The Axl And The Ecstasy
- Virginia Trioli, the "Age' newspaper
When Axl stepped up to the piano and with a sweaty crash unleashed the first chords of 'November Rain', you could easily hear, amid 75 000 howling voices, the sound of 40 000 teen-girls' hearts breaking.
Here, under a cloudless night sky and a half moon, was the perfect context in which to understand the new young god of another generation of rock/metal fans. Alternately braying and droning Guns N' Roses' best-known songs (I still don't think the man can sing), hair whipping in the breeze, Axl Rose was the perfect man-child, the archetypal wild boy that each new wave of fans likes to think is their own. And he could play piano too?!
Axl and the boys had the soggy but satisfied Melbourne crowd in ecstasies at their Calder Raceway show last night. They played all the hits, gave all that band's stars their 15 minutes in the spotlight, and squeezed out every drop of rock 'n' roll emotion possible from songs whose lyrics veer from the banal to the brutally offensive. This meant we were treated to an old-style drum solo, several guitar solos, and Axl trying to hang on to a single note for as long as he could without his extra-tight bike shorts exploding.
It is Slash, the Gunners' enigmatic (or just plain out-there) guitarist who is the centre of the performance. Wandering any-old-how around the stage, the band's energy and eloquence emanates entirely from his work, from his playing, which is often quite extraordinary. Axl's running, jumping and standing still just blurs into strobe effect behind Slash's tactiturn precision.
However Slash did reveal to the adoring mob his blues roots by going down on his knees for an extended blues guitar solo that clearly will enable him to return to Australia during his fallow years as a blues legend. The fact that this solo later metamorphosed into the theme from 'The Godfather' only added to its charm.
The Gunners wound up the evening just as they were expected to, with touches of Alice Cooper's 'Only Women Bleed' then a stadium-rock rendition of Bob Dylan's 'Knocking on Heaven's Door' before the heavens opened with fireworks and floods of tears from the girls as Axl disappeared. It's hard sharing a hero with half the world.