Thursday, Dec. 15
First, a disclaimer. I wasn't supposed to review this show. Moments before I arrived at Conseco Fieldhouse to collect my credentials for this show, management pulled my access. I was BANNED by Guns N' Roses.
Further followup with the publicist revealed that someone wasn't happy with my “negative” preview last week. Apparently this organization is a wee bit sensitive about fishnet shirts and Elton John boy shorts, especially since this show was one of the biggest-selling shows of the current tour (with a puny 8,000 seats filled). Thanks to friends in low places, however, I was able to sneak across enemy lines.
When the show finally began, this incarnation started started not with the greatest opening song of all time, “Welcome to the Jungle,” but with Axl Rose's version of “African Child,” from Chinese Democracy. Not that I got anything against Chinese Democracy, which I love. But it should not have been performed first.
This was just the first of many problems I had with this show. I'll recap — In no particular order— the top five things that bugged me about this Guns N' Roses show:
1. What the fuck is Tommy Stinson doing in this band? Well, OK he's getting paid, sure. But I bet a Replacements reunion would make him just as much money as he's getting paid as a salaryman in this overblown Vegas production of a GNR show.
2. This was an overblown Vegas production of a GNR show. Lights! Flash! Explosions! Celine Dion wearing a Van Morrison hat! No, wait; that's Axl. In this context, the Use Your Illusion stuff was spine-tingly awesome. But it made the Appetite stuff seem too hokey; I could swear I saw Bumblefoot throw some jazz hands during “Paradise City.” The new Chinese Democracy stuff was, well, I love that shit. Hell, I brush my teeth to it!
3. Everybody, and I mean everybody, got a solo. I'm surprised that the roadies didn't get solos. Aside from Tommy Stinston's cool run through of “Sonic Reducer” ( see #1) and Axl's solo piano reading of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road / Someone Saved My Life Tonight” that kicked off a toweringly grandiose “November Rain,” these solo turns were boring and pointless. Who cares that Dizzy Freaking Reed can murder the Who's “Won't Get Fooled Again,” or that Zakk Wylde, who's not even in the band, turned in a lame “Whole Lotta Rosie”? I can't help but wonder if Axl even knows he's not in the band.
4. “Another Brick in the Wall.” Really? I mean, really?
5. I almost prefer the days of old - when Axl changed his fishnet half-shirt every song - over the stupid-looking hat parade he's got going on now.
That said, Axl's voice never sounded better. His vocals on “Estranged” were staggeringly beautiful. The band was tight and sounded great, but there was no soul. They were just hired hands. Even on the Chinese Democracy stuff (which, I'll say it again, I love), they were simply putting on a show. The sad thing is, I'm not convinced that even with Izzy, Slash, Duff and Steve back on board, things would be any better. Now that Guns N' Roses are in the Hall of Fame, maybe it's time for Axl to bury the GNR boilerplate and just be Axl, half-shirts, boyshorts, stupid hats and all.