For the big finale, there was, of course, Led Zeppelin, which rated four musical numbers and overflowing, hilariously overwrought praise from presenter Jack Black (“They sang songs about love, about Vikings, about Vikings making love!”).
Then came Foo Fighters, with usual frontman Dave Grohl banging away on drums (connection: He teamed with Zep bassist John Paul Jones in the supergroup Them Crooked Vultures); they thrashed admirably through “Black Dog” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll.”
The Washington Post’s Ned Martel talks to stars on the red carpet at the Kennedy Center Honors. The annual awards were given to Dustin Hoffman, David Letterman, Buddy Guy, John Paul Jones, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and Natalia Makarova for their cultural contributions to the nation.
Kid Rock (Kid Rock?) was surprisingly credible on a medley of “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” and “Ramble On.” And Lenny Kravitz gave a reading of “Whole Lotta Love” that was worthy of Plant himself.
Producers George and Michael Stevens set the musicians in front of an enormous backdrop of a gloomy and decrepit gothic church. There were seizure-inducing strobes, bottom-rumbling bass lines and smoke effects, which may be why a small group of older folks tiptoed out. The whole thing suggested both a Zeppelin arena concert in the ’70s and a bit of the Stonehenge set in “Spinal Tap.” When it was over, no one held up a lighter.
And then, inevitably, for the big windup: “Stairway to Heaven,” sung by Heart’s Ann Wilson backed by Nancy Wilson on guitar and a giant choir wearing bowler hats. On drums was Jason Bonham (son of, and sometime stand-in for, the late John Bonham, he of the bowler hat and Led Zeppelin’s fourth member).
In addition to the honorees, President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, the Honors attracted its usual crowd of swells and Important Folks dining out on who knows whose dime. Among others, there were House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, White House adviser David Axelrod, Glenn Close, Aretha Franklin, Stephen Colbert, Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, Cal Ripken Jr., CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, CBS morning host Charlie Rose, “Meet the Press” moderator David Gregory, jazz musician Herbie Hancock and former Honors recipient Yo Yo Ma.
The Honors ceremony will be shown on CBS on Dec. 26.