LOS ANGELES – Duran Duran stumbled into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Freshly inducted into the Hall by Robert Downey Jr. at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on Saturday night, the 1980s English stalwarts took the stage and launched into their 1981 breakthrough hit “Girls on Film.”
The shrieking crowd was there for it, but the music wasn’t. The band was all but inaudible other than singer Simon Le Bon, whose vocals were essentially acapella.
“The wonderful spontaneous world of rock ‘n’ roll!” Le Bon shouted as the band stopped for a do-over. “We just had to prove to you that we weren’t lip-synching.”
They kicked back in at full volume, playing a set that included “Hungry Like the Wolf” and “Ordinary World.”
It was a fun, unexpected moment in an often overly slick, made-for-TV show, and for once the group was missing what Downey called their essential quality: “CSF — cool, sophisticated fun.”
In a room full of Duran Duran stans, Le Bon and bandmates John Taylor, Roger Taylor and Nick Rhodes provided what the singer said in his acceptance speech was the essence of their job over the past 40 years: “We get to make people feel better about themselves.”
Missing was original guitarist Andy Taylor, who is four years into a fight with advanced prostate cancer.
“I’m truly sorry and massively disappointed I couldn’t make it,” Taylor said in a letter read by Le Bon. “I’m sure as hell glad I’m around to see the day.”
Hitmakers of the ‘80s defined the night, with Pat Benatar, Lionel Richie and Eurythmics accepting their places in the Hall along with Eminem and Carly Simon.
“Pat always reached into the deepest part of herself and came roaring out of the speakers,” Sheryl Crowe said in her speech inducting Benatar. “She rocked as hard as any man but still kept her identity as a woman.”
Benatar took the stage and displayed that power moments later.
“We are young!” the 69-year-old sang, her long gray hair flowing as she soared through a version of 1983’s “Love is a Battlefield” with so much improvisation that most in the crowd didn’t recognize it until halfway through the first verse.
“This is the one that started it!” she said launching into the next song, 1979’s “Heartbreaker,” as most of the audience stood and sang along. It included a blistering solo from Neil Giraldo, Benatar’s longtime musical partner, husband, co-grandparent and now fellow member of the Hall.
Janet Jackson appeared in a black suit with a massive pile of hair atop her head, remaking the cover of her breakthrough album “Control.”
She was there to induct writer-producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who created that record and many others with her.
“Needless to say I’m not the only artist they’ve collaborated with,” Jackson said. “I’m just their favorite.”
Jam and Lewis have won five Grammys and are responsible for more than 50 Billboard No. 1 songs on the pop, R&B and dance charts.
“The list of artists they’ve collaborated with reads like a who’s who of music over the last four decades,” Jackson said, citing Mary J. Blige, Aretha Franklin, Mariah Carey, Lionel Richie and “my brother Michael.”
She wasn’t the only presenter more famous than the honorees.
The crowd welcomed Bruce Springsteen with shouts of “Bruuuce!” as he inducted Jimmy Iovine, founder of Interscope records and the engineer on Springsteen’s “Born to Run” album.
“Congratulations little brother!” Springsteen shouted.
The show will be telecast on HBO on Nov. 19.
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