NEW YORK — It opened with a Phish show, nearly exploded into a (very well-heeled) proto-punk riot, got giddy on a fix of sunshiny Swedish pop, and finally wrapped up with a '50's-tinged tribute. It was the 25th Annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, back in NYC after a one-year sojourn in Cleveland (where the titular hall actually exists). And while it may have been lacking the star power of previous years' ceremonies — Eminem and Metallica in 2009, Madonna and Justin Timberlake in '08 — it certainly showcased the breadth and depth of this thing we call rock music.
ABBA, Genesis, the Stooges, Jimmy Cliff and the Hollies were the performers that headlined the 2010 class, inducted into the hall by the likes of the Bee Gees' Barry and Robin Gibb and Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong. Variety was the theme of the night, expressed in the wide range of performances and the revered tones of the inductors, which ranged from genuinely geeky (Phish's Trey Anastasio, who inducted Genesis and spoke at length about the group's "seven-note guitar lines" and the technical prowess of their 1973 album Selling England by the Pound) to gleefully amped (Armstrong swore a whole lot as he inducted the Stooges).
The show began with Phish running through Genesis's proggy "Watchers of the Sky," then Phil Collins, Tony Banks, Steve Hackett and Mike Rutherford took the stage to accept their award, thanking Anastasio for his "really convincing argument" about the oft-derided band's legacy. Original singer Peter Gabriel wasn't there because he was "rehearsing for an orchestral tour," according to Collins. Phish then played a second Genesis tune, "No Reply at All."
Up next were the Stooges, long denied a slot in the hall despite their obvious influences on everything from punk to metal, and they more than made up for lost time. First, Armstrong — who was "very excited and nervous as hell" to be inducting them — strode to the podium and launched into a heartfelt speech that praised the band's commitment to "blood and guts, sex and drugs ... peanut butter and poetry." The Green Day frontman rattled off basically every band the Stooges had ever influenced, a list that included Nirvana, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Queens of the Stone Age "and my f---ing band too."
"It is my honor to induct into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — and it's about f---ing time — the Stooges!" Armstrong exclaimed.
Stooge main man Iggy Pop strutted onto the stage and — still wearing a shirt — gave the tuxedoed crowd a double middle-finger salute, followed by a genuinely touching speech that mentioned late members Dave Alexander and Ron Asheton, shouted out "all the poor people who actually started rock and roll" and concluded with a thanks to all his fans for giving the band "a second act," getting choked up as he said it.
Pop turned the mic over to fellow Stooges James Williamson and Ron's brother Scott and began unbuttoning his white dress shirt as they spoke. He then stormed off to the stage, and, aided by bassist Mike Watt and tenor sax skronker Steve Mackay, ripped through a pair of the Stooges' burners — "Search and Destroy" and "I Wanna Be Your Dog" — the latter of which saw Iggy prowl the front row of the audience, belt out the chorus under the watchful gaze of Dr. Oz (for real), then invite anyone and everyone onstage. Green Day and members of Pearl Jam gleefully obliged, as did a few fairly radical men and women in their formal wear.
Back in the press room, Iggy explained his impromptu invasion thusly: "Well, you can't really stage-dive in a place like this."
Legendary record exec David Geffen and British rock act the Hollies were inducted next, followed by Reggae legend Jimmy Cliff (who was lovingly introduced by Wyclef Jean) and then, in perhaps the night's most anticipated moment, globally revered Swedish pop quartet ABBA, who hadn't performed together in public in nearly 25 years. Unfortunately, only half of the group's members — Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Benny Andersson (who were married once upon a time) — showed up to accept their trophies from the Gibbs. They seemed touched by the honor, and Andersson took to the piano to perform one of the group's most masterful hits, "The Winner Takes It All," with country star Faith Hill on vocals.
There was a tribute to the night's honored songwriters — a list that included luminaries like Otis Blackwell and Jesse Stone (who wrote songs made famous by the likes of Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis) — featuring Rob Thomas, Ronnie Spector, Eric Burdon, Chris Isaak, Peter Wolf and Fefe Dobson, who rolled through the hits and then closed the show with a version of Stone's "Shake, Rattle and Roll." By this point, the telecast was nearly four hours long, and the audience — though weary — cheered mightily. It was worth the wait. Variety takes time, after all.