It was the Rush fans who made the most sound in the audience at Thursday night's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony at Los Angeles' Nokia Theater, but it was Public Enemy who brought the noise in a raucous set celebrating their place as the fourth hip-hop group to enter the shrine. Oh, and Oprah Winfrey made a surprise appearance to help celebrate legendary producer Quincy Jones and the Foo Fighters wore wigs and kimonos, so there was that.
From most accounts, it was the fans of Canadian prog rockers Rush who ruled the night, yelling out the band members' names and saluting their group at every opportunity, clearly overjoyed that the "Tom Sawyer" trio had finally reached the promised land after nearly 15 years of eligibility. The Foo Fighters performed the band's "2112" as a costumed trio and singer and former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl praised Rush percussionist Neil Peart as "the most ripping drummer in the world," according to Billboard, adding that they built their loyal fan base with "no hype ... from the ground up without any help from the mainstream press." After jamming with the Foos on "2112," Rush gave the crowd what they wanted by playing their totemic hit, "Tom Sawyer."
One of the night's longest speeches, though, was from eccentric Public Enemy hypeman Flavor Flav, who ended with a salute to the rap group's leader, Chuck D. "I want to thank you for making great records," he said. "You've been the motor." Spike Lee, wearing a Mookie's Pizza shirt from his "Do The Right Thing" film, which used their "Fight The Power" as a centerpiece of the movie, helped induct the band. Chuck D summed it up more succinctly after Flav's ramble, telling the crowd, "We all come from the damn blues. Let's not get it twisted. We studied the forms of music in DJ culture ... we've always known and paid respect to where music comes from." In keeping with that message, PE threw in samples of songs by inductees Donna Summer, Rush and Quincy Jones into their set, which included the legendary tracks "Fight The Power " and "Bring the Noise."
Winfrey, who told the audience that she was discovered by Jones, 80, when he cast her in the movie version of "The Color Purple" in 1985, heaped praise on the man who helped Michael Jackson score his biggest hit with Thriller. "He defines the word 'legend.' He is remarkable and everybody knows it," she said, according to a Reuters report. Usher paid tribute to Jones by performing Jackson's "Rock With You."
Queen of Disco Donna Summer, who died last May, was inducted by Destiny's Child member Kelly Rowland, who said Summer helped pave the way for other female artists. "Her words remind us of exactly who we are," said Rowland. Jennifer Hudson helped celebrate the life of the 1970s legend by singing Summer's hits "Bad Girls" and "Last Dance."
The Eagles' Don Henley inducted singer/composer Randy Newman, saying his inclusion was "shamefully overdue." Newman later jammed with Tom Petty, Jackson Browne and John Fogerty. John Mayer inducted late blues giant Albert King and Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell did the honors for sister rock duo Heart. "Equality is coming right along," said the group's Nancy Wilson. "For us, music is the real church, it's a life calling, it's bigger than men and women put together. Music makes us all equal and human."
The night's finale was the obligatory all-star jam, which including PE's D and Hank Shocklee, Rush, Heart's Ann and Nancy Wilson, Fogerty, the Foos' Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins and Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello playing the blues classic "Crossroads."
An edited version of the four-hour-plus ceremony will air on HBO on May 18.