- Alison Joy, Kerrang! Magazine, 1988
BULLSHIT! That's what it was, all this ballyhoo about 'great sound for every band.' Compete an' utter twaddle, never better demonstrated than during Guns N' Roses set – the band tipped by many to steal the show.
No such luck I'm afraid, cos the Guns, through no fault of their own found themselves to be the hosts of a very unfortunate party.
'It's So Easy' cranked open the set, nothing more than polite applause from an audience with spirits already dampened by the traditional Donington downpour. Through a temporary dry respite, things didn't look too promisin'. The sound was little short of embarrassingly abysmal, first pouring out of the left hand bank of speakers, then the right, and next a few luxurious, golden seconds of stereo. Vocalist W. Axl Rose had yet to hit his formidable stride (an' let's face it, when it comes to struttin' funky giblets, our Axl's are in line with the best of the land) and, understandably, the band had also yet to hit their bummed-out best.
'Mr. Brownstone' sees Axl's return to form, white booted feet flying, mike stand held horizontally, body swaying from side to side and waist-tied scarf flapping crazily in the cold, gusty wind. Bassist Duff McKagan an' drummer Steven Adler get a chance to shine here, together providing a bountiful bottom end that anyone would be pleased to own (ahem!).
Just as things started to get on an even keel (sound excepted) with a slightly slower than 'Appetite…' speed 'You're Crazy' (featuring guitarist Slash headbanging away like a raving rubberneck), the day dealt its cruel and deadly blow. The huge video screen on the left hand side of the stage collapsed, taking a portion of the scaffolding with it. Naturally, complete panic ensued, the front of the crowd trying to push back and escape, the back of the crowd pushing forward, unaware of the extent of catasrophe. The result: a huge, confused, frightened, out of control crush, providing only more personal injury.
What's a band to do? Play on like hardened pros or compromise the set to try and reinstate order? Fortunately Axl had no qualms in taking time out to demand the audience should step back, enabling those hurt to be rescued. Still the madness continues, so the GN'R show is put on hold while the band curse at the selfish morons pushing and shoving around, not half a brain cell to split between them.
After what seemd like an eternity, the band burst into 'Paradise City,' a madcap marathon which roused the first signs of genuine Gunning enthusiasm thus far. Sadly it was not to last. Still people were being plucked unconscious from the audience, an' Axl's starting to get a bit miffed, screaming at the kids to move back. “Look,” he yells, “I'm takin' time out from my playing to do this, and that's the only fun I get all day.”
Once again the situation eases, the band launch into 'Welcome To The Jungle,' but regardless of how fast Duff could bob his head, the Guns' fate was sealed: the black clouds closed in and the heavens opened.
'Patience' was a new song, a ballad, and its slow unfamiliarity extinguished all final hope for any kind of party atmosphere.
They want out by now: off the hell stage, outta the weather, back to normality. There are hasty thanks for putting 'Sweet Child O' Mine' in the charts (an intro which got the biggest cheers of the set), a good (not great) run through of the usually mouth-opening classic, then they hurtle offstage, bound for the USA.
Ironically, Axl's closing words were 'Don't kill yourselves.' Sad, then, that that particular decision was taken out of human hands and intro those of fate.
I love Guns N' Roses – passionately. Today the odds against them were so immense and unexpected that no band could have pulled through unscathed.