If it’s the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, then drama is as much a prerequisite as loud guitars, receding hairlines and a night-ending all-star jam on a golden oldie.
Saturday night’s 27th edition was no exception according to reports, with as much intrigue as a telenovela, as well as some genuinely peaceful Southern California bro-downage, irreverent induction speeches and fresh spots in the Hall for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beastie Boys, The Faces, Freddie King, Laura Nyro and Guns N’ Roses.
The spotlight, of course, was on the famously fractured band of battling former brothers in GNR. Lead singer and sole remaining original member Axl Rose loudly decried the institution in a scathing letter earlier in the week, saying he would not attend and intimating that anyone who did was a fraud.
That was just fine for former guitarist Slash and bassist Duff McKagan, who made the most of the honor, while, ahem, never once mentioning Rose. “I don’t know that it matters who’s here tonight, because it’s about the music that these bands played,” said McKagan, who jammed a short time later on three songs with a pseudo-GNR made up of Slash, former Guns guitarist Gilby Clarke and drummers Steven Adler and Matt Sorum and Alter Bridge singer Myles Kennedy. It was the first time in nearly 20 years that Slash, McKagan and Adler had performed together and according to reports there were little signs of rust on the classics “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “Paradise City.”
In his induction speech at the Cleveland ceremony, Green Day singer Billie Joe Armstrong dubbed Guns’ 1987 album, Appetite for Destruction, “the best debut album in the history of rock and roll … every song hits hard. It takes you ion a trip to the seedy world of Los Angeles. The thing that set them apart from everyone else was guts.” And after ticking off the strengths of all the members of the group, he cheekily added, “Let’s see, who am I missing?” The latter set off yet another chorus of four-letter catcalls from the 7,400 in attendance, which inspired Armstrong to add, “Shut up. He [Rose] was the greatest frontman to ever step in front of a microphone.”
Rose wasn’t the only star missing. Rod Stewart was not on hand to celebrate with the Faces/Small Faces because he was reportedly sick with the flu and Beastie Boys member Adam Yauch was absent because of ongoing recovery from cancer treatment.
B Boys member Mike D made up for it, giving a shout-out to the trio’s hometown for inspiration. “Thank you, New York City, for basically raising us and giving us all the music we love and grew up on,” said D, who was on hand along with bandmate Ad-Rock to celebrate becoming only the third hip-hop act in the Hall. During a later performance, Kid Rock, Travie McCoy and the Roots’ Black Thought joined the duo for a medley of their classics, including “Sabotage.”
Also inducted were Donovan, blues guitarist Freddie King, Laura Nyro, music exec Don Kirshner and a number of sidemen and backup musicians.
Accepting their award from comedian Chris Rock, Red Hot Chili Peppers singer Anthony Kiedis said it felt a bit weird to join such a hallowed hall when his band is still out on the road promoting new music. “We’re going somewhere,” he said. “How can we stop and take an award when really we’re just halfway there?” The Peppers later performed with a triple-drummer line-up that included two former skins pounders, Jack Irons and Cliff Martinez.
The five-plus hour ceremony will be boiled down to a two-and-a-half hour special for a May 5 HBO broadcast.