Talk of war and the politics of punk were the rhythms at the 18th annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony Monday night as the Police, the Clash and Elvis Costello and the Attractions were inducted and artists used stage time to speak against war with Iraq.
The music of inductees ranged from the plaintive soul of the Righteous Brothers to the joyfully raunchy party metal of AC/DC. The expensive gala's mix of punk and pearls was incongruous, and the presence of bomb-sniffing dogs in the rear of the ballroom added an edge to the event.
"Tonight we're having a good time, but we're going to kill a lot of people next week," singer-songwriter Neil Young said as he inducted veteran music executive Mo Ostin into the hall. "Let's not forget about that.... We're making a huge mistake."
The Police, the Clash and Costello emerged from the roiling music scene of 1970s England and made careers of dipping into distant sounds -- reggae, jazz and country music among them -- to meld with their rock or pop songs.
The Clash, the surviving members of which did not perform, would become a defining, uncompromising power in punk and, with landmark albums such as "London Calling," create a mainstream niche for the underground genre.
The Police, fronted by singer Sting, would become one of the pop world's most successful acts of the 1980s with such hits as "Every Breath You Take" and "Don't Stand So Close to Me."
The trio -- singer-bassist Sting, drummer Andy Summers, and guitarist Stewart Copeland -- performed together for the first time since an Amnesty International concert in New Jersey in the 1980s.
"We haven't played together in 18 years and we're very keen to do that," Sting said.
Costello's mark, meanwhile, was made as a songwriter's songwriter, with wry, acerbic lyrics and music with fitful energy, with songs such as "Alison," "Watching the Detectives" and "Oliver's Army."
Steve Nieve, inducted as the keyboard player in Costello's band, the Attractions, also spoke against a possible war. He chose a Costello lyric to ask the crowd why society finds itself "diving for dear life when we could be diving for pearls."
"He's like a chameleon," said Elton John, who presented Costello into the hall. John spoke of Costello's eclectic musical environment as a youngster -- listening to classical music, R&B; and rock. Costello himself cited a long list of shaping influences that ranged from Rodgers and Hart to George Jones, and "most of all" Bob Dylan. Many of those acts have a certain cerebral quality to their music and their critical acclaim often matched or exceeded their respective commercial successes. That's not the case with AC/DC, the Australian outfit whose party metal is celebrated in arenas, pool halls and strip clubs but rarely in venues as refined as Monday night's gala at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Manhattan.
Angus Young, the AC/DC guitar hero, wore his trademark schoolboy uniform, and his bandmates had the loudest moment of the night -- their "You Shook Me All Night Long," with Steven Tyler of Aerosmith as a guest performer, sent the ballroom's chandeliers literally quaking.
While the 1970s acts dominated, they were also joined by Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield, Orange County natives who became famous in the 1960s as the Righteous Brothers. The soul duo, both 62 now, opened the show with "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'."