Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Led Zeppelin is in the (White) house

Those of you who live outside the Washington Beltway may have missed how all-a-twitter the city's poobahs were on a recent weekend. In this case it had nothing to do with the dalliances of four-star generals or those begging for alms at the base of the fiscal cliff.

No the big event was The Kennedy Center Honors, a made for television event that somehow manages to assemble media stars and politicians to bestow life achievement medals, raise some money for the KenCen and often put on a good show because it is edited down for the broadcast on CBS.

If you thought politics makes for strange bedfellows, this year's list of honorees gives new meaning to how opening the door to musicians and comics makes the term bizarre seem inadequate.

Just listing the designees this year was enough to get the President a laugh at a White House reception. Here they are: Ballerina Natalia Makarova, actor Dustin Hoffman and blues great Buddy Guy, plus late night host David Letterman and Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page.

Mr. Obama couldn't resist noting this motley crew "had no business being on the same stage together." When he took note of Zeppelin's history of trashing hotel rooms on tour, he concluded, "So it is good we are meeting in a place where the window glass is three inches thick."

What redeems the selection process (and the show) is the artists who show up to do the honors. Morgan Freeman introduced Guy and performers Tracy Chapman, Jeff Beck, Beth Hart and Bonnie Raitt.

For Letterman, it was Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin and Jimmy Kimmel. Hoffman's career was presented by Robert DeNiro and for the big finish, Jack Black came on to praise the Zeppelin. Musical tributes followed from the Foo Fighters, Kid Rock and, finally, Heart, doing the classic, "Stairway to Heaven" (backed, according to The Washington Post,by "a giant choir wearing bowler hats.")

The Post also reported the Guy tribute ended with an audience sing-a-long of the Prez'go-to theme song, "Sweet Home Chicago."

Set your DVRs for CBS on December 26 so you can check out whose rubbing elbows on the red carpet in D.C. (Meryl Streep & Hillary Clinton?)

A couple of other programming notes. We caught an edition of Austin City Limits the other night featuring Bonnie Raitt and Mavis Staples. Talk about music history! When the announcer said this was ACL's 38th season, I realized how much we music lovers owe to public television.

And for those (HBO) paying customers, they got their monthly subscription's worth in November with "Crossfire Hurricane." This combination of Rolling Stones' history and concert performances was, as they say in the UK, "brilliant." It did not rotate as most HBO films do but I suspect it will resurface again. If not, drop on by because I am looking for an excuse to watch it again.


  1. We plan to catch the Kennedy Center program. We watched Crossfire Hurricane and it's still on the DVR. We saw Bonnie Raitt and Mavis Staples at the Santa Barbra Bowl a couple of months ago. It was the last night of Mavis's being on the Raitt Tour and they really closed it out with a kick.

  2. I saw that Raitt/Staples show on ACL, too. Fantastic.

    And I'm as ready for the KCH as I was surprised by last night's "Sandy" concert. As one of my former colleagues said when she saw the Rolling Stones, "Oh, my god, he really dances like Jagger!" (It was Jagger.)