MIAMI -- After the hurricane, after the parties and after the drama, it was all about the music at the 2005 MTV Video Music Awards, in particular, three Bay Area punk vets at the top of their game.
Green Day rode their album American Idiot to perhaps the biggest night of their career, earning seven Moonmen (out of eight) and turning in a stirring performance that was a highlight in a night thick with live music.
"It's great to know rock music still has a place on MTV," singer Billie Joe Armstrong said when accepting the Best Rock Video award for "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," which also won the coveted Video of the Year, Best Group Video, Best Direction, Best Editing and Best Cinematography ("American Idiot" won the Viewer's Choice award).
One of the many artists who rolled to the show in a custom tricked-out car Green Day fittingly kicked off the show with "Boulevard," delivered behind a spectacle of water, fire and explosions.
The night's other big story belonged to Kelly Clarkson, who continued her evolution from "American Idol"/"From Justin to Kelly" star to respected rocker by winning Best Female Video and Best Pop Video with "Since U Been Gone."
Clarkson, whose cute acceptance speeches exemplified her innocent charm (she brought her best friend up "because she doesn't have a posse"), also closed the show with her infectious breakthrough single, dousing herself with "rain" in a perfect ending to a water-themed production.
Other multiple winners included Missy Elliott and Gwen Stefani, who were tied going in with six nominations each and both picked up a pair, and the Gorillaz, who won Breakthrough Video and Best Special Effects for "Feel Good Inc." and accepted in full animated form.
Elliott, a video visionary with a full shelf of Moonmen at home, took Best Hip-Hop Video and Best Dance Video for "Lose Control" featuring Ciara and Fat Man Scoop.
Stefani, meanwhile, won Best Art Direction for "What You Waiting For?" and Best Choreography for "Hollaback Girl," as well as host Diddy's unofficial best-dressed woman award. (However, after finalist Eva Longoria later appeared in a pink swimsuit, millions of male voters were likely kicking themselves.)
While there were rumors the No Doubt singer might not attend, she arrived early and smiling. "It's been a huge year," Stefani said. "A year ago I remember driving up with [No Doubt] playing them the songs for the first time."
Bad news for reporters backstage hoping for another Kanye West fit (like at last year's American Music Awards): The College Dropout won Best Male Video for "Jesus Walks." "You got me out of the way early," joked West, who returned to the stage later with an electric performance of "Golddigger," thanks in large part to Jamie Foxx and the ease with which the actor/singer channels Ray Charles.
The Killers capped off what was an astounding year for them by taking the hotly contested Best New Artist in a Video award over the Game, My Chemical Romance, John Legend and Ciara. The Killers -- or the "Murderers," as Hilary Duff jokingly called them when introducing with boyfriend Joel Madden -- also treated fans at a nearby hotel to a poolside version of "Mr. Brightside."
Alicia Keys pulled off a rare feat, actually beating herself out for an award. "Karma" won Best R&B Video over her duet with Usher, "My Boo." Usher, a big winner last year, was shut out, as were 50 Cent, U2 and Coldplay, among other favored nominees.
Ludacris helped 50 and the Game avoid an uncomfortable situation by beating their "Hate It or Love It" with his "Number One Spot" for Best Rap Video, while Fall Out Boy won the other viewer-voted honor, the MTV2 Award.
Awards, of course, are only part of the story at the VMAs. Performances tend to be the water-cooler talk in the week following, and this year offered plenty of candidates for discussion. 50 Cent will certainly get people talking for ripping into Fat Joe after his medley of "Disco Inferno," "Outta Control" and "So Seductive." "Fat Joe's a pu---," screamed the rapper in a tirade that was pumped over the PA in-house but which was bleeped out for the broadcast. "F--- Joe. F--- Terror Squad." Earlier, 50 jumped onstage (off camera) after Joe joked about G-Unit's security presence while presenting.
My Chemical Romance made an unannounced appearance, performing "Helena" around a sea of umbrellas, as did the krump dancers from "Rize" and reggaeton stars Don Omar, Tego Calderón and Daddy Yankee, who brought even more culture to an already diverse show.
Performances ranged from Latin-inspired (Luda and Bobby Valentino's "Pimpin' All Over the World") to the full-on Spanish (Shakira and Alejandro Sanz's "La Tortura"); from unusual (MC Hammer's "U Can't Touch This") to full-on bizarre (R. Kelly's "acted" presentation of the latest installment of "Trapped in the Closet"). But there was no shortage of highlights, including Coldplay's understated "Speed of Sound," which crescendoed with singer Chris Martin racing through the crowd and singing the final chorus from the cheap seats; and Mariah Carey's medley of "It's Like That," "Shake It Off" and "We Belong Together," which featured a bevy of guests, from Jermaine Dupri to Jadakiss.
As host, Diddy did a lot of dancing, swearing and, well, more dancing, as well as taking some time, with the help of Snoop Dogg, to honor his late friend the Notorious B.I.G. (Snoop also won Diddy's best-dressed male.)
Diddy was surprisingly tame in the self-promotion department, but others made up for him. Inspired by Macy Gray's infamous "My album drops ..." dress, Tony Yayo joined 50 onstage with a shirt that read "My Album Is In Stores." And Mariah/Killers video star Eric Roberts interrupted his announcing of R. Kelly by pushing his son, singer/songwriter Keaton Simons (Web site address and all).
Next to Green Day, the night's other big winner was Miami, where the sun shined bright on Sunday after Hurricane Katrina brought a week of storms into town. Among those who took advantage of the weather were Usher, Clarkson and Ricky Martin, who floated in by yacht.
Tony Hawk, meanwhile, chose a slightly more affordable mode of transportation -- a taxi. My Chemical Romance also got creative, arriving on the white carpet in an armored truck. "With this East Coast vs. West Coast feud, we wanted to feel safe," singer Gerard Way joked. (Way also fittingly took the stage in a bulletproof vest following 50's lashing of Fat Joe.)
Houston rappers Mike Jones, Slim Thug and Paul Wall started out the night of performances during the pre-show by rolling up in their custom whips to the words of "Still Tippin'." Rihanna followed with her Caribbean party-starter "Pon de Replay," after some helpful tips from Sway, and Fall Out Boy closed the opening act with an amped up "Sugar, We're Goin Down." Afterward, bassist Pete Wentz showed his excitement by bear-hugging Sway.
Not since 1996, when Smashing Pumpkins' "Tonight, Tonight" dominated, has one artist won seven VMAs, and only two artists have done better: Peter Gabriel with nine in 1987 and A-Ha with eight in 1986. Before tonight, Green Day had won only one VMA: Best Alternative Video in 1998 for "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)."
"We've been a band for 16 years," Billie Joe reminded viewers after winning Video of the Year. "This is what you dream about."