Rush — the Canadian prog icons whose fans have passionately decried their lack of inclusion in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for years — finally got their (over)due moment Thursday night when they were inducted to wild applause at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles.
Oprah was chilling with Quincy Jones. Jack Nicholson was wearing red sunglasses. Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith was rocking an orange backwards baseball cap. The Foo Fighters, Don Henley, Jennifer Hudson, John Mayer, and many more famous faces were all in attendance to celebrate the band and their fellow inductees Public Enemy, Lou Adler, Donna Summer, Randy Newman, Quincy Jones, Albert King, and Heart on Thursday night.
“When did Rush become cool…?” Foo Fighters’ frontman Dave Grohl asked the crowd during his induction speech. “Rush are a band that has balls,” said Grohl. “They’ve always been cool.” He and Taylor Hawkins – who also performed a mock-Rush drum riff while dressed like the band in their ’70s heyday – cheered the trio for building their fame off of fans and fans alone.
(To be eligible for the Hall of Fame, a band must have passed the 25-year milestone since the release of their first album; Rush waited nearly 40 years. For the first time, this year fans were allowed to vote in the induction process, finally clinching the deal for a band powered by fans from the start.)
“No hype, no bull—-, they did it from the ground up without any help from the mainstream press. Their influence is undeniable and their devoted fan base is only rivaled by the Grateful Dead,” said Grohl. That and they “spawned a generation of air drummers!” Hawkins added.
In classic Rush style, the band accepted the induction awkwardly-slash-awesomely — guitarist Alex Lifeson had everyone cracking up during a three-minute acceptance speech that consisted of nothing more than him repeating the word, “blah” and miming a tearful reception. Drummer Neil Peart was a bit more modest in giving thanks. “We’ve been saying for a long time, years… that this wasn’t a big deal. Turns out, it kind of is,” he confessed.
The crowd of fans and celebrities lapped it up as Rush then took the stage and performed “Tom Sawyer” and “The Spirit of Radio” before finishing the night with a rendition of Eric Clapton’s “Crossroads” alongside Heart, Public Enemy, and any other musician in the house who would fit on stage.
The full concert will be broadcast on HBO at 9 p.m. ET on Saturday, May 18.
Of course, Rush was hardly the only band inducted on Thursday night. Below, more memorable moments from the evening:
— Oprah hugging Jones after thanking him for discovering her for The Color Purple.
— John Mayer talking about being alone in his room in high school listening to inductee Albert King, the famed blues guitarist. Mayer and Gary Clark Jr. received a standing ovation for giving King’s signature “Born Under a Bad Sign.” a dazzling electric-guitar blow out.
— Jennifer Hudson rolling out in a gold sparkly pantsuit to sing “Bad Girls” and “Last Dance,” in tribute to Donna Summer; the late disco icon’s induction was later accepted by her husband and three daughters.
— The Wilson sisters, Nancy and Ann, killing it on “Crazy on You” and “Barracuda.” Ann’s voice still sounds like she’s 25, and Nancy’s guitar solo came complete with a Rockette jam kick.
— Uber-producer Quincy Jones, now 80, talking about discovering Michael Jackson and Oprah and shouting out his life motto: “Live every day like it’s your last, and some day you’ll be right.”
— Public Enemy’s Flavor Flav holding up his youngest son Karma who was dressed in a matching white tux, and giving an incoherent and overzealous acceptance speech that had fellow band mates scowling (Flavor Flav was suspiciously absent from the rock out finale with Rush…)
— Spike Lee – wearing his Mookie’s pizza T-shirt – inducting Public Enemy by thanking them for “Fight the Power,” the song Lee said made his groundbreaking 1989 film Do the Right Thing “what it is.”
— Colin Hanks in the audience rocking out to the finale “Crossroads” with his buddies.
— Cheech and Chong “indicting” (a mistake they made with the word) rather than “inducting” record producer Lou Adler into the Hall of Fame.
— Jack Nicholson jumping up from his table in the front row to congratulate Adler.
— Carole King – discovered by Adler — performing “So Far Away” on piano to a rousing crowd.
— Randy Newman making fun of aging rockers taking the stage with his song “I’m Dead But I Don’t Know It.”