Alex Alexander's Review [posted 9.29.92]
GUNS N' FUCKIN' ROSES N' FUCKIN' DIRT IN FUCKIN' OAKLAND
TIRED OF WAITING
I was pretty psyched when the computer trade show ended Thursday at San Francisco's Moscone Center. I had been working there all week, standing on my feet explaining the intricacies of high resolution laser typesetting after having drunk what seemed like a goodly portion of the available Bay Area liquor stock the night before.
I had a pounding headache, my feet were killing me, and I was sweating my ass off inside my wool suit. God, I hate the real world...
As soon as 5 p.m. rolled around and the security guards locked the crowds out of the convention center, I grabbed my bag and ran into the bathroom to change into some REAL clothes -- jeans, black GNR tour T-shirt, Reeboks, shades.
Then, before I came out of the bathroom stall, I couldn't help myself: I screamed at the top of my lungs, "Guns N' Fuckin' Roses!!!" I think the guy in the next stall jumped about three feet of the toilet. I know he dropped his newspaper.
I ran back to my company's booth, gave my crap to a coworker to bring back to the hotel, ran out the front door of Moscone and jogged to the Montgomery BART station.
BART WAS COOL
I bought a two-way ticket and hopped on the Fremont Train, which was conveniently waiting for me. It was filled to the brim with people on their way to the show. I stood next to a guy from Canada who was following the show all over, staying in youth hostels. (Now there's dedication for you!) Two cute girls sitting near us were slurping down rum and cokes and she let me have a hit off of her rum bottle.
We don't have light rail in Minneapolis. We just have buses now. I think BART is really cool and I hope our plan passes (our City Council is working on getting the first light rail built here by 1995).
When the train pulled into the coliseum, I saw thousands of drunken people on the pedestrian overpass leading from the train platform to the coliseum. It was a huge party on the overpass!
Just as I began to cross it, I saw a wave of cops moving from the coliseum toward us. Almost everyone tossed their bottles to the ground. Those that just set them upright on the ground, hoping the cops would just pass by, were disappointed when they used their nightsticks to knock over anything that was standing.
The overpass looked like it had been through a riot, and a few of the people who were blowing chunks through the steel mesh must have felt that way inside.
TOO LATE FOR ICE-T
I could hear Body Count playing "KKK Bitch" as I walked over. Shit. I knew I would miss them because it was about 6 p.m. when I got off the train and I knew they would only play for 45 minutes. I thought maybe I could still catch "Cop Killer" if I got in right away.
But when I got across the bridge, I saw that I had to walk all the way around the coliseum to the stadium to get my will-call mail order ticket. It seemed like I walked at least a mile to get there and back to the entrance.
I walked in at 6:20 just as Ice-T and Body Count were leaving. Oh well, I heard they are coming to First Avenue in Minneapolis sometime this fall. I'll catch them there.
COLISEUM WAS IMPRESSIVE COMPARED TO MINNEAPOLIS VENUE
I walked out onto the field (it was a "Day on the Green," so I had to be "on" the green, not in the stands).
I must admit I was impressed with the coliseum. I had never been there before and it was very cool. The even cooler part was that in Minneapolis, they have banned General Admission seating since, what, '79? I think it was when people got trampled in Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati. Was that 1979? I can't remember. All I can remember is going to hundreds of GA concerts when I was a kid. Led Zeppelin; Emerson, Lake and Palmer; Yes; Jethro Tull; Pink Floyd; Lynyrd Skynyrd; Aerosmith; The Rolling Stones; Black Sabbath; Ted Nugent; The Who; Frank Zappa; Santana; Steve Miller; Moody Blues; Allman Brothers; David Bowie; Electric Light Orchestra; Johnny and Edgar Winter; Deep Purple; Uriah Heep; all of these bands I saw at or near the front. Now I am lucky if I can get closer than 40th row most of the time. I usually just break down, and if I want to see the band badly enough -- like GNR in Chicago -- I will pay a ticket broker. I paid $200 for 8th row in Chicago, which, by the way, was the best GNR concert I have ever seen so it was worth it.
It sure was a helluva different atmosphere in the coliseum than it was in Minneapolis in the fucking Metrodome. God, I HATE that place. It's just extremely obnoxious. The sound absolutely sucks. When Axl was onstage here, he said to the crowd: "Welcome to the world's largest oil drum. It's like playing in a bathroom." Of course, outside it was pouring down eight inches of rain and flooding all of the streets, so I guess I can't complain TOO much....
