Pukkelpop Field, Hasselt-Kiewit, Belgium
August 24th 2002

Will Bailey's Review, GNRFrance.net

"Suede’s concert (the band before GN'R) was pretty cool. I never heard of this group before, and so I was pleasantly surprised. Because of the crowd’s incessant chanting (“Guns…N…Roses”), they couldn’t pause between songs or chat with the spectators lest the obvious favoritism be heard. Around 10 p.m., Suede left the stage. They came back moments later for a couple encores, but the crowd was screaming “Guns…N…Roses so loud that I’m surprised anyone heard much of those last two songs. As soon as they finished playing, they left at 10:15 without having said a word about Axl or GN’R. I understand how strange that must have been for Suede to play to a full-house of GN’R fans, but, hey, what did they expect?

With Suede’s departure came the interminable wait for GN’R. Standing ankle-deep in mud with an aching back and feet from not being able to sit down most of the day, I figured that after already waiting 11 years for this concert, I could tolerate anything. Besides, I knew that as soon as they came out on stage, the hard day behind me would be forgotten. My friends and I decided to take advantage of the down time to advance closer to the stage. We found a place just behind the barriers separating the first rows from the rest of the concert, just in front of the stage to the left of the camera. We were about 20 meters from the stage and thus had no trouble picking out every detail of what was going on up there.

The minutes ticked by, the techies prepared the stage for the group, and everyone in the pit started fidgeting from impatience. The stage had been opened up to allow more room for GN’R. Brain’s drums with the new logo were brought out (I took a picture of that – I hope it turns out) and the sky began to clear up after the day-long rains. I was sweltering standing there in the middle of all these anxious GN’R fans. We were packed in like sardines. Then, at 11 p.m. – the scheduled slot for Guns N’ Roses – everyone perked up in hopes that they would come on stage. But the techies continued preparing everything as though they had all the time in the world. There was no sign of our group. The time inched along … 11:15, no group … 11:30, no group … and so on. People started to get really impatient. I’ll take this opportunity to say that the people attending this concert (at least where I was standing) were completely rude and disrespectful. I took out my notepad to jot down my comments and the set list, while the people around me were screaming “Fuck you, Axl!” and throwing up their middle finger to the stage. I found this incredibly dumb on their part – that’s not going to make Axl come out any faster!

Finally, around midnight, we started to notice more action on stage. I saw Tommy Stinson come out and take his bass. You could feel it in the air that the concert was about to start soon…

At 12:07, to be precise, the group launched into their intro – the same one they started with in Rio with the extract of Hellraiser III. I was thoroughly enjoying myself since I knew the intro by heart, while everyone around me started in disbelief as I screamed out the lines. “How does he know that shit?”

Then the group started playing “Welcome to the Jungle”, and the crowd went nuts. Everybody was screaming and singing along. I couldn’t stop myself from screaming "Guns N'Fuckiiiiiin'Roseeeeeees!!!" and "Welcome To The Fuckiiiiiin' Juuuuungle! during the intro. Axl jumped on stage in black pants and a US jersey number 80 with a purple bandana. He wasn’t wearing sunglasses like he did in Hong Kong. Buckethead was, well, Buckethead. And Robin was wearing pretty much the same thing as he was in Rio, but he seemed much paler and was wearing a black T-shirt featuring a skull.

Richard and Tommy dressed pretty normal, nothing special to note. The same goes for the other members of the group.

Two fireworks and flames burst from the stage during the song. We were so close that we could feel the heat from the flames. The group then went into “It’s So Easy”. I went crazy and started singing all the words at ful-lung capacity. I must have sang a little too loud because my voice is still gone today! I was dancing along with Axl, and I swear the guys around me must have thought I had totally lost it, but I didn’t give a shit. During the song, Axl took a T-shirt from someone in the crowd and said, "Thank you for the Hippodrome of Vincennes 1992" or something like that. Robin put a black baseball cap on his head with little sunglasses during "It's So Easy" and "Mr. Brownstone". Axl was running all over the place and, like during the Illusion Tour, he went backstage when he wasn’t singing. It was sort of strange to see that live after having watched it a thousand times on video.

