The skies were cloudy Saturday, but many stars were shining under the white tent covering the red carpet leading into Public Hall where the 27th annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony was taking place.
None of the 2012 performer inductees — the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Beastie Boys, Guns N’ Roses, the Small Faces/the Faces, blues legend Freddie King and singer/songwriters Laura Nyro and Donovan — took the red carpet.
But a few celebrities did give the fans and media lining the carpeted corridor a show. Past inductees George Clinton and Alice Cooper strolled the carpet, with Cooper extolling the virtues of Cleveland.
“I’m from Detroit. Rock ’n’ roll belongs in the Midwest,” Cooper said.
Also taking the carpet were Hollywood actor David Arquette and local luminaries such as Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, Indians president and former General Manager Mark Shapiro and new age/pop pianist and proud Clevelander Jim Brickman.
Once the show started promptly at 8 p.m., Green Day, which was to later induct Guns N’ Roses, opened the show with a kinetic, crowd-rousing punk song, giving singer/guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong a chance to pump up the crowd.
“This is not a party, this is a celebration! This is rock ’n’ roll,” he yelled.
Following remarks by rock hall CEO Terry Stewart, who also thanked the 6,000 fans in the cheap(er) seats, and Rolling Stone editor and Rock Hall Foundation executive Jann Wenner, Texas blues man Freddie King was inducted by Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill of ZZ Top.
“Long live the blues and long live Freddie King,” Hill said before giving way to King’s daughter, Wanda King, who accepted the honor for her father.
Thanking the fans
King, briefly overcome with emotion, thanked the fans and the many musicians influenced by her father before telling a cute and funny story about the first time as a 6-year-old she saw her father perform.
Hill, Gibbons and guitarists Joe Bonamassa and Derek Trucks performed two King classics.
John Mellencamp inducted English troubadour Donovan with a salty-tongued speech about stealing ideas from him and mentioning that it was Donovan who taught Beatles John Lennon and Paul McCartney the “claw-hammer” finger-picking technique.
Donovan accepted his honor with a speech that included a poem written shortly after discovering he was to be inducted.
“Like the silence of the sea, I thank you for this bright green laurel resting now upon my brow, I thank you goddess and thank you innocence and I thank my fellow artist all,” he said before performing three of his biggest hits — Sunshine Superman, Season of the Witch and Catch the Wind — with Mellencamp sharing vocals.
Bette Midler inducted late singer/songwriter Laura Nyro with an emotional speech praising Nyro’s talent, look, sound, style and support of social causes. Midler recalled how in the late 1960s and early ’70s the New York-based Nyro was a beacon of talent and light in the city at a time when “New York was a pit, I mean way worse than Cleveland ever was,” she said, drawing cheers.
Singer/songwriter Sara Bareilles performed a soulful rendition of Nyro’s hit Stoney End.
The surviving members of the Small Faces/the Faces — Ian McLagan, Kenney Jones, Ronnie Wood and an absent Rod Stewart — were inducted by Steve Van Zandt, who called the band’s two singers, the late Steve Marriott (Small Faces) and Stewart (the Faces) “the best two white soul singers on the planet.”
The band plus Simply Red singer Mick Hucknall played songs from both of its eras, including bar-band staple Stay With Me and Ooh La La.
After the performance, Wood said: “This is better than knighthood!”
The 2012 class also included six groups that backed previous inductees — the Midnighters, the Blue Caps, the Famous Flames, the Crickets, the Comets and the Miracles — that were all inducted by Smokey Robinson. All of the members who spoke expressed their gratitude toward their fans and the hall for remembering their contributions.
The Beastie Boys (Adam "King Ad-Rock" Horovitz, Mike "Mike D" Diamond and Adam "MCA" Yauch were inducted by Public Enemy leader Chuck D and LL Cool J both former Def Jam label and tour mates of the Beasties. Both men gave credit to the New York trio for helping their respective careers (the Beasties gave Rick Rubin, LL Cool J's demo) and for crossing genre and social boundaries and for always expanding their music.
"If Run DMC took hip hop to the edges of suburbia, The Beastie Boys drove it right through the center of town," Cool J said.
Yauch who was diagnosed with cancer in 2009 was unable to attend. Their music was celebrated with a medley performed by The Roots with Travie McCoy and Kid Rock.
Guns N' Roses, the L.A. Sunset Strip band that stripped away the teased hair, spandex outfits and party anthems of most of their peers revealing and reveling in L.A.'s seedy undebelly were inducted by Green Day's Bilie Joe Armstrong who called the band's debut album "Appetite For Destruction," "the greatest debut album in the history of rock n' roll" and went on to praise each member contributions individually including singer Axl Rose who declined to participate.
"Let's see, who am I forgetting?" Armstrong asked facetiously drawing a reign of boos from the fans.
Armstrong gently admonished the crowd saying how difficult being in a band is and that rock singers are all just a bit "crazay!"
Each member present (Duff McKagan, Matt Sorum, Steven Adler, Slash) spoke with few direct references to Rose and then performed for the first time in 20 years (with Gilby Clarke taking Izzy Stradlin's place) a set of classics with Slash's current band's singer Myles Kennedy that included, "Paradise City," and "Mr. Brownstone."
The Red Hot Chili Peppers were inducted by comedian/actor Chris Rock who cracked several jokes including "If (Beach Boy mastermind) Brian Wilson and (P-Funk mastermind) George Clinton had a baby, he would be ugly as (expletive), but he would sound like the Red Hot Chili Peppers,"
Each of the Peppers including former drummers Jack Irons and Cliff Martinez, spoke with Flea and Anthony Kiedis heaping praise on George Clinton, Rick Rubin and former members, founding guitarist Hillel Slovak-who died of a drug overdose and was represented by his brother-and guitarist John Frusciante who served two stints in the band but didn't attend the ceremony.
The band played a four song set that included both drummers on "Give It Away" and "By The Way."
The five and half hour evening ended around 1:30 a.m. with a very informal jam (Anthony Kiedis simply asked drummer Chad X who he wanted onstage) featuring the Chili Peppers augmented with Ronnie Wood, Billy Gibbons, George Clinton, Billie Joe Armstrong and a few others.