It was a moment unlike anything the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame had ever seen: midway through a snarling performance of “I Wanna Be Your Dog” a shirtless Iggy Pop commanded the black tie audience to storm the stage. “Come on!” Iggy ordered, “Let’s get the Upper East Side up here!” With that, Eddie Vedder, Jeff Ament, Green Day’s Mike Dirnt and a handful of others ran on the stage like excited schoolchildren and bounced around as Billie Joe Armstrong and Iggy closed out the song. It was a triumphant moment for Iggy and the Stooges — the punk pioneers had been eligible for the Hall for 16 years before receiving the honor. “Roll over Woodstock,” Iggy said accepting the award. “We won!”
The night began with Phish’s note-perfect rendition of the 1972 Genesis prog classic “Watcher Of The Skies.” As Page McConnell played the opening keyboard parts, a geyser of steam erupted from the stage that nearly engulfed bassist Mike Gordon, Spinal Tap-style. The song — which opened nearly all of Genesis’ early 1970s gigs — slowly built to an intense climax as Trey Anastasio expertly recreated Steve Hackett’s original guitar moments. Afterwards, Anastasio gave a very moving speech about the band.
“It’s impossible for me to overstate the impact this band had on me as a young musician and I’m forever in your debt,” he said. “When I hear Radiohead’s Kid A, with its odd time signatures and spacious visual arrangements, I hear Genesis, and I hear them in the sonic islands My Bloody Valentine plays between their songs.” Phil Collins, who has long been a dartboard for rock critics, seemed very moved by the praise. “Thank you, Trey,” he said, “That was a really convincing argument.” Guitarist Mike Rutherford spoke about Peter Gabriel’s absence. “He has a very legitimate and genuine excuse,” he said. “He’s starting a tour in Europe soon.”
Next up was Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong to induct the Stooges. “They symbolize the destruction of flower power and the creation of raw power,” he said, before rattling off about 30 punk and new wave bands who owe their existence to the Stooges, ending with his own. “I think it’s Fitzgerald who said there’s no second acts in American life,” said a very choked up Iggy. “This particular group of friends had the luxury of a second act, so thanks.” As guitarist James Williamson gave his acceptance speech, Iggy began peeling off his jacket and shirt to prepare for their performance. They kicked off with “Search and Destroy,” marking the first time that Williamson and Iggy have played together on American soil since 1974. There wasn’t even a hint of rust, though “I Wanna Be Your Dog” will never sound quite the same without late guitarist Ron Asheton.
Steve Van Zandt inducted the Hollies, though he didn’t even mention their name until nearly 10 minutes into his speech, opting to pontificate on the glory of 1960s rock music and how it will be studied for decades to come. “We didn’t have big ideas at the beginning,” Van Zandt dead-panned. “Mainly we just wanted to get laid.” Graham Nash was clearly ecstatic that his original group was finally being recognized. “What a trip this has been — amazing!” he said. “It’s a good day for England.” Nash and original Hollies vocalist Allen Clarke performed beautiful renditions of 1966’s “Bus Stop” and “1967’s Carrie Anne” with Maroon 5’s Adam Levine helping out on the high notes. Train’s Pat Monahan came out to sing “Long Cool Woman,” but midway through later-day Hollies vocalist Terry Sylvester ran onstage, whispered something in his ear and literally took the mike out of his hands. He sang half a verse before a highly irritated Clarke came over and got the mike back to Monahan. The whole thing happened very quickly and few people even seemed aware they had just seen a decades-old Hollies feud flare up.
In his induction speech for Jimmy Cliff, Wyclef Jean talked about growing up in a household where non-Christian music wasn’t allowed. “I loved Jimmy Cliff so much I would take Jimmy Cliff songs and sing them with Christian words,” Jean said. “There are two people in my entire lifetime that brings a certain level to the entire Caribbean people, and we look up to them. One is Bob Marley and the other is Jimmy Cliff.” Wearing a Jamaican flag scarf and a bright silver jacket, the 61-year-old reggae pioneer sent shockwaves through the ballroom when he sang the opening lines of “You Can If You Really Want.” His voice sounded more powerful than ever, and it sent the entire place to their feet — including longtime Cliff fan Bruce Springsteen, who sat in the middle of the ballroom next to Jackson Browne and never made it onstage. “Many Rivers to Cross” was even more stunning. Hopefully the exposure of this event helps Cliff stage a comeback.
Nobody expected Abba to reform for the night, but former married couple Benny Anderson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad still flew in to accept the award from Maurice and Robin Gibb. “We haven’t performed since 1982,” Lyngstad said. “We won’t reunite again. It’s too late for that.” Anderson did agree to play the piano with Paul Shaffer and the CBS Orchestra while Faith Hill delivered a powerful performance of Abba’s 1980 smash “The Winner Takes It All.” The group’s massive fanbase has been praying for a reunion for 30 years, but that was as close as they’ll ever come.
Earlier in the night David Geffen received the Ahmet Ertegun Lifetime Achievement Award. “I’m a little nervous,” Geffen said after Jackson Browne presented him with the honor. “I never dreamed I’d be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Here’s why: I have no talent.”
The night wrapped up with Carole King inducting her fellow Brill Building songwriters Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry, Mort Shuman and Otis Blackwell alongside “Shake, Rattle and Roll” writer Jesse Stone. Their music was performed by an all-star group of artists, beginning with Chris Issak’s take on “Don’t Be Cruel.” Ronnie Spector revived her signature tune “Be My Baby” to honor Greenwich/Barry, and Eric Burdon transformed into his younger Animals self when he started belting out “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place.” Newcomer Fefre Dobson channeled Tina Turner with a sizzling “River Deep Mountain High,” while Peter Wolf managed to match her energy with a cover of Jesse Stone’s “Money Honey” that had all the industry big-wigs dancing.
The evening wrapped with all the Brill Building performers singing a sloppy but fun “Shake Rattle and Roll.” Many have argued it’s the first rock & roll song, so it was a fitting way to wrap up the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s landmark 25th induction ceremony.