GUNS N` ROSES FIRES OFF A VOLLEY OF OLD AND NEW TO SEAR THE CROWD
- Greg Kot, Chicago Tribune, 5.26.91
``Where do we go?`` wailed Axl Rose during the poignant final seconds of Guns N` Roses` massive 1988 hit ``Sweet Child O` Mine.``
The question was directed at Rose`s lover, but it could well have been addressed to the band itself: Where do we go from here?
On Friday at Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, Rose and company provided the answer.
It was the opening night of what`s projected to be a two-year world tour, and the band debuted nine songs from its still unreleased, two-years-in-the-making follow-up to their 12-million-copies-sold debut album, ``Appetite For Destruction.``
Opening with the smoking ``Right Next Door to Hell,`` in which Rose exacts some verbal revenge against a harassing neighbor, the Los Angeles quintet roared through a two-hour set.
On a spectacular spring evening that kicked off the 1991 outdoor concert season, a crowd of 40,000 roared its approval.
In cheering for an encore, many pounded on their chairs like deranged drummers with fists and feet, but the band needed no coaxing.
Guitarists Slash and Izzy Stradlin, bassist Duff McKagen and new drummer Matt Sorum appeared clean, sober and hungry.
Rose referred only once to the band`s recent troubles with drugs and drink: ``We`ve been working the last couple of years to get our (expletive) together ... so we could get it right.``
Ironically, it was Rose who was hampered, if only slightly, by health problems on this night. His left leg was in a cast, the result of a torn ligament suffered May 17 in New York.
But he showed few ill effects, stumbling only once and frequently pinwheeling around the stage and racing from side to side, microphone stand in hand, like a long-maned javelin thrower.
Musically, the band explored a wider variety of tempos and textures than were apparent on ``Appetite.``
Anchored by Sorum`s rock-steady beat and Stradlin`s slashing rhythm guitar, Slash played bluesy slide on ``You Ain`t the First`` and sparkling Spanish guitar accents on ``Double-Talkin` Jive.``
A searing permutation of ``The Godfather`` theme, dubbed ``Godslaugher,`` ushered in ``Pretty Tied Up,`` and, with cigarette smoldering, Slash wrenched out a solo based on the melody from Alice Cooper`s ``Only Woman Bleed`` as an introduction to a majestic version of Bob Dylan`s ``Knockin` on Heaven`s Door.``
This was followed by another cover, Paul McCartney`s ``Live and Let Die,`` in which the keyboards of guest musician Dizzy Reed finally could be heard above the buzzsaw guitars. The song`s elaborate structure, tempo changes and dynamics could well have been a blueprint for the Gunners more adventurous new tunes, none more so than the set closer, ``Estranged.``
Opening with Reed`s keyboards, it exploded into full-blown rock, then McKagan`s bass rumbled to the top of the mix for a few bars, keyboards again built and receded, Slash unwound a long, elegaic solo and later another, before the song finally concluded.
Throughout the show, the Gunners evoked a host of `60s and `70s rockers- McCartney, Dylan, Rod Stewart, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith.
This is the ``classic rock`` foundation on which Guns N` Roses constructs its music. Melodies build until they`re ready to burst from tension, which is invariably released by Slash`s long, ``guitar hero`` solos. Then, as in ``Patience,`` ``Dust and Bones`` and ``Sweet Child O` Mine,`` the band joins in for a big, anthemic finish.
There`s nothing particularly innovative about this approach. In fact, the bands that Rose advertised on his cap and T-shirt-rappers N.W.A. and industrial rockers Nine Inch Nails-are, stylistically at least, far more daring.
But even if the Gunners are ``old-school,`` they`re also a rock `n` roll juggernaut. They invest proven formulas with fresh passion and sensuality.
When Rose sways from the hips and rocks his shoulders, he embodies those emotions. And his voice, a develish rasp prone to startling leaps into falsetto, is this band`s wickedest instrument.
At show`s end, his injured foot throbbing, Rose was grimacing but triumphant.
``It has blisters and it hurts like hell,`` he said backstage, ``but we`re still rockin`.``
- Edna Gundersen, USA Today
East Troy, Wis. - Guns N' Roses, pop music's cagey but uncageable savage beasts, have returned to rescue the endangered species of rock heroes.
Packing lethal new ammo, the Guns launched their mammoth two-year world tour with spectacularly fierce concerts Friday and Saturday at the packed Alpine Valley Music Theatre.
The 15-song, two-hour show easily establishes the band as the most potent and unstoppable force in hard rock. Its approach is hardly novel - a blues-based primal assault influenced by icons Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith. But nobody matched GN'R's armed-and-dangerous delivery, undiminished by scattered opening-night wobbles.
Guitarist Izzy Stradlin, bassist Duff McKagan and new drummer Matt Sorum (formerly of the Cult) form the volcanic rhythm section. Guest keyboardist Dizzy Reed softens the blows, especially on the muscular cover of Paul McCartney's Live And Let Die.
The band's strongest assets are the twin screeches of Axl Rose's vocals and Slash's guitar. Rose, the visual axis, evokes A Clockwork Orange when he bounds on stage in green velour shorts, a catcher's chest protector, bulky boots and a self-designed cast to treat torn ligaments in his left ankle. Unhampered by the injury, he storms through trademark sways, gyrations and stomps.
His steely voice, best when whining such full throttle anthems as Civil War and Estranged , is a facile if scabrous instrument, leaping from a rumbling growl in Mr. Brownstone to a soaring yowl in Sweet Child O' Mine.
Whether plucking killer bars from Jimi Hendrix's Voodoo Child or serving up The Godfather theme, Slash's solos are coherent, elastic and spellbinding. A surprisingly gentle Spanish guitar coda on Double Talkin' Jive demonstrates a range beyond lucid slide and hell-bent speed runs.
Familiar fare (Patience, Welcome To The Jungle) draws the loudest roars, but blustery newcomers like Dust N' Bones, neighbor trashing Right Next Door To Hell and the kinky-sex anthem are sure-fire hits from a band that has yet to miss its target.