quite a bit better back then. We are sort of in that singles world again, and we need to regain audiences’ trust before they’ll buy albums again, and I don’t blame them.”

5:00 p.m.: Graham Nash comes backstage after rehearsing “Teach Your Children.” Press is instructed not to mention the words “Neil Young.”

5:10 p.m.: Nash reveals his really simple idea for saving rock and roll: Make good albums. “I think you have to start giving kids bargains,” he explains. “I mean, the problem started with people putting out records with only one or two great tracks on it, and the kids going, ‘But I only want those two because the rest is shit.’ If you make an album with twelve great tracks on it, somebody’s going to be willing to pay for it.”

6:55 p.m.: Tom Hanks enters the press room for a few minutes before going onstage to introduce the show (which he helped produce). He says that his favorite song of 2009 is “Single Ladies” and sings a few lines.

7:45 p.m.: Concert opens with Jerry Lee Lewis singing “Whole Lot of Shaking Going On.” Unfortunately, not much shaking is going on, or at least not the kind Lewis was talking about in 1957.

8 p.m.: Crosby, Stills and Nash take the stage after a montage dedicated to the sixties and hippiedom, playing “Woodstock” for a crowd of people that paid upwards of $2,500 a ticket.

9:35 p.m.: Nash tells the press that “if Aretha Franklin ever wants to do a beautiful acoustic song, we’d sing the hell out of it.”

10:03 p.m.: After a set full of hits like “Mrs. Robinson” and “The Boxer,” Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel hug for less than a second.

10:17 p.m.: Stevie Wonder asks the audience “if they’re ready to turn this mother out,” despite his mike not working.

10:43 p.m.: Stevie gets emotional playing “The Way You Make Me Feel” with John Legend, but manages to keep his composure and get through the song.

11 p.m.: Legend tells the press room that singing the National Anthem at the World Series was more nerve-racking than singing tonight at the Garden.

11:44 p.m.: Bruce Springsteen takes the stage. “Fine, Fine, Boy” with Darlene Love sounds even more awesome than it did in rehearsals. Bruce can’t believe Love isn’t in the Hall of Fame yet and tells the Hall voters and the crowd to get her in this year.

Midnight: Morello and Springsteen play “Ghost of Tom Joad” far more spastically than in rehearsal. Morello’s guitar playing is out of control, and not in a good way, but Springsteen still calls him “one of the greatest guitar players in rock and roll.”

12:50 a.m.: Springsteen goes punk with a cover of “London Calling.”

12:55 a.m.: Springsteen takes a break from the covers to play “Badlands,” but the crowd really responds when he tells them that the Yankees won.

1:03 a.m.: New Jersey meets Long Island as Billy Joel joins Bruce and co. onstage for “You May Be Right,” “Only the Good Die Young,” and “New York State of Mind.”

1:13 a.m.: Cameras zoom in on the crowd to find John McEnroe somewhere near the stage.

1:26 a.m.: Night 1 ends with Springsteen, Joel, and others singing “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher.” The show has gone past rock and roll’s bedtime.

Night 2

12:54 p.m.: Murmurs of confusion and awe ripple through the backstage area as U2, Mick Jagger, and the Black Eyed Peas team up for sound check.

1:45 p.m.: Taboo of Black Eyed Peas and Katrina Bowden from 30 Rock battle each other on DJ Hero in the gift lounge. It’s a draw.

1:37 p.m.: Mick and Bono do their best Elvis impersonations midway through rehearsal of “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of.”

1:55 p.m.: Katrina Bowden in the gift lounge says that she has to call her mom when she sees Mick rehearsing “Gimme Shelter” with U2 and Fergie.

2:35 p.m.: Fergie says in the gift lounge that her and Josh Duhamel’s wedding song was the Rolling Stones’ “Sweethearts Together,” and that she’s a little sick so she’s saving her voice for tonight.

3:15 p.m.: In the gift lounge, Keith Powell of 30 Rock gets his ears molded for Logitech headphones, but worries that he’s the kind of dude who will probably throw away or step on the $1200 earbuds.