It was just a pleasure in the coliseum to be able to sit wherever the fuck I wanted to, to move whenever the fuck I wanted to and to not have to show dickhead security guards and ushers my ticket stub every fifteen feet so they can make sure I wasn't some crasher from the nosebleed section who snuck down so I might, God Forbid, actually SEE the band.
CALM BEFORE THE STORM
Back on the coliseum field, I wandered around and checked out that felt-like tarp on the grass. I could already see it coming up and I knew it wouldn't last. There were Cokes spilled on it and it was mushing apart in some places. Also, there were thousands of cigarette burn holes in it and it was slowly starting to resemble Swiss cheese in some places. Some guy smoking a joint offered me some. I took a few hits, looked around, took a sip off of my Coke. Cool. This was very cool.
Then it happened. A little piece of dirt fell from the sky into my Coke. I looked up. I couldn't figure out where it came from, but I thought to myself, "Fuck, man, what are the odds some little piece of flying dirt has to land inside MY Coke. Shit."
Then I heard the crowd start to roar. We all started looking around. We thought there was a fight. We were all standing on our toes, trying to see what the hell was going on.
Then I saw a small clump of grass flying through the air. It arced gracefully across the sky in front of me and landed square on top of a beautiful blonde's head. She dropped her Coke and her cigarette, started brushing the dirt out of her hair and screamed eloquently at no one in particular: "Goddammit you motherfuckin' bastards!" She started to move in the direction of where the sod came, evidently to kick the sod thrower in the groin.
She didn't get far, though. She took three steps and got nailed by four or five more chunks of sod. That's when everyone around us realized it was a war. We looked at each other and screamed. Some headed out immediately. Some, like me, felt safe for some unknown reason and stood my ground.
Just then, I saw a guy with a hunk of sod looking at me from across what was once a mosh pit, but had now become a sod firing squad execution area. I looked to my left and my right; everyone had backed away from me. I turned around and looked behind me; everyone had their backs to me, huddled together to protect each other from the dirt. There was no place to run, no place to hide.
FULL SCALE COMBAT
I turned around to face my executioner and immediately got plowed in the face by a sod chunk from a different direction. After leaving its filthy imprint on my forehead, the sod slid off my face into my Coke. The blonde who had gotten pelted first laughed so hard she fell on the ground. (Either that or she was arming herself with more sod.) The guy who was about to nail me laughed, too. While he was distracted for that split second, I whipped my sod-filled Coke at him. It got in his eyes so he couldn't see me anymore, but he flung his sod hunk in my general direction. He was off by a bit, so he missed me completely, but he hit the blonde right in the face. By this time, she was caked with dirt and laughing her ass off.
This was all starting to seem like a Three Stooges movie. I was just waiting for the cream pies to come out. There was sod every where. I looked up into the sky and there was so sod flying that at one point the entire sky seemed blotted out by flying dirt and grass. It was intense.
I decided to view from a safe seat in the stands and worked my way through the war zone to the edge of the field. Just as I managed to climb the first step, the halide lights banged out and Metallica came on stage.
Metallica was very good. I have not been a huge fan and never really paid much attention to them until their latest stuff, so I am a sucker for "Unforgiven" and "Wherever I May Roam." But even though I don't know much about them or their songs or which albums they come off of, I really did like "Seek and Destroy" and "Enter Sandman."
Although the newspapers said that Hetfield was imploring the crowd to get into it because they seemed listless, if they would have seen another show like I did in Minneapolis, they would have realized that he said EXACTLY the same things to those people. It's part of the act. He does it to personalize the act. Even though they are from the Bay Area and seem to have a lot of loyal followers there, they didn't make much of that. They pretty much stuck to the plan they followed in Minneapolis, including the same set and the same word-for-word introductions.
But that bottom by Jason does make you shake your foot, I must say. And the soaring Kirk solos are pretty cool.
DRUMMING, ULRICH STYLE
Just a side note about drumming here: And I am a drummer, so I tend to watch them closely. I must say that I was extremely impressed with Lars Ulrich. This guy is a fucking wild man!
I think Matt Sorum is a very capable drummer and he has the perfect style for GNR. But Lars should have been the one playing the solo, not Matt.
Matt played a very simplistic solo. Hell, *I* could have played it and I am by no means a pro. But there were timings and changes that Lars did in normal playing that I would have to study very hard to duplicate. There is nothing like that with Matt. Just straightforward playing. And I play to GNR all the time on my own drum set with my headphones and there's nothing he does that I cannot duplicate. Matt's playing is not boring by any means, in fact it's perfect for GNR's style of music. It just does not deserve a solo. I personally would be embarrassed if I was him.
In all fairness, there were two or three beats during Matt's solo that were really kick-ass and had the crowd rockin'. However, he could not sustain them for more than about 30 seconds and then he would start a new beat.
For anyone who has ever been really into a lot of rock concerts and seen drum solos, you know that you have to start with a beat, build on it, add to it, change it around, manipulate the original beat, double it, quadruple it, and come back to the original before slowing down and finally stopping. Matt has to get that formula down and then it will work. Now he's just kinda randomly winging it. It doesn't work that well.
I saw Lad Zeppelin from the second row and watched John Bonham do Moby Dick. Now THAT was an awesome solo...
GUITARING, SLASH STYLE
What more is there to say? This is the REASON I am a GNR fan. I like Axl because hates any sort of authority figure, which touches a chord in my heart. But the REASON I listen to GNR is because of Slash.
However, if I was running this show I would have done things a little differently. I would not have had him do a solo after every three songs. I would have had him do one, bombastic, orgasmic, suicidal solo for 15 minutes and blown everyone away -- throw in a little Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile," some Robin Trower's "Bridge of Sighs," some Jeff Beck's "Led Boots," maybe something from Mountain's "Nantucket Sleighride," and end with "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds," the theme from the Godfather and maybe a little Santana's "Moonflower" or "Europa."
But, still, Slash is my favorite guitarist...ever.
THE GNR SET
Once again, I am spoiled because I have seen GNR without Metallica and they play a lot longer. But they blasted out "Welcome To The Jungle" and then did "Mr. Brownstone," "Live and Let Die," "It's So Easy," "Bad Obsession," "Double Talkin' Jive," (by the way, the term "home-fuck" has now seemed to become a permanent part of that song, in reference to Warren Beatty, I believe) "Civil War," "You Could Be Mine," "Patience," "November Rain" "Sweet Child O Mine," "Knockin' On Heaven's Door," "Don't Cry," "Paradise City".
I don't know why people complain about Axl changing clothes. I think it's cool. I think it adds a lot of interest to the set, which by the way has some extremely cool lighting effects, flashpots, explosions and flamethrowers.
The guys who did the sound board were really bad, though. I could have heard "Don't Cry" better on my car stereo. It was really quiet and sounded washed out. Also, the video screen screwed up and froze for awhile and it was really quite distracting.
All in all, it was basically the same show that they did in Minneapolis with Metallica, but did not come close -- either in content or quality -- to the shows they did on their own Illusion tour last year and the beginning of this year.
I really wanted to hear some songs that I have already heard live, like "Coma," "Estranged" and "Nightrain", and some that I have not heard live yet, like "Locomotive," "Get in the Ring," "Pretty Tied Up," "Don't Damn Me," and "Right Next Door to Hell." But all I got was the Minneapolis set list. And that is strange because GNR is known for playing a different set every time. That's one of the reasons I will see them in different cities -- I know I will get a different show.
They still had the Appetite for Destruction creatures that inflated on each side of the stadium and an AWESOME fireworks display at the end.
Excellent show, but I still would rather see GNR alone, without another headliner band. They play at least an hour and half longer when they are alone.
Some nights GNR don't seem to be "on." This night they were. Axl had his voice, Slash had his fingers and the rest of the band had their shit together.
One thing I found interesting was that Axl kind of considers "November Rain" to be his big, heart-pounding ballad. But I heard WAY more people singing and swaying to "Patience" than to "November Rain."
TAKING BART HOME
After the show, we were all herded out like cattle. In fact many of us were just saying,: "Moooooooooo!" all the way to the parking lot. The BART trains had been kept open and saved at the coliseum to get us home. They were seriously cramped, but a sardine can is better than walking home through Oakland at 2 a.m.!
After I got off in downtown San Francisco, I started to walk towards my hotel. I was a little wary because my hotel is in the Tenderloin and there are some pretty shady characters out there late at night. No one fucked with me, although I saw two street gangs confront each other -- loudly! But I crossed the street and kept my eyes straight ahead. But then I got an even bigger surprise. I didn't know that San Francisco had rats -- BIG fucking rats! -- that hang out in the piles of garbage on the sidewalk at night.
I almost had to punt one out of my way to get into my hotel.
Ugly little bastards.
Welcome to the fucking jungle...