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Joan Jett, Dave Grohl Lead Nirvana Tribute at Rock Hall of Fame

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It was one of the worst-kept secrets around that Joan Jett was set to perform with the surviving members of Nirvana at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

However, what song she would play — and what form this performance might take—remained a mystery. But nearly five hours into the ceremony, Jett took the stage with Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic and later-era guitarist Pat Smear, and launched into the forever-powerful ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.’

Grohl especially seemed to be on another plane during the song his drumming was so intense, while Novoselic’s bass scarred like a brand. And while a bit shaky at first vocally, Jett found her stride during the middle of the song. She and Novoselic dueled on their instruments as if drawn by magnets, her guitar snarling and abrasive.

More impressively, she screamed the song’s denouement—the repeated phrase “a denial” — over and over again, gaining more power each time she said the word and helping the song surge to conclusion with a crash. About the only thing that could’ve topped this was the next performance: Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon covering ‘Aneurysm.’ As usual, the corrosive punk song began in sped-up bursts of noise, creating simmering tension that only increased throughout the performance.

That was mainly due to Gordon’s riveting performance, from her distortion-disfigured vocals to her unfettered stage movements. By the end, she was rolling around while screaming, channeling the kind of catharsis Nirvana always did so well. The performance was powerful—and empowering.

Two newer artists followed Gordon and Jett, and more than held their own. Guitarist St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark) did a slow-boiling version of ‘Lithium’ that exacerbated the menace and disorientation of the original, from her facial expressions down to cracked-up guitars. New Zealand teen phenom Lorde closed out the night doing ‘All Apologies,’ with Novoselic on accordion and the previous performers on backup instrumentation.

While the slower song was a somewhat subdued way to end the tribute, her measured, gulping delivery and unselfconscious mannerisms worked in context with the song.

Next: Nirvana's Best Songs

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