Bon Jovi reunited with former members Richie Sambora and Alec John Such for a powerful performance on Saturday night as the band earned a spot in the prestigious Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Jon Bon Jovi, Sambora and Such were joined by current bandmates David Bryan, Tico Torres and Hugh McDonald at the Public Auditorium in Cleveland, where the Rock Hall is based.
They performed crowd favorites like “You Give Love a Bad Name” and “It’s My Life.”
Sambora left Bon Jovi in 2013 and Such in 1994. Each of the members spoke onstage, giving thanks for the honor and telling old stories about the New Jersey band. They all hugged as a group afterward.
Jon Bon Jovi said he has been writing his Rock Hall speech for years.
“Some days I write the ‘Thank you’ speech, sometimes I write the ‘(Expletive) you’ speech,” he said. “In the end, it’s all about time. It took a lot of people to get us here tonight.”
They were inducted by Howard Stern, who provided many laughs at the event. He even sang some of “Wanted Dead or Alive,” getting the audience to join in.
Stern joked about Rock Hall co-founder Jann Wenner, questioning why he was qualified to vote on who enters the prominent organization. Stern said Wenner, who founded Rolling Stone magazine, doesn’t play any instruments “but he did start a great magazine … and now it’s the size of a pamphlet.”
Stern also thanked Bon Jovi for its music, which he is a big fan of, and stressed how big of a deal it is that the band has sold more than 130 million albums.
The 33rd annual Rock Hall ceremony kicked off with a tribute to Tom Petty, who died in October at age 66. The Killers earned a loud applause from the audience when they started performing “American Girl,” then transitioning to “Free Fallin’.”
“Pay some rock ‘n’ roll respect … to the eternal Tom Petty,” frontman Brandon Flowers said, as photos of Petty were displayed in the background.
The Cars and four first-time nominees, including Nina Simone, Dire Straits, The Moody Blues and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, also are being inducted as the 2018 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame class.
Brothers Mark and David Knopfler, of English rockers Dire Straits, won’t attend the event, according to bassist John Illsley.
“He just didn’t feel like coming, it’s as simple as that,” Illsley, in an interview with Billboard, said of Mark Knopfler. “It just didn’t appeal to him, and I appealed to him on several occasions.”
Tharpe, who died in 1973, will be inducted with the “Award for Early Influence,” while the other five acts will be inducted as performers. She was a pioneering guitarist who performed gospel music and was known to some as “the godmother of rock ‘n’ roll.” She will be inducted by Brittany Howard, of blues rock band Alabama Shakes.
The jazzy and soulful Simone, who died in 2003, was a leader in pushing for civil rights and influenced the likes of Alicia Keys and Aretha Franklin. Mary J. Blige will induct Simone, while Andra Day will sing in her honor.
Rock Hall voters have recently opened their hearts to progressive rockers, which benefited “Nights in White Satin” singers The Moody Blues, to be inducted by Ann Wilson of Heart. The Cars, founded in Boston in 1976, combined New Wave and classic rock sounds. This year marked the band’s third nomination; Flowers will induct the band.
The 2018 class were chosen from a group of 19 nominees, including Radiohead, who were expected to enter in the Rock Hall in their first year of eligibility, but didn’t make it.
Each year, between five and seven acts usually make it into the Rock Hall following a vote by 1,000 people, including performers, music historians and industry experts. Fans also were able to vote on the Rock Hall’s website. All of the inductees had to have released their first recording no later than 1992 to be eligible.
The event will air May 5 on HBO and will also be heard on SiriusXM Radio.