CLEVELAND -- The speeches are written. The guitars are tuned. The amplifiers are plugged in.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, a musical celebration that in the past has included awkward moments, touching tributes and unforgettable performances, is set for Saturday night in Public Hall before 6,000 fans, 1,400 well-heeled guests and many of music's biggest stars.
One will be missing. Axl Rose is skipping the event. The show will rock on without him.
Frontman and co-founder of Guns N' Roses, the head-banging, hard-partying band that achieved global dominance before its inevitable breakup, Rose announced this week that he's skipping this year's ceremony.
He and former band mates headline an eclectic class that includes the Red Hot Chili Peppers, rap pioneers the Beastie Boys, the late singer/songwriter Laura Nyro, folk icon Donovan, and the Small Faces/the Faces, two British bands that included Rod Stewart and Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood.
Rose's decision, which he explained in a rambling letter to the hall , ended months of speculation about whether the original Guns N' Roses lineup would unite for the first time since 1993 and perform any of their classic hits like "Welcome to the Jungle" or "Sweet Child O' Mine."
But Rose, who has toured under the G N'R name for years with a revolving group of musicians, didn't want any part of the festivities and asked that he not be inducted.
"The Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony doesn't appear to be somewhere I'm actually wanted or respected," Rose wrote, citing his feud with former band mates.
The hall plans to enshrine him with whether Rose likes it or not, and despite the drama, some of his fellow inductees aren't going to let him spoil their big night.
"Who cares?" Ian McLagan of the Faces said when asked about Rose's slight.
Wood, who is being inducted for the second time, believes Rose will one day regret his decision.
"He'll think, `I should have done it,"' Wood said. "Drop all the qualms and all the differences."
Rose won't be the only lead singer missing. Stewart came down with the flu this week and can't perform in a Faces reunion.
"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."
Faces will be joined for a short set of songs by Simply Red's lead singer Mick Hucknall, a friend of the band who has played with them before and will take Stewart's spot.
"Lead singers," the affable Wood joked, "they're dropping like flies."
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 will induct Donovan, who had a string of hits in the `60s with "Sunshine Superman," "Hurdy Gurdy Man" and "Mellow Yellow." The pair is expected to perform together.
The influential Nyro, who died in 1997, will be in 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 is being inducted as an early influence.
Carole King will induct the late producer Don Kirshner, who launched Prince and the Eagles.
New Orleans engineer Cosimo Matassa, engineer-producer Tom Dowd and engineer-producer Glyn Johns will also be enshrined.
The Associated Press