GnR

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Slash in 2010.
By Scott Penner – http://www.flickr.com/photos/penner/2423575115/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7728363

As the world disintegrated on Thursday night*, I was at Ford Field in Detroit watching the first show of the new Guns N’ Roses tour. This was the third time I’ve seen GNR; the first in Seattle in October 1992, and the second in April 1993 in Portland. I don’t mind stadium shows, although I haven’t seen one in a while. Thursday’s show was the first of the “Not in this Lifetime” tour, which brings Slash and Duff McKagan back into the fold.  Feel free to debate whether Axl, Slash, and Duff are sufficient to constitute “Guns N’ Roses,” but if your answer is “no,” then the band hasn’t existed since 1991.

Alice in Chains opened, which we missed because really, there are limits. GNR hit the stage at 9:43, two minutes ahead of schedule.  Several friends had asked me “what if Axl throws a tantrum and they only play for fifteen minutes and then cancel the tour?” to which I responded “Well, that would be awesome.” There were hiccups; in particular, the sound effects associated with the pyrotechnics were off, and unnecessarily distracting.  And halfway through It’s So Easy, the first song of the set, Rose looked visibly winded.  A lot of folks seemed to notice this; I thought to myself “first song of the first concert; gonna be a long tour, Axl,” but he recovered quickly.

Axl somehow convinced Duff and Slash to do three tracks of Chinese Democracy. I’m not nearly as familiar with CD as with the rest of the catalogue, although I don’t think it’s a bad album. And I’m happy that it hasn’t been expunged from the history of the band. The inclusion of the songs (along with a few covers) suggests that Rose, in particular, still wants to do something interesting and challenge the audience, rather than becoming a greatest hits act. There were no extra musicians on stage, no background singers, no orchestra; the stripped down set worked particularly well for November Rain, which plays better in such conditions than with the full regalia.

With respect to Axl… it may shock some readers that a fifty-four year old man can add a few pounds over his thirty-one year old self, but let me assure you that this is a thing that can happen in the real world (Slash also seems just a bit stouter than he was in the 1990s, although Duff looked like he had somehow lost weight). Although Rose’s drug use has been overstated, he endured some significant health problems in the 1980s and 1990s. On balance, Rose is almost certainly more healthy now than just about any time in his GNR tenure.  And while he may be a bit slower and less slinky than he was in the early days of the band, it’s only a marginal difference; he remains a remarkably energetic front man, and his voice is still quite strong.

With respect to intra-band relations, Axl and Slash worked very well together.  I’ve heard that relations between Duff and Axl are still quite bad, but it didn’t show up on stage in any meaningful way.  Overall, the entire band performed very professionally, and worked well as a unit.  If GNR is your thing, then you should give the tour some consideration.

*Yes; I was, in fact, frantically checking my phone for Brexit updates during a Guns N’ Roses show.

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  • dl

    Axl on stage ahead of schedule? World really is coming to an end!

    Was it sold out?

    • Manju

      He’s one in a million.

      • Dilan Esper

        The rant in the middle of that song should be played at Trump rallies.

        • Scott Lemieux

          “should be?”

          • Dilan Esper

            It would fit in better than what they play now.

  • shewasthenaz

    How’s he managing to do G’nR and AC/DC simultaneously?

    I figured that AC/DC wouldn’t start until Rose’s G’nR obligaitons were complete, but then I read he’d done a couple AC/DC shows in a cast, sitting down (which might partly explain his being winded…).

    • wjts

      “Yes I’m sitting down, in a cast
      I’ll need a cushion if this tour’s gonna last…”

    • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

      Have you seen the footage of the “Axl/DC” shows? From what I’ve seen it’s been pretty phenomenal. Axel’s vastly more dynamic than Brian Johnson, and can pull off the Bon Scott material as well. It seems like he’s been pushing them to get a little more adventurous playing songs from deeper in the back catalog, which is a welcome change.

  • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

    On a related note, has anyone come across a tick-tick/ oral history of Chinese Democracy? I still can’t get my head around WTF Axl was doing that whole time (obvious jokes: food, drugs, apparently LA hipsters). I know some of the basics (several lineup changes, fallins out, lawsuits, etc.), but the details would be fascinating.

    • Bootsie

      My new book, No, Really, He Made Buckethead Lose His Patience: The Story of Chinese Democracy.

  • Scott Lemieux

    Was Buckethead there?

    • Bootsie

      Buckethead vs. Slash in the battle of the iconic guitarists with headgear.

      • Thom

        I saw Buckethead in a San Francisco club/collective called Komotion (Joe Gore and Matt Callahan were members), circa 1988-91 (don’t recall exactly). At that time, the bucket was fully over the head, and the act included fake cutting off of fingers.

  • jim, some guy in iowa

    axl is 54. holy shit

  • Manju

    And I’m happy that it hasn’t been expunged from the history of the band.

    Cut the crap.

  • UncleEbeneezer

    Was Stephen Adler on drums?

    • DW

      Unfortunately, they had to settle for Jonathan Adler.

  • howard

    Did they do anything from spaghetti incident?

    • Robert Farley

      Raw Power, with Duff on lead vocals.

  • Bootsie

    Did Slash break out the Godfather Theme?

    • Robert Farley

      Yep.

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