The group was very tight and played great together. I didn’t catch a single false tune. The only small problem: The sound from the drum and bass was a bit too loud. I could still hear Axl, though, so it really wasn’t that bad. The group then went into “Mr. Brownstone”, which sounded great. All the songs were spectacular, actually. And as strange as it is, I didn’t think of Slash, Duff, Izzy or the others even once. The new lineup seemed so in sync and so tight that I could only think of the music.

Before "Live And Let Die", Axl said hello to the crowd. He was in a really good mood during the concert and was fooling around the entire time. All of a sudden he says: "Wait a second, how do you guys pronounce the "g"? Anyway, this is something called (Live And Let Die in Flemish)". Everybody was laughing. Even though I’m not a huge fan of this song done live, I still lost control during the performance. It was a powerful experience.

I’d watch the giant screens once in awhile to see the images flash up there during each song. The concert was very well filmed, and you could catch Axl’s every expression from close-up via the screens. He seemed happy and at ease among us. During “Live And Let Die”, a girl managed to climb onto state, but Axl was way off to the left and I don’t think he even saw her. The security guards sure did though, and she was off stage almost before she even got on! I took photos of that, too. We’ll see how they turn out.

After that, GN’R launched into four classics, such as "Think About You" and "You Could Be Mine". They were a hundred times better performed than in Rio and Vegas. Since the beginning of the show, I couldn’t put my camera down. I took between four and five pictures during each song – some of the stage; some of the big screen. I also managed to get Axl on film the exact moment when he jumped after the intro to "You Could Be Mine". Obviously, he jumped around a lot less than he did 10 years ago, but his voice hasn’t slowed down a bit. He had no trouble going from a deep sound to a high-pitched wail. He modified the interpretation of certain songs, which I though lent them a more original aspect that spiced things up a bit. Axl then presented Robin: "Ladies and gentlemen, Mister Robin Finck", who then launched into the intro to "Sweet Child O'Mine".

Again, this is one song I’ve never been a big fan of live that completely converted me that night there. I was singing and dancing along with Axl, and the experience was larger than life. To top off my ecstasy, they didn’t go into the annoying end they tacked onto the song during the Illusion Tour. The version of “Heaven’s Door’ that followed was sublime, and Axl’s voice was right on with Tommy and Robin in chorus. It was really quite moving to hear. Unfortunately, Axl didn’t have the crowd chime in at the end, but it was still something else! I largely preferred this version to the one they played in Rio.

I knew that “Out Ta Get me”, which I don’t like too much on the CD, wouldn’t impress me much live, but the atmosphere was still cool and I ended up singing along to all the words anyway. “I’m fucking innocent!!”

Right afterward came one of the best parts of the show: “Madagascar”. I’m sure that lots of the fans of the new songs waited impatiently for this moment. The group played this song excellently, and once again, Axl slightly modified his version from the one he sang in Rio. It came out rather good, despite a few hang-ups here and there. Like I’m sure you could have guessed, I sang this song from start to finish, too. I knew all the words! In any case, it was a key moment of the concert, which was followed by "Rhiad & The Bedouins", a song that has been played more during these past concert than “Silkworms and “Oh My God”. I didn’t’ like “Rhiad” too much when I heard the Vegas show, but this time I really found myself getting into the song. It was beautifully mastered here and more lively than in Vegas.

Axl then presented Buckethead by saying: "Ladies and gentlemen, Mon Seigneur Buckethead". Everybody was laughing. Then Buckethead took out some nunchakus and did a little demonstration before tossing them out into the crowd. Then he did a little breakdance before finally getting into his guitar work. He started out with the theme to Star Wars, then Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean. Everybody was clapping their hands to the music and laughing. When he finished his quirky solo, he played his guitar like someone would play the bass, and everyone seemed rather impressed. At the end of this spectacle, the group came back out and went into "Chinese Democracy". This time the song was more lively and drum-induced than the one played in Rio. Axl had since swapped his black jersey for a