CLEVELAND - As the clock neared midnight Saturday and the final jam of the evening signified the end of the 2009 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, music fans spilled into the streets of downtown Cleveland while the ticketless waited across the street and hoped to catch a glimpse of their heroes.
The crowd was a mix of classic rock, metal, soul and hip-hop fans of all ages who came to praise inductees Bobby Womack, Metallica, Run-DMC, Jeff Beck, Wanda Jackson, Spooner Oldham, DJ Fontana, Bill Black and Little Anthony and the Imperials.
Cleveland rocks with stars and fans
“It’s been truly exciting the way this whole city has been energized and the way they really stepped up and really done everything they could to make this show successful. It’s the first time we’ve done this event at this really beautiful venue,” Rock Hall Foundation Chief Executive Joel Peresman said before the show.
He cited Public Hall’s place in rock history, playing host to early tours by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
“To have fans be able to come to this event, which is something we’ve never been able to do before, is great,” Peresman said. “It’s incredibly successful, and we’re looking to come back every three years.”
Cleveland spent an estimated $5 million on the ceremony. About $500,000 was spent to beautify the 87-year-old Public Hall, with the bulk of the funding coming from the city, sponsors and civic organizations.
The city also worked to keep downtown clean during the week of events leading up to the induction by fixing sidewalks and removing graffiti, Public Service Director Jomarie Wasik told the Associated Press before the ceremony.
The ceremony itself was mostly glitch-free, with an excited crowd of nearly 5,000 music fans adding energy and a rock ‘n’ roll atmosphere.
There was considerably less between-induction downtime. The entire event ran only 40 minutes past its scheduled 11 p.m. conclusion.
After the ceremony, fans exited Public Hall with smiles.
“I came to see Jimmy Page,” Kathy Kelty of Bishop, Calif., said while sitting outside Public Hall and trying to figure out how she and traveling buddy Laurie Whitecloud of San Diego would get back to their hotel.
“It was awesome,” Whitecloud said.
The two were making their first visit to Cleveland.
“I like it,” Kelty said. “We met a lot of friendly people.”
“I like it a lot, but you guys close down too early,” Whitecloud said, laughing.
Both Page fans also cited the crowd as a major plus.
“It was long overdue. The energy (in the hall) was great. Everybody was clapping for everybody and their speeches. It was real community in there.”
Both said that they’d happily return to Cleveland in 2011.
“If Jimmy Page is here, we’ll be here,” they said simultaneously.
Out-of-towners weren’t the only ones praising Cleveland and the ceremony. Inductees Little Anthony and the Imperials also gave the city high marks.
“From when we were kids, it was the ‘mistake on the lake,’ ” the Brooklyn-bred “Little Anthony” Gourdine said to the press.
“But today, it’s not a mistake, it’s Cleveland, Ohio, and it’s a very, very nice place, and I think the (ceremony) should stay right here.”
That sentiment was echoed by sideman inductee keyboardist/songwriter Oldham.
“I’m glad to be getting this in Cleveland,” he said. “Maybe they’ll stay here or come back again. They should.”
Even the British guitar gods had positive remarks.
“This hall is very conducive to playing. It sounds really good,” Page said to the press corps after jamming on Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” with 2009 inductee and childhood buddy Jeff Beck.
“It’s Cleveland, it’s all rock ‘n’ roll and rubber tires, isn’t it?” Beck said.
Shortly after the final jam featuring Metallica, Flea, Page, Beck, Aerosmith’s Joe Perry and Rolling Stone Ron Wood, the crowd dispersed into the warm spring evening with memories of seeing musical heroes honored in a once-in-a-lifetime setting.
Monica Lewis and a group of her friends drove up from Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, to watch for favorite celebrities.
“I just want to see Run and his family,” she said, referring to Joseph “Run” Simmons and his family, who star in the MTV reality series “Run’s House.”
“Metallica rules!” yelled another fan at no one in particular while thrusting the traditional heavy metal two-finger salute high in the air.
Among the local folks who did have a ticket, Patrick Fenner of Cleveland and his friends came to see Metallica.
“It was truly amazing,” Fenner said. “I’ve been following these guys my entire life and to watch them be truly honored and be part of something like this was really cool. I was happy for them.”
Fenner and his friends also thought the city did a good job with its first induction ceremony of the 21st century.
“I’m sure this will just get better and better. This was a new thing for them to put on, so they were trying to figure out how to go about it and they did it really well,” Fenner said.
“I think it’s great,” Fenner’s buddy Joel Vorrman said. “It’s about time. I think every three years isn’t enough. If this is where they want to have the hall of fame, then this is where they should have the inductions.”