April 15, 2012 at 1:16 AM ET
Axl Rose may regret missing this bash.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, a musical celebration that in past years has included awkward moments, touching tributes and unforgettable performances, kicked off Saturday night in Cleveland's historic Public Hall where 6,000 fans, 1,400 well-heeled guests and many of music's biggest stars partied with the class of 2012.
Hard rockers Guns N' Roses headlined this year's eclectic group of inductees. Others are the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Beastie Boys, folk icon Donovan, late singer-songwriter Laura Nyro and British bands the Small Faces and Faces.
Rose, the Guns N' Roses lead singer with an affinity for drama, skipped the event after years of bitter feuding with his former "Appetite for Destruction" bandmates, and his name earned catcalls from the crowd when it was mentioned.
Boos rang out from some of the 6,000 in attendance early in the evening when Billie Joe Armstrong, lead singer of Green Day, asked the crowd "who was missing" as members of Guns N' Roses were up on stage accepting their award.
"Most singers are crazy. I can vouch for that," Armstrong told the audience. He praised Rose: "He is one of the best front man to ever touch a microphone." Then added: "Sometimes you have to look back at chapters of your life to move forward."
Cleveland rocked without him. Green Day got the show started with a rousing performance.
Although he asked not to be inducted, the hall plans to enshrine him with whether Rose likes it or not. Rose was the first artist to publicly snub the honor since surviving members of punk rockers the Sex Pistols, inducted in 2006, refused to attend the ceremony.
As the ceremony approached, fans gathered on the sidewalks outside the historic venue, which hosted the Beatles in 1964, for a peek at some of rock's royalty.
Alice Cooper was the fan favorite on the red carpet, signing autographs, telling printable stories and waving in response to cheers of "Alice, Alice!"
"New York is glitz, Cleveland is the nuts and bolts," said Cooper, comparing the cities that share the rock hall induction ceremonies, which are held at New York's Waldorf-Astoria and come to Cleveland every third year.
"I'm from the Midwest. Cleveland feels normal to me," said Cooper, dressed in a decidedly Hollywood-style black no-lapel tuxedo with a flowered shirt.
Cooper, standing under a canvass canopy protecting against threatening skies, marveled at the scene and said he was glad to be around.
"It's our version of the Academy Awards," he said. "If you can stay alive to 27 — that seems to be the expiration date for rock stars."
Funk icon George Clinton made a splashy entrance, arriving in a silver bullet-shaped vehicle familiar to amusement park thrill riders. Wearing a gray herringbone coat and black fedora, he stood and waved from the back seat.
Darlene Love, who performed "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" for deceased inductee Don Kirshner, showed some love to her Rust Belt fans when she arrived. "They show their appreciation," said Love, glamorous in a one-shoulder red dress, black wrap and red clutch purse.
"Good to see you," she cooed.
Rose isn't the only lead singer missing.
Rod Stewart, who was to be inducted and perform with Faces, came down with the flu this week.
"I'm absolutely devastated," Stewart said in a statement. "Shattered that I'm going to miss my second induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — and this time alongside my mates."
Like Guns N' Roses, the Red Hot Chili Peppers emerged from Los Angeles during the 1980s when Sunset Strip's rock scene was dominated by "hair" bands more concerned with their tight lycra pants and eyeliner than their sound. Not the Chili Peppers, who found their unique groove by blending funky hooks and a punk ethos.
While their lineup has undergone some changes — founding guitarist Hillel Slovak died of a heroin overdose in 1988 — lead singer Anthony Kiedis and bassist Flea have survived personal highs and lows and the band remains one of music's top live acts.
Three white middle-class smart alecks from New York, the Beastie Boys were initially dismissed as beer-swilling frat boys following their 1986 debut album "License To Ill," which featured songs like "(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!)" and "Girls." But their follow-up, "Paul's Boutique," was acclaimed by critics and brought the Beasties credibility in the black hip-hop community.
John Mellencamp inducted Donovan, who had a string of hits in the '60s with "Sunshine Superman," "Hurdy Gurdy Man" and "Mellow Yellow."
The influential Nyro, who died in 1997, was inducted by her son, Gil Bianchini. Smokey Robinson will induct long-deserving backup bands for early rock artists. The group includes Buddy Holly's The Crickets, James Brown's The Famous Flames, Bill Hailey's The Comets and Robinson's The Miracles.
Blues artist Freddie King was being inducted as an early influence. Carole King inducted Kirshner, who launched Prince and the Eagles. New Orleans engineer Cosimo Matassa, engineer-producer Tom Dowd and engineer-producer Glyn Johns were also enshrined.