If you believe the reports then Axl Rose has acted like an arse more times than we can count. Indeed we all would have loved the original line-up to reform and tour / play / Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame / whatever the public wanted, but it looks highly unlikely to ever happen. Axl got the blame for that and yet there are three sides to every story.
Tonight in Liverpool – after a very long wait – the band arrived on stage at 10:55PM which by most accounts is late. Having said that, if this late arrival was a surprise to anyone then they must have been living under a rock. Axl is renowned for turning up late, so what’s the big deal?
Tonight we have a band performing where the singer remains the only original member, the majority of songs performed were written before the current lineup joined, and for the songs where the current band were involved the general consensus is that those songs are from a “shit album”. So why is it then from the moment the band hit the stage they were mesmerising and had the crowd eating from their hand!?!
The current group of main musicians have been in this incarnation of Guns N’ Roses longer than that group of musicians. The musicianship, performance and professionalism is exemplary. Guitarists DJ Ashba, Ron Thai and Richard Fortus share duties equally and are mesmerising to watch. For a set of musicians who didn’t write the lion’s share of music they perform tonight the facsimile representation is inspiring, and it is about time they were given the credit they richly deserve.
The show was all Guns blazing (pun intended)! Starting with ‘Chinese Democracy’ and from the outset with a live sound mix which would put virtually all other bands to shame and all sound engineers in a fit of jealousy, the band ripped through what resulted in a 3 hour set. Axl was in great spirits and laughed, joked and interacted with the crowd, but most importantly his voice was almost perfect. The signature Axl growl, squeal and vocal range was pitch perfect and replicating exactly what has been recorded on all those records we’ve grown to love.
Chinese Democracy took 13 years to release and even if it was the best piece of recorded music ever, the public were NEVER going to give it the credit or chance it deserved – damned before it was even heard! ‘Chinese Democracy’, ‘Sorry’, ‘This I Love’, ‘Street of Dreams’, and ‘Better’ sounded exactly right in the middle of Appetite for Destruction and Use Your Illusions tracks. A powerful mix which simply underlined the quality of songs in the back catalogue where nothing jarred as being out-of-place.
Of course, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that hearing classic tracks was the most enjoyable moments, or received the greatest reaction from the crowd. But then again, tell me ANY show, by ANY band where the classics don’t receive the biggest welcome from a crowd? The point here is that the Chinese Democracy tracks stood up on their own and were fantastic to hear live.
For me – a fan since Appetite for Destruction was released – the stand out track was a goosebump-inducing ‘Estranged’. This was frankly flawless and a joy to witness. A close second was ‘Civil War’, but in actuality it is impossible to pull much to the top as being “oh so much better than everything else” or criticise. Tonight we had a Guns N’ Roses who were on top of their game and were taking no prisoners.
Axl is now 50 years old and perhaps it is simply age or there is more to it, however he does run off-stage a lot and then return when it his moment to sing. It is slightly strange behaviour and why he goes off is anyone’s guess. However when he is onstage he commands it, when he is offstage the band more than fill his absence.
Therefore there are many instrumental jams and interludes but they don’t detract from the show; rather they contribute. It could be assumed that these instrumentals are to give Axl time to recover / relax / do whatever it is he needs to do, but equally it could be that Axl wants to give the band time to shine without him being onstage. The cynical amongst you will argue it isn’t the latter. However let me put this to you – why is it then that tonight as time ran against them was it Axl’s solo which was cut from the set and not that of any band member?
Put any prejudices you may have aside, and be good to yourself – go see this band live and then pull out that rarely played copy of Chinese Democracy and actually listen to it.