Green Day, who opened the show with a surprise performance of their own “Letterbomb,” (they’ll be eligible in 2014), returned to the stage to induct Guns N Roses (although only frontman Billie Joe Armstrong spoke).Armstrong talked about hating power ballads and “jock party jams” and said that GNR provided him with just what he needed with Appetite For Destruction, which he called the best debut album ever. He then discussed the individual members of the band, before asking if he was forgetting anyone (he hadn’t yet mentioned the most conspicuous absence of the evening, singer Axl Rose). This was met with boos (a rarity at Hall of Fame induction ceremonies) to which he responded “Shut up! The man’s a badass! He tells the truth, no matter what the cost.” But later referred to Rose saying, “Sometimes you have to look back at the old chapters of your life to move forward and not forget where you came from.” Gunners Slash, Duff McKagan and drummers Steven Adler and Matt Sorum were present, with Izzy Stradlin and Dizzy Reed (the latter a member of the current Guns N Roses) also opting to miss the induction. Duff McKagan said that “We created brutality and beauty and we told the truth,” adding that it didn’t matter who was (or wasn’t) in attendance, it was about the music. But it did matter: Axl Rose loomed as large with his absence as he would have had he been there. Myles Kennedy of the band Alter Bridge (who also sings for Slash’s current band) filled in for Rose on “Mr. Brownstone,” “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “Paradise City” bringing the crowd to their feet.
After Robbie Robertson made a speech about recording engineers being inducted (Cosimo Matassa, Tom Dowd and Glyn Johns) Chris Rock took the stage to talk about The Red Hot Chili Peppers. He first thanked The Beastie Boys for inspiring great white rappers like Eminem (“and too many crappy ones to mention”) and joked that had Axl Rose decided to attend the ceremony, everyone would still be waiting for him to show up (referencing Rose’s legendary penchant for lateness).
Rock remembered going to see The Red Hot Chili Peppers by accident: he’d meant to see Grandmaster Flash, but went to the wrong club and stayed there. After that, he said he thought that “all white groups wear socks on their d***s. But tonight, they’re wearing black ties on their d***s!” Describing their music, he said “If George Clinton and Brian Wilson had a baby, he’d be ugly as f***,” but the baby would sound like the Chili Peppers.
The Chili Peppers were another induction marked by those who weren’t there, notably former guitarist Hillel Slovak, who died of a drug overdose in 1988. Also absent was former guitarist John Frusciante, who left the band (for the second time) in 2008. Former guitarist Dave Navarro wasn’t included in the induction, but current guitarist Josh Klinghoffer was, making him the youngest person ever to be inducted into the Rock hall (at 32). Klinghoffer didn’t speak from the podium, but former drummers Cliff Martinez and Jack Irons were and did. Anthony Kiedis and Flea both sang thepraises of Slovak (with Flea welling up with tears at that point) and Frusciante. The band took the stage as Kiedis sent best wishes out to Adam Yauch and performed “By The Way,” “The Adventures Of Rain Dance Maggie” and were joined by Martinez and Irons for “Give It Away.” Then, the band requested that Ron Wood and Slash join them on stage (they obliged) and they, along with George Clinton, Kenney Jones and Billie Joe Armstrong, played Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” to close the ceremony, nearly six hours after it began. After an extended funk version of the song, the musicians left the stage, and the exhausted audience filed out of the venue.
A presumably edited version of the ceremony will air at 9 pm ET on HBO on May 5.
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