Let's be honest, most of us true-believers feel Raspberries deserve to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—not only for the GREAT music they created but also for the influence they have had on countless other talented bands and musicians through the years. On Friday night, Eric, Wally, Dave and Jim reminded everyone else.
The band was introduced to the 1,200 attendees of the V.I.P. party at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that included local politicians, Hall of Fame nominees and recording industry executives with the words, "Cleveland's own" but more importantly for the assembled crowd they were cited as an influence on The Boss himself, who has a major exhibition at the Rock Hall for the induction ceremonies.
They did not disappoint.
As the band mounted the stage, set in a corner of the glass and steel pyramid on the banks of Lake Erie, Jim's bass drum with the familiar Raspberries logo sprung to life once more as Eric counted out the intro to their opening number.
After that, the night was theirs. "Tonight" was followed immediately by "Play On." Wally ripped through the opening riff and was on fire, rocking up a storm on his arsenal of vintage guitars and singing better than he has in 30 years. "I'm A Rocker" came next, which was followed by Dave's Choir hit, "It's Cold Outside," which got the crowd dancing.
There was hardly any space to move on the tightly packed floor surrounding the center stage. Even the balconies were jammed with people hanging over to get a better view.
"I Wanna Be With You" was next. As Wally's jangly Rickenbacker twelve-string rang out with pure power pop perfection, it was clear that Raspberries were doing more for their chances at being nominated to the Rock Hall themselves than anything they could possibly do. Eric's voice was killer. Dave's bass playing was right on the money. Wally was 100%. and Jim, well, Jim was Keith Moon reincarnated.
"Overnight Sensation" simply brought the house down. Afterwards, Eric stayed at the keyboard while Wally took center stage on "Party's Over." I couldn't help but wonder what the other musicians in the Rock Hall that night thought as Mr. Bryson strutted on stage and tamed his six-string razor.
"If we had stayed together, this song would have been on our fifth album," was the introduction Eric gave to a stunning version of "All By Myself." Eric received at least three bursts of spontaneous applause during the piano solo alone. I saw people with tears in their eyes and overheard one woman standing behind me say, "Oh my God! That's Eric Carmen!"
Of course, we all know Eric was in the Raspberries, but it's important to remember that lots of the general population just don't connect the dots as easily. So I suppose, adding "All By Myself" to the Raspberries set list did just that for lots of casual music fans.
Once Eric got up from the keyboard, it was a solid one-two punch of jaw-dropping rock and roll that had everyone, and I mean EVERYONE jumping, shouting and clapping along. "Substitute" (which Wally introduced by saying Pete Townsend himself taught him to play it!), "Ecstasy," "I Don't Know What I Want," and "Go All the Way," rocked the Rock Hall from top to bottom.
As the band came back up on stage for a well-deserved encore, Eric held his daughter Kathryn on his shoulders and had the assembled party-goers sing "Happy Birthday" to her. It was a sweet, sentimental moment, and one that had every proud parent in the audience smiling from ear-to-ear.
Late Show with David Letterman bassist extraordinaire Will Lee joined the band for a rousing encore that included three Beatles covers: "Ticket To Ride," "Baby's In Black," and "No Reply." Dave played guitar, while Eric and Will shared one microphone in true Beatles style. Wally's voice on the Beatles tunes was so Lennon-like that this set of tunes confirmed what many early fans of the band always said...nobody can play Beatles like Raspberries.
As the band closed the night with The Who classic, "I Can't Explain," the die had been cast.
All that's left now is to wait and see if one great night of playing their hearts out and giving it all on a stage in Cleveland, Ohio pays off. If it does, the next time Eric, Wally, Dave and Jim are at the Rock Hall they'll be on stage again, only this time they'll be nominees themselves.