LOS ANGELES – What better way to open the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s first induction ceremony in Los Angeles since 2013 than with one of Hollywood’s biggest stars?
Robert Downey Jr. walked on the stage at the Microsoft Theater Saturday night to induct Duran Duran. It was clear right from the opening video montage that the British new wave band had, if not the largest number of supporters in the crowd, certainly the loudest.
“Duran Duran invites us all to put our best days here, now and still in front of us,” Downey said in presenting the band for induction. “Cool, sophisticated fun. You know who’s got that in spades? Duran Duran. They own that space, and they have for over 40 years. Read the lyrics to “Paper Gods.” Watch the video for “Celebration.” Cry in the mirror as you lip-sync to “Ordinary World.”
Downey also told a story of Duran Duran playing at his 50th birthday party, where an unnamed Hollywood director’s wife took off her bra and threw it at the band members.
The proceeding tribute video looked at Duran Duran’s entire career, including the band’s struggle to break through in America before conquering the States as much as any band of the MTV generation.
“Songwriting so well-crafted as pop songs and so addictive you just couldn’t get them out of your head,” Gwen Stefani said during the pre-recorded tribute. “They are legends, they are icons, they are still selling out massive shows. They continue to be an inspiration for so many people.”
The screams when Duran Duran took the stage to perform were deafening. Many of their fans lined up outside Microsoft Theater early in the afternoon, West Coast time, to catch a glimpse of the band arriving at the arena.
Duran Duran’s performance got off to a rocky start. Frontman Simon Le Bon strutted across the stage with poise and confidence during “Girls on Film” for about 20 seconds before having to restart the song due to technical difficulties. Still, Le Bon kept his composure, even purring into the microphone after the first chorus as the crowd, including a giddy Stefani, danced.
Next up was “Hungry Like a Wolf,” which inspired LL Cool J to get up out of his seat and start singing; proof of how big of a hit the song MTV couldn’t get enough of during the 1980s was.
The band switched into ballad mode for “Ordinary World.” It wasn’t the best Le Bon and his bandmates have ever sounded. You could understandably feel a bit of the nervousness that comes with opening an event that’s going to feature legend after legend.
And yet, the final portion of “Ordinary World,” specifically Le Bon’s vocals, was transcendent, drawing a standing ovation from a thrilled crowd.
Le Bon opened the band’s speech by reading an open letter from former guitarist Andy Taylor, who Le Bon acknowledged along with former member Warren Cuccurullo.
Taylor’s letter was bittersweet. He was unable to attend Saturday’s ceremony due to battling prostate cancer. But Taylor…