- Brian Brander Brinkerhoff, Kerrang! Magazine, 1989
The fact that Guns N' Roses were a bit sloppy on the first of four sold-out shows as support to the Rolling Stones shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone.
After all, they've been off the road for a stretch now, and put in just a couple of warm-up dates in some smaller venues around LA prior to today's (October 18) first show at the city's huge Coliseum.
What was surprising was that frontman W. Axl Rose decided that tonight was the proper time to announce his 'retirement' from Guns, and that these gigs with the Stones would be the final shows that GN'R would do…
Rather than jump right into the opening number 'It's So Easy', the band milled around for a few minutes while Axl started off the set with an explanation and defence of the now infamous lyrics to 'One In A Million'. That accomplished, to a very mixed reaction from the crowd I might add, the music and the bombshell announcements came pouring forth.
The fivesome followed 'It's So Easy' with 'Mr. Brownstone'. But before it, Axl suggested "certain people in the Guns N' Roses organization get their shit together and quit dancing with this man."
Izzy Stradlin and Slash each added some tasteful playing, although with Slash now minus the famous trademark top hat that he wore during the opening song, it can now be revealed that the man is quickly becoming a definite candidate for a Syrup! However, the sudden hair loss certainly hasn't affected Slash's playing, which was strong throughout the set.
'Out Ta Get Me' was most memorable owing to the fact that Axl took an unexpected tumble from the stage on to the ground below. He fell a full four/five meters, but hardly missed a not and attributed the mishap to "fancy footwork", adding: "That wasn't the type of stage dive I had in mind."
A horn section, featuring Duff McKagan's brother, added an interested touch to 'Move To The City', and if any HR/HM band can pull off horns without appearing to succumb to trendiness and pandering to the mostly yuppie crowd assembled here tonight, it's these GN'R guys.
Things slowed down a little but for 'Patience', but anyone expecting an opportunity to catch their breath was rudely jolted back to reality by the thundering 'My Michelle". Steven Adler and Duff laid down a fierce and pounding bottom end that Izzy and Slash used to their advantage, adding some fiery six-string flourishes.
During 'Rocket Queen' the band broke into an extended middle section breakdown, which saw Axl take over on bass chores and Duff move over to add more muscle to Adler's percussion work.
The one-two punch of 'Sweet Child O' Mine' and 'Welcome To The Jungle' had everyone moving and singing along. 'Knockin' On Heaven's Door' closed the proceedings.
"Since you're the biggest LA crowd we've every played in front of, you better be the loudest," admonished Axl, and the atmosphere in the crowd reached fever pitch.
Of course the band returned for an encore - a frantic run-through of 'Paradise City'.
Then Axl made his stunning announcement: that he was 'retiring', and that these were Guns' final shows. He threw his microphone to the floor, and GN'R left the boards for parts unknown. "Have a nice life…" was Axl's parting comment.
Backstage, David Lee Roth was on hand to take the singer aside and offer some calming words as Axl threw another of his 'mood swings'. So now the wondering starts.
Is Axl serious? Time will tell, but I somehow doubt it.
Later in the evening, Mick Jagger told the crowd: "I don't know what's the matter with Axl tonight, but we dedicate this next number to him. We all have these things but we don't talk about them onstage!" After which the Stones launched into 'Mixed Emotions'!
STOP PRESS: Before the October 19 show, Slash took the mic to make a speech about drug and heroin abuse, apologizing for his own transgressions…