Chinese Democracy comes to Coachella

guns-n-roses-coachella-setlist-chinese-democracySo it’s official. A reformed (at least with Slash and Duff) Guns N’ Roses will be playing their first live show since 1993 in April 2016 at the Coachella Festival in the US.

This is the kind of seriously big news for which a level of excitement is reserved for the true greats; only a Led Zeppelin reformation and tour could top it in my opinion. Even though we’ve seen many incarnations since the “classic lineup” parted ways somewhere between 1991 and 1996 (depending on what you think classic is), Guns N’ Roses have only released one album in all the years since – the now legendary for all the wrong reasons – Chinese Democracy.

An album 17 years in the making was never going to live up to the hype and expectation or indeed be given the chance to be evaluated or listened to fairly. Another Appetite for Destruction it would never be (was Use Your Illusion?) but as a standalone album there are some brilliant moments on it. Is it simply those songs are not the Guns N’ Roses we knew and loved? Should that be a strong enough reason to ignore it completely?

Now with the reformation shows at Coachella in the diary it raises a question over whether Chinese Democracy songs will be played. Gut feel (and common sense) says “No!”, but then Axl always was known for his ego….

In the unlikely event some of the tracks make it into the set here are the three I think it should be (and if they don’t you should give them a second chance and listen again anyway).

Better – the best song on the album which from 30 seconds onward just sounds like Guns N’ Roses (and that’s any Guns N Roses on a good day). Frankly this song tops a few tracks on Use Your Illusion(s) with its awesome riff, solo, and proper Axl screeches.

Street of Dreams – “What we’ve got here is a…” classic Axl ballad with all the signature piano sounds you’ve come to know and love. It isn’t ‘November Rain’, but you get the idea and deserves to be included in the list with some of the best songs he’s written.

Riad N’ the Bedouins – one of the biggest issues for me on Chinese Democracy is all the “atmospherics”, be it sampled chinese voices, echoes, heartbeats and electronic fuckwittery used to create intros to the songs. Sadly this song doesn’t escape such fate and has a protracted beginning, but once it kicks in around the 47-second mark we have another great rock song. With a different mix, producer, or avoiding the heavy-hand of Axl it could have been a Gn’R classic. It is for this reason that I believe the classic lineup band would do it justice; listen past the atmospherics and hear the song within.

Regardless of what they play, like you, I wait with bated breath for the April shows to hear the group of musicians who once again call themselves Guns N’Roses take the stage and play together. If they can stay together then one day we might even see a follow-up to Chinese Democracy and be given the album we expected after Use Your Illusion I & II.

Now wouldn’t that be a thing?

Gareth Fraser
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