3:35 p.m.: Bono is surrounded backstage by PR and security while people take photos of him sitting on gear boxes. Vulture whips out a tape recorder and is instantly shuffled away from the singer.

4:24 p.m.: Springsteen stops by the gift lounge for about a minute to sign a poster for charity. He displays superhuman willpower and leaves without even looking at the free stuff.

5:27 p.m.: Jeff Beck checks out the Guitar Hero 5 booth in the gift lounge while it’s playing his song “Scatterbrain.” He walks away chuckling.

8 p.m.: Jerry Lee Lewis starts the night off with “Great Balls of Fire.” But he feels like the opening act for Aretha Franklin, who kills it with “Baby I Love You” and then duets with Annie Lennox on “Chain of Fools” and “New York, New York.”

8:17 p.m.: “There is no other place on the planet like New York,” Franklin says onstage. She also tells the crowd that she’s thinking about moving back to New York.

8:20 p.m.: Lenny Kravitz joins Aretha on a version of “Think.” Kravitz seems a little lost. Franklin seems as though she’s realized that this dueting business isn’t necessary.

8:25 p.m.: Aretha fakes the crowd out by leaving on Kravitz’s arm but comes back to give everyone a little “Respect.”

8:35 p.m.: Jeff Beck jams and Sting sings on “People Get Ready.” Given the absence of Rush, Phish, and Jimmy Buffet, it’s the most jam-heavy number of the night.

8:37 p.m.: Singing with Aretha was like “a bungee jump,” Annie Lennox says in the press room. She also says that the Rock Hall can seem like a boys’ club and “if I were a man it would have been so different.”

9:30 p.m.: Metallica melts everybody’s faces off with thrash guitar solos during “One” as middle-aged journalists in the press room begin to head bang. One of them even air drums.

9:44 p.m.: Metallica’s James Hetfield tells the crowd that Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page” is “one of the songs I wish we would have wroted.” Then thanks his English teacher.

9:52 p.m.: The oddest pairing so far tonight brings Lou Reed and Metallica together turning “Sweet Jane” into a meh metal song. “White Light/White Heat,” however, is better-shredded.

10:04 p.m.: Ozzy Osbourne walks onstage and sounds coherent, belting out “Iron Man” and “Paranoid,” telling the crowd to “go fucking crazy.”

10:23 p.m.: Ozzy tells the press (that has been warned to only ask questions about the show or Rock Hall) that he’s not thrilled about Kelly getting married: “I don’t want her to get married. When she gets married she’s not my baby anymore.” The reporter that asked the question gets booted from the press room.

10:47 p.m.: “Some Spanish lessons, Irish style,” Bono says before U2 roars into “Vertigo.”

10:50 p.m.: Bono briefly lists the names of the boroughs (plus Yonkers!) before the band plays “Magnificent.”

10:57 p.m.: Bono tells the crowd that U2 wish they’d written “Because the Night,” and they bring the song’s writers Patti Smith and Springsteen out to sing.

11:00 p.m.: “Because” is flubbed with some missed cues (though it’s not entirely clear who messed up), so U2 and co. do a second take for the concert’s eventual broadcast sometime in November on HBO.

11:08 p.m.: “For a lot of us here, rock and roll means just one word: liberation. Political, sexual, spiritual liberation,” Bono says. “Let’s have some fun with that,” Springsteen says.

11:09 p.m.: U2 and Springsteen take on “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” The pairing sounds so excellent and natural, Bruce should just become the group’s fifth member.

11:16 p.m.: U2 segue “Mysterious Ways” into “Where Is the Love” with Black Eyed Peas, then into “One.” Achtung, indeed!

11:24 p.m.: Mick Jagger joins U2 for “Gimme Shelter.” Even the jaded reporters in the press room are excitedly saying, “No way!”

11:26 p.m.: Fergie joins in on the high parts. It’s easy to see now why she was saving her voice.

11:29 p.m.: Bono and Jagger duet and direct verses at each other on “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of,” but don’t bring out their Elvis impersonations. Even the Edge gets in on the singing!

11:36 p.m.: Two days of music come to an end with “Beautiful Day” and Bono thanking everyone who participated.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Concerts: A Behind-the-Scenes Timeline