Singer Axl Rose made headlines last week after posting an open letter explaining, in great length, that he would not be attending his band’s induction into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It turns out that many of the band’s fans didn’t take this decision kindly. When Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong referred to him in his speech inducting the notorious L.A. rockers into the Hall, fans booed. Armstrong countered: “Shut up! The man’s a badass! He tells the truth, no matter what the cost!”
Chris Rock, presenting The Red Hot Chili Peppers later in the evening joked that if Rose had decided to attend, they’d still all be waiting for him. So the event’s organizers were probably at least relived to know that the volatile singer was not even considering showing up, avoiding the infamous riots during Guns’ heyday, as fans waited hours for him to decide to take the stage. The induction ceremony was long enough, clocking in at over five hours.
And while Rose’s absence ended up getting most of the press attention, the warmth between the members who did attend the ceremony was obvious. Founding members Slash, Duff McKagan and Steven Adler, along with Adler’s drumming replacement Matt Sorum, seemed happy to be together and to play their old band’s songs. (Slash, McKagan and Sorum are also still members of Velvet Revolver).
The night before the induction, McKagan had a public reading of his book It’s So Easy, and addressed the Rose situation by saying that the induction isn’t about any specific members of the band, but about the music and how the audience related to it. He echoed those sentiments from the Rock Hall stage, to applause from the fans.
Still, Rose’s absence was acutely felt during the performance, although Myles Kennedy from Slash’s current solo band filled in. Also absent was founding guitarist Izzy Stradlin’, who quit the band in 1991, after the release of the Use Your Illusion albums. As in 1991, Gilby Clarke filled in for Stradlin’, although Clarke wasn’t included with the rest of the band as part of the induction.
The ad hoc GNR performed three songs from their debut album, Appetite For Destruction, (which Armstrong referred to as “the best debut album ever”). The set list included “Mr. Brownstone,” “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “Paradise City,” with Sorum playing drums on the first song (with Armstrong joining in on vocals), and Adler taking the other two (with Sorum assisting on tambourine). Kennedy, who occasionally sings Guns songs with Slash’s band, did a good job, but Rose stole the spotlight with his glaring absence as surely as he would have had he shown up. Still, the band members (some of whom were unsure they wanted to perform) seemed happy with their mini-set: Duff McKagan immediately tweeted “Well, THAT kicked ass!” and Slash tweeted “I have to say, that was a really fn’ great evening. Thanks to all the fans for the support. W/out that, nothing would have happened.” Your move, Axl.
–Brian Ives, CBS Local