GNR FANS SAY THE WAIT WAS WORTH IT
- Larry Nager, The Commercial Appeal, 1.8.92
It was billed as the largest, loudest and latest-starting indoor rock concert ever held in Memphis, and 19,000 heavy-metal fans packed The Pyramid Tuesday night and into early this morning to hear Guns N' Roses, currently one of the hottest bands in rock and roll.
They began arriving in mid-afternoon, driving in from throughout the Mid- South.
Patrick Seliner made it by 4 p.m., all the way from Clinton, Ark., only to find that the 7:30 starting time printed on his ticket meant nothing. The show was rescheduled to start at 9 p.m. (Soundgarden, the opening act, came on at 9:08) and wasn't expected to end before 1 a.m., a decision the band made only last week, due to lead singer Axl Rose's preference for playing late.
Seliner, 20, didn't mind the long drive and the longer wait one bit.
"Naw," he said. "That's the way he (Rose) is, he goes on when he feels like it."
As for his nearly six-hour drive, Seliner added, "I'd drive 2 1/2 days to see them. They're my No. 1 band."
Seliner echoed the sentiments of the hundreds of other GNR fans who already were pouring into The Pyramid parking lots by 5 p.m. The 'Gunners,' thanks in large part to their rebellious stand at the "nasty edge of rock," are headlining the biggest rock tour in a long time and everyone from the youngest teenage fans to grizzled rock veterans wanted to be part of it.
And unlike most concerts, the atmosphere inside the arena Tuesday afternoon was almost as exciting as the one outside.
"The show doesn't start until 9, but it's been like this all day," said arena marketing manager Larry Enis, surveying the frenzy as The Pyramid staff prepared for the evening.
Guns N' Roses carries a sound system befitting its position as probably the premier hard-rock act on the road. A total of 134 speaker cabinets hung from the rafters, flanked by a pair of giant video screens. The speakers, tested in keeping with GNR's reputation, blasted out taped gunfire and explosions of heavy artillery.
But despite the band's reputation, the GNR crowd was mainly well-behaved. Although many of the early arrivals spent time before the show drinking in their cars, few obviously inebriated fans could be seen by showtime.
And, with many Baby Boomers now firmly entrenched in, or approaching, middle age, even rock concerts like Guns N' Roses, are becoming family affairs.
Lynn Armstrong, 39, of Milan, Tenn., was there with his fiance Debbie Cannon, 36, and her kids, Kevin Thompson, 12, and Amanda Cannon, 8. All four are GNR fans, they said. "I love 'em," asserted Amanda.
Roe Sollars, 44, drove from Little Rock with his son Brad, 13, and three of Brad's friends.
Sollars was unfazed by the fact that he and the boys probably wouldn't get home before 3 or 4 a.m.
Sollars is no stranger to rock, but in this case, he was serving as more of a chaperon, he said.
"I've been watching the videos recently to prepare for this," Sollars added.
"If it was the Doors or something like that, I'd be more comfortable."
GNR ACT SPONTANEOUS AND WILD, OR WAS IT?
- Larry Nager, The Commercial Appeal, 1.9.92
Axl Rose and Guns N' Roses earned their positions as rock's foremost bad boys by ignoring virtually every music business rule. But their show Tuesday night at The Pyramid could have profited from one old saw: Always leave them wanting more.
After two hours and 40 minutes of the band's hard rock, even the most die- hard GNR fans were ready to go home, although the concert did provide the record crowd of 18,678 with an old-fashioned rock and roll spectacle.
The 134-speaker system proved, unlike the Van Halen concert in December, that The Pyramid's echo problems can be overcome. Although the vocals still were lost in the upper reaches of the arena, in most seats the sound was surprisingly crisp and clear.
Opening act Soundgarden took the stage shortly after 9, paying tribute to Memphis as "the home of rock and roll" and providing a 50-minute set that ran a heavy gamut from punk-edged speed metal to painfully slow sludge metal. Heavy metal openers have the toughest job in rock, but Soundgarden held its own, and won over the crowd with variety and humor.
The band returns Feb. 7 to open for Skid Row at The Auditorium North Hall.
When GNR finally took the stage at 11:08 p.m., the crowd was more than ready.
By show's end, almost every song on the band's four albums was played and every member showcased.
And Axl was Axl, berating the front rows when they dared to sit, having an audience member who annoyed him thrown out and complaining about what the media writes about him.
To his credit, he demanded as much from himself as he did of the crowd. Though he complained of twisted ankles and a sore throat, he never let up, his razor-blades-on-a-blackboard shriek going full tilt.
But while Guns N' Roses tries to be this generation's Rolling Stones, the real strength of the band isn't Rose's Jagger, it's Slash's Keith Richards.
The guitarist held the band together while managing to avoid a single modern metal cliche. His bluesy solos were concise and to the point and he avoided self-indulgence even during his extended solo spot.
Not surprisingly, the evening's most indulgent moments belonged to Rose, who sat down at a grand piano to gliss his way through November Rain. It was the worst song of the night, completely unsuited to Rose's voice and amateurish approach to the piano.
Still, at least that sort of pretentious self-indulgence was in keeping with the band's image as wild and spontaneous.
But two black boxes at the front of the stage raised a disturbing question: What sort of spontaneous band has to have lyrics rolling by on a couple of teleprompters?
Maybe Axl needs to spend less time worrying about what people write about him and more time memorizing his own lyrics.