GUNS N' ROSES HITS MARK DESPITE AXL ROSE
- Walter Tunis, The Lexington Herald-Leader, 6.30.91
Call it what you want. On the surface it was “An Evening with Guns N' Roses.” A better tag would have been, “How Much Axl Rose Can You Possibly Stomach in the Course of Two Hours?”
Rose, the controversial and often belligerent lead singer of Guns N' Roses, was clearly the focal point of last night's Rupp Arena concert.
As rock shows go, the performance was far better than your typical hard rock evening at Rupp. This one took risks, took its time and in terms of pure energy was built to last.
But then there's bad boy Rose, who hit the stage spinning like a windup toy. He was decked out in suitably freakish fashion in a black cap, a baseball catcher's chest protector and a Scottish kilt.
The looks weren't anything, however. During the course of the show, Rose referred to a brush with a Blue Grass Airport police officer as an encounter with “my first Kentucky redneck,” bought three tickets back form front row patrons for $100 apiece because they were “too boring” for him to watch, and ridiculed Bob Dylan before launching into the famed songwriter's “Knockin' on Heaven's Door.”
Oh, let us show patience for the suffering rock star.
How difficult it must be these days for Rose to tolerate such lackluster crowds, although for $22.75 a ticket, members of last night's crowd deserved to read The Great Gatsby during the show if they wanted to.
How trying it must be for him to deal with such bullying authorities, although Rose's comments about the airport scuffle eventually proved quite ironic when they were used to introduce a song called “Double Talkin' Jive.”
And as for the Dylan crack -- where Rose chuckled at what it would be like to see the songwriter scale the many ramps on the band's massive stage set as Rose did quite deftly -- maybe we should sit back and wonder just what sort of shape Rose will be in and what sort of popularity he will be dealing with when he hits 50, as Dylan just did. Will any upstart rockers be cashing in on his songs? Don't hold your breath.
If one could wade through Rose's blabbering, the Guns N' Roses show wasn't all that bad. Much of the band's two-hour-plus set consisted of material from the band's two upcoming albums, Use Your Illusion I and II.
Relying so heavily on unfamiliar material was a hefty risk that might have paid off better had the band spread it out more. As it was, it was served up as mostly a lump sum in the middle of the concert with only a few familiar tunes such as “Patience” and “Civil War” thrown in to break it up.
Hits from the band's blockbuster Appetite for Destruction were dispensed with at the start of the show (“Mr. Brownstone,” “Welcome to the Jungle”) or else served up for an encore (“Sweet Child O' Mine”).
The new tunes packed considerable more variety than Guns N' Roses' past work. Rockers like “Pretty Tied Up,” “14 Years” and a cover of Paul McCartney's “Live and Let Die” kept the Rupp crowd on its feet. Other, more adventurous material, such as the ballad “November Rain,” was rendered incomprehensible because of Rose's trademark whine.
The best of the Use Your Illusion tunes was a long, wistful tune called “Estranged,” which ably showed off the talents of the band's two guitarists: Slash and Izzy Stradlin.
Unfortunately, the tune was also at times an all-too-true summation of the sentiments that Rose displayed to music and to his audience. “I'm talkin' to myself,” he sang. “And nobody's home.”
Opening act Skid Row cut through all the ceremony and immediately went to business during its 45- minute set, which drew heavily on its recent No. 1 album, Slave to the Grind.
While singer Sebastian Bach is a walking encyclopedia of rock cliches -- from the usual overdose of expletives to his requisite tossing of the microphone stand -- the band let loose with surprising force on tunes such as “Riot Act” and “Monkey Business.”
It won't win points for originality, but for an opening set of ornery, metal- tinged guitar crunch, Skid Row delivered the goods with ease.