The singer, who wore a black leather jacket, began her set with the anthem “Bad Reputation,” set against black & white pics of her flipping the bird. Once the song was done, she welcomed some surprising guests onstage – Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl and original Blackhearts bassist Gary Ryan – for a snarling rendition of the Runaways’ “Cherry Bomb.”
For her next number, her hit cover of Tommy James and the Shondells’ “Crimson & Clover,” she welcomed a “friend of mine”: Tommy James. And, because that’s not enough, Miley Cyrus – who inducted the rocker into the Hall – chimed in on the refrain. (Cyrus would later tell a story about smoking weed with Jett in a hotel bathroom, deeming her “what a superwoman really should be.”)
Grohl had words of praise for Jett last year, when she helped him out for his induction. “She’s everything that Nirvana stood for,” Grohl said of Joan Jett in 2014, after Ms. “Bad Reputation” herself joined him and Nirvana-mate Krist Novoselic for a blast through “Smells Like Teen Spirit” at last year’s induction. “She’s a powerful, rebellious, musical force of nature. We couldn’t think of anyone better to join us.” Grohl previously co-wrote “Any Weather” with Jett for her 2013 album Unvarnished.
Of course, no one loves (or delivers) rock & roll quite like Jett, who honed her no-bullshit chops and attitude as a member of groundbreaking all-girl Seventies hard rockers the Runaways, and subsequently blazed a trail with her Gibson Melody Maker that’s been followed by countless musicians — both female and male — over the ensuing decades.
For Jett, who delivered her performance Saturday night with the same intensity that’s marked every gig she’s ever played, there was a certain sense of poetry to being inducted into the Hall at a ceremony held in Cleveland. “Some of my earliest great memories of playing on the road are from there,” she told Rolling Stone in December, upon receiving the big news. “I remember a lot of the Runaways’ early big gigs and successful shows and actually some of our early bootlegs were done in Cleveland. I’ve always had a great respect for the town. I actually filmed a movie in Cleveland in 1986 called Light of Day with Michael J. Fox. Bruce Springsteen wrote the title track. We did a couple months of filming in Cleveland and some live footage, so it’s always been part of my life and career. I think it’s real and it’s fitting that I’d go in there.”
It’s also fitting that Jett would be inducted on the same night as Lou Reed and Green Day. “The Runaways covered Lou Reed’s ‘Rock and Roll’ on the first album,” she told Rolling Stone. “We go way back with Lou.” And if Reed influenced her music, there’s no question that her buzzsaw brand of hooky guitar rock in turn influenced Green Day. (Just play “Bad Reputation” and “American Idiot” back to back, and see what we mean.) “One of the first records that Mike and I had, it must have been 1983, was I Love Rock and Roll,” Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong told Rolling Stone. “The way that she is just this badass woman and probably the shit she had to deal with in a male-dominated rock scene, it’s just an honor to be side-by-side with her.”
Although her road-hardened outfit the Blackhearts were also inducted beside her, Jett says she’d like to see her original band receive some recognition from the Hall, as well. “I think the Runaways deserve it because of what we created,” she told Rolling Stone. “I think that’s part of the criteria. If we did, it would be an awesome thing. It would speak a lot to the growth of the way that people look at music. I don’t expect that, necessarily, and I don’t not expect that. We’ll just have to wait and see. It would great if even we were nominated.”
Additional reporting by Dan Epstein and Kevin Joy