I’ve been lucky enough to attend some pretty impressive concerts.
I got to see U2 live in a relatively small stadium, Journey from just a few feet away, and Ozzy’s last Ozzfest with the Black Sabbath lineup. I even got to see Axl with his new Guns N’ Roses line up back in 2012, having previously seen Duff McKagan, Slash, and Matt Sorum (the Use Your Illusion line up) with Velvet Revolver at the aforementioned Ozzfest.
At the time I thought seeing the various parts of GnR in their new ventures was as close as I would get to seeing the original line up live; especially considering the legendary bad blood between Axl and his former bandmates.
Then the news broke last year that Slash was quoted making some exceptionally flattering comments about Rose. And Axl was then quoted reciprocating with some equally complimentary statements about Slash. The two cornerstones of the band thawing a bit? Rumors flew quickly, would there be a reunion?
A few months later it was announced that Rose, McKagan, and Slash all signed up for a reunion show at Coachella. Since I knew I wouldn’t hit the lottery any time soon I figured it’d be something I’d have to miss…until they announced tour dates featuring Axl, McKagan, and Slash. And that they would be playing the football stadium in my city!
I’ve been a GnR fan since the late 80s and early 90s. I grew up watching their videos on MTV (back when they played music) and became borderline obsessed with the group after the Use Your Illusion albums. Even though tastes and moods can change any time anyone asks “who’s your favorite band?” Guns n Roses was always the answer.
For me the show had a lot to live up to and it came through beyond what I could have imagined. My best friend Mike (who’s been a fan almost as long as I have) called it “the culmination of his being.” Over three hours of classic and newer GnR material. Arrangements that harkened back to the Use Your Illusion tour (I remember seeing Slash play the Godfather Theme on a VHS tape I had of a GnR show from the 90s) and even some surprises; such as two songs featuring the first member to be ousted, Appetite for Destruction drummer Steven Adler.
What made the show remarkable to me was that it wasn’t just a greatest hits tour. Yes they played the biggest of the biggest hits and the roar of the crowd was the loudest I’ve ever heard when the opening strains to “Welcome to the Jungle” echoed off the stadium stands, but it was more than that. “Jungle” was followed with relatively deep cut “Double Talkin’ Jive” which has one of my favorite drum beats and guitar outros ever. That in turn was followed by the 9 minute epic, “Estranged” which possibly features my favorite guitar solo ever. Halfway through the show they broke out the ultimate GnR deep cut by playing Coma. A 10 minute song I never thought I’d experience live. Casual fans all around me sat down as the song wound its way through its narrative leaving me one of the few in my section standing up and singing along.
The whole show transported me back in time where playing Doom and drawing comics was all I did every day.
It was far and away greatest concert I’ve ever attended. What’s the future of GnR? Who knows. Axl being as unpredictable as he is may decide to drop the act and just tour with AC/DC (which I have to say if they came here with that line up I’d be pretty psyched for that too). McKagen may ditch it for a solo act. Slash might do the same. The camaraderie on stage appeared pretty damn good though, with Axl jamming to Slash’s solos, and Duff getting to do his own Misfits cover. And I can’t think of a show where bandmates could play for 3 plus hours for as many shows as they have if they weren’t enjoying themselves.
I shouldn’t hold out hope for a new album featuring the OG GnR line up…but I am. Maybe someday we’ll hear new material, even just a song or two, from 80s metal’s Lennon & McCarthy of Axl and Slash.
But if it never happens, or even if the band happens to implode yet again in the coming weeks, those of us who grew up in the GnR era will always have the masterpieces they produced from 1987-1992. And I’ll never forget the show they all got together to put on in 2016.