The Canadian rockers were welcomed into the musical fraternity at Thursday’s 28th annual induction ceremony by the Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins. At the beginning of the Nokia Theatre event, the audience was already administering a standing ovation to the group.
“We’ve been saying for a long time that this wasn’t a big deal,” drummer-lyricist Neil Peart told the crowd, most of whom came out to specifically support the band. “It turns out, it kind of is.”
Rush gained entry following its first appearance on the ballot after repeatedly being left off the list since gaining eligibility in 1998, to the great consternation of the legion of Rush fans who cried bias against progressive rock. The long wait didn’t seem to matter at Thursday’s star-studded concert event, which ran over five hours. Peart, guitarist Alex Lifeson and lead singer/bassist Geddy Lee made up for lost time by launching into a rambunctious rendition of “Tom Sawyer” in front of the more than 7,000 attendees.
Rush was among this year’s eight eclectic inductees, which also included fellow classic rockers Heart, singer-songwriter Randy Newman, rap group Public Enemy, disco queen Donna Summer, bluesman Albert King, and producers Quincy Jones and Lou Adler.
For Heart, entering the hall of fame isn’t just about music.
“Our long and winding road has always been about the magical power of love and the enduring strength of family,” said Nancy Wilson. “We came from an era when women normally did not rock and women were not expected to be leaders.”
Wilson, her sister, Nancy, and their band mates celebrated their induction with lively performances of “Crazy for You,” ‘‘Dreamboat Annie” and “Barracuda.”
Adler was inducted by comedy duo Richard “Cheech” Marin and Tommy Chong before being serenaded by Carole King with “So Far Away.” Jack Nicholson was among Adler’s fans in the audience who lavished the producer-mogul a standing ovation.
“Albert King is why guitar-face was invented,” joked Mayer.
Newman – joined by Jackson Browne, John Fogerty and Tom Petty – kicked off the Los Angeles ceremony with a performance of his classic “I Love L.A.” It was an appropriate song choice given the fact this year’s event marks the first time since 1993 that the Cleveland institution has held its induction ceremony on the West Coast. Backstage, Newman was matter-of-fact about his inclusion.
“I didn’t think it would happen until I died or something,” he said.
Oprah Winfrey was on hand to welcome Jones into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Usher lauded the producer-mogul with a rendition of the Michael Jackson tune “Rock with You.”
Jennifer Hudson paid tribute to Summer with a medley of her hits, much to the chagrin of Flava Flav. The Public Enemy rapper, clad in an all-white tux, was the only person in the crowd who remained on his feet throughout her performance. He later commanded the microphone for a long-winded acceptance speech when Public Enemy was recognized. His colleague, Chuck D, was more succinct in his remarks.
“Let us all not forget, we all come from the damn blues,” he told detractors.
Thursday’s event concluded with all-star jam session featuring Rush, Heart, Chuck D, Grohl, Chris Cornell, Tom Morello and others riffing together on stage.
The induction ceremony will be broadcast May 18 on HBO.