Guns n' Roses 5/12/06: Thunder Across 8th Avenue
There are two kind of Guns fans: those who refuse to admit that 1993 is long gone and, arms folded petulantly, demand that a Slash-less G n'R be considered nothing more than a cover band, and those that will take whatever form of Guns they can, Slash or no Slash. I belong to the latter category, since Axl Rose is one of the most exciting live performers I have ever seen, and I will see him any chance I get. Friday night I got that rare opportunity, and I wasn't disappointed in the least - Rose was in peak 1991 form (I should know, having attended the now-famous LA Forum shows in July of that year) , and his all-important "look" was light years cooler than his disastrous 2002 MTV appearance, with a simple leather shirt and crucifix, jeans, and a ginger goatee framing his corn-rowed head nicely.
The show kicked off at 11PM with a thunderous, rousing Welcome To The Jungle, followed by It's So Easy and the sinewy Mr.Brownstone completing the Appetite trifecta in perfect style. Then, suddenly, a peek inside the long awaited Chinese Democracy album with Better, the crunchy new potential single with one of the best G n'R riffs ever. A barrage of hits followed - Live and Let Die, Knockin'On Heavens Door, Sweet Child O' Mine, You Could Be Mine, and November Rain among them- that left the crowd gazing in wild wonder at the sheer mastery of Rock and Roll stagecraft. Flashpots exploded, pyrotechnics singed the cheeks of the fans huddled near the stage, and a triptych of video screens displayed the action as Rose and Robin Finck, their new guitarist(ex-Nine Inch Nails), rushed to different ends of the stage, displaying their respective skills with near total abandon. Finck, particularly,was solid, resembling a skinnier Rick Rubin with a 1970 Jim Morrison makeover, and the drummer, Brian "Brain" Mantia, played tight effective fills.
Sure, there were a few glitches.The mixing board had an off night, especially on The Blues and IRS, two newer songs that show promise, and Rose, leaner and vocally much stronger than 2002, was occasionally winded, probably because he sings with more intensity than 99% of the performers in the world. It seemed to this listener that Axl felt he had something to prove, and he sang as if his life (and career) depended on it. He came pretty close to having a perfect night, with only Sweet Child and Out To Get Me eluding him ever so slightly.
Still, with a moving version of Patience and a triumphant Paradise City to end the show on a high note, this one thing is clear: Axl is definitely back. If he can sustain the tour, release the album (complete with a cool video or two) - big ifs, given his track record - then Guns n' Roses can come back in a big, big way. And that would not only be a great thing for the fans, but for music in general.
Thanks to Heretodaygonetohell.com for the photo.