NEW YORK — Rock and rollers certainly know how to party.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the genre’s biggest stars — Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band, Stevie Wonder, Simon and Garfunkel and special guests including James Taylor and Sting — set out to trace music history Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
Jerry Lee Lewis opened the evening with “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” fittingly looking like the elder statesman he has become. After all, the genre he helped pioneer is not only old enough to merit a museum, but the actual hall of fame began celebrating its 25th anniversary with the star-studded concert Thursday night. (The second part, featuring U2, Aretha Franklin and Metallica, gathers Friday night at The Garden.)
“I’m a fan of everybody up here and I’m slapping my head at some of the pairings,” said Tom Hanks, whose company is co-producing a four-hour version of the show for broadcast on HBO in November.
He wasn’t alone. The night was filled with once-in-a-lifetime, head-slapping moments.
Wonder got choked up in the middle of his tribute to Michael Jackson, fighting back tears as he sang “The Way You Make Me Feel” with John Legend, before pulling it together and finishing the song.
Crosby, Stills and Nash were joined by Taylor to do “Love the One You’re With” in four-part harmony, as part of a celebration of the California folk movement of the ‘60s. Paul Simon recreated “Late in the Evening” to include doo-wop backing vocals and a jazz break, before reuniting with Art Garfunkel to power through a lovely version of “The Sound of Silence,” representing both doo-wop and folk.
Both anniversary concerts are fundraisers for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, which handles both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland and the Rock Hall Annex in SoHo.
The events turned The Garden, and the area around it, into Rock Star Central, with even A-listers getting star struck.
“I’m sharing a bathroom with Darlene Love,” Bonnie Raitt said backstage. “It doesn’t get better than that.”