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complete roundup



Interesting seating at the event itself - Robert sat in the middle!


..
>>“Led Zeppelin!”

Comedian/occasional rock star Jack Black got right to the point at the
35th Annual Kennedy Center Honors. He was there to pay tribute to Led
Zeppelin, and started his speech by yelling their name, as if he was
demanding that a DJ play his favorite Zep jams.

It kicked off a hilarious tribute from the man who once sent a video
appeal to Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones to allow a film
he starred in, School Of Rock, to use “Immigrant Song” for an
important scene. (In reference to that, the house orchestra played
“Immigrant Song” as Black took the stage).

Clearly, it was a departure for the Kennedy Center Honors. Now in it’s
35th year, the ceremony started out by paying tribute to cultural
icons like Fred Astaire, Ella Fitzgerald and Tennessee Williams.  In
recent years, rock has been represented more and more at this
prestigious event, with Paul McCartney, Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey,
Elton John and Bruce Springsteen all collecting the Kennedy Center
medallion. But past ceremonies probably never got as loud as this
year’s.

Of course, Led Zeppelin were the event’s headliners.  The show kicked
off with a tribute to legendary actor Dustin Hoffman, who was feted by
his Wag The Dogco-star Robert DeNiro (a Kennedy Center honoree in
2009). DeNiro deadpanned that “Dustin Hoffman is a world class,
colossal… pain in the ass.  He inspired me to be a pain in the ass
too,” noting that Hoffman’s perfectionism may not have made things
easy for filmmakers, but it did result in better films.

“What Dustin did for all of us, he made it OK to be a character actor
and a movie star,” noting that he has played more iconic roles than
anyone, and joked that he’s waiting to see new remakes of those films:
“Psy in ‘Death Of A Salesman, Gangnam Style,’ Lindsey Lohan in
‘Tootsie Roll’ and Justin Bieber in “The Under-Graduate.’”

“Dustin Hoffman is one of the best actors to hit the stage and the
movie screen.  You made me proud to be an actor and proud to be your
friend.”

Ballet icon Natalia Makarova was next; 1999 Kennedy Center Honoree
dancer/choreographer Judith Jameson recalled, “When I first saw her, I
said, ‘Now that’s a ballerina!’” A tribute by some of the world’s
foremost dancers followed.

Ballet and the blues don’t often share a stage, but after the dancers
left, Morgan Freeman, wearing a fedora, strutted out to talk about
Buddy Guy.

“The first time I heard the blues I was on my grandmother’s porch in
Mississippi. They used to call that area ‘gutbucket.’”  Looking up at
Guy in the balcony, he said, “Here’s what you did:  you mastered the
soul of gutbucket.   You used that music as your starting point, you
found a new music that no one ever heard before.  Without the
Internet, without YouTube or even FM radio.  You made a bridge from
roots to rock and roll.”

He continued, “How important is this?   It’s still just the blues
right? Wrong.  With Buddy Guy it’s never just the blues.  It’s the
blues.   Usually playing the blues is not what you would call a great
career choice.  But there’s Buddy. Sitting up there with the best. So
when you hear the blues, you really don’t think of it as black or
white or yellow or purple or blue. Buddy Guy, your blues brought us
together.   I think that’s something to sing about.”

First was young gun Gary Clark Jr. (who played for the President
earlier this year, along with Guy, in a tribute to the blues at the
White House) with Jimmie Vaughan for “The Things That I Used To Do.”
Tracy Chapman then took the stage to sing “Hound Dog,” the song that
Big Mama Thornton performed before Elvis Presley popularized it (Guy
backed Thornton on a version of the song, which might explain why it
was used in the tribute).

One of Guy’s biggest disciples, Jeff Beck, then took the stage with
singer Beth Hart.  As was the case when he played the White House’s
tribute to the blues earlier this year (along with Guy, Clark and
others), he still has an aversion to sleeves, even when playing for
the President Of The United States. Attire aside, Beck and Hart did
the Etta James classic “I’d Rather Go Blind,” a song which has also
made it into Guy’s repertoire. Bonnie Raitt then took the stage,
asking “How about Beth Hart?” before going into “My Time After
Awhile.”  Then Clark, Vaughan, Beck, Chapman and Hart returned to the
stage for “Sweet Home Chicago.”

Tina Fey then got on the mic, and the proceedings began to take on the
air of a roast.  ”Good evening.  David Letterman began his  career as
a choreographer and black opera singer in the early 1950s just so he
could qualify for this award,” she joked. But she recalled watching
Letterman’s morning TV show in 1980 with her mother. “She couldn’t
believe what she was seeing.   A morning show that was making her
laugh! She had found this weird gem. Was he a parody of talk show
hosts or just a goon who was a little bit ‘off.’   Thirty years later,
time has proven… that there’s just really no way of knowing!”  She
noted his lack of phoniness, saying that “He doesn’t ‘fake-like’
anybody… you fantasize that he might like you.” She also pointed out
that his return to the airwaves after 9/11 led the way for other
comedians to get back to work.

Alec Baldwin, Jimmy Kimmell and Ray Romano all pitched in with their
own stories about Letterman (all commenting that Dave probably hates
the idea of being celebrated at a ceremony) and then ended up
comparing notes:  ”Does he talk to you during commercial breaks?”

And then it was time to rock.  Jack Black took the stage with the bold
statement: “Led Zeppelin is the greatest rock and roll band of all
time.  Better than The Beatles! Better than the Stones! Even better
than Tenacious D (referring to his own band).   That’s not opinion,
that’s fact!  If you don’t agree you never did the Led Zeppelin
marathon,” he said, saying that all “true fans” have to do it: listen
to all of Zeppelin’s albums in a row.

He also noted the band’s wide appeal, spreading from famously liberal
film director Oliver Stone to recent Republican Vice-Presidential
candidate Paul Ryan. “They say that Led Zeppelin sold their souls to
Satan,” possibly the first time such a reference was made at the
Kennedy Center.  Looking up at them in the balcony, he chided, “Come
on guys, you know you did!  There’s no other way to explain your
ungodly talent!  I just want to say ‘thank you,’ because while you’re
in hell, the human race will cherish your heavenly  jams until the end
of time! It’s a small price to pay. We love you.”

Black’s pals the Foo Fighters then took the stage.  Two months after
frontman Dave Grohl declared that the band was taking a break, they
were back, paying tribute to Zep.  Grohl stayed behind the drums,
though, letting drummer Taylor Hawkins take the mic for “Black Dog”
and “Rock and Roll.”  Hawkins, who fronts his own band (Taylor Hawkins
and The Coattail Riders), strained to replicate Robert Plant’s vocals;
but then, so do most singers.

RELATED: 5 Reasons Why Dave Grohl Will Perform At The Kennedy Center
Honors In December

That was also an issue for Kid Rock, who followed with “Babe, I’m
Gonna Leave You” and “What Is And What Should Never Be.”  But things
really picked up when Lenny Kravitz took to the stage to sing “Whole
Lotta Love.”  While Kravitz usually plays guitar on stage, he just
kept to the mic, concentrating on doing Plant’s vocals justice. After
that, John Bonham’s son, Jason Bonham, who played with Zeppelin at
their 2007 reunion concert recently released as the Celebration Day
live album and DVD, got behind the drums, wearing a bowler hat (which
his father often used to wear).

Heart sisters (and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees) Ann and Nancy
Wilson, longtime Zep disciples, closed the show with an epic version
of “Stairway To Heaven,” complete with a string section, backing
singers and a choir (all wearing Bonzo-esque bowlers).

Throughout the performances, Page beamed, and he, Plant and Jones
seemed to be enjoying each other’s company.  Tonight (December 3),
they will appear together alongside a fellow honoree when they guest
on Late Show With David Letterman. It’s the last scheduled event that
the three will appear at, leading fans to wonder if it will be their
final bow.  If it is, the Kennedy Center Honors helped to provide a
great last hurrah for the group dubbed by Jack Black as the “Best!
Band! Ever!”

The Kennedy Center Honors will air nationwide on CBS on Wednesday,
December 26 at 9 pm ET/PT.

– Brian Ives, CBS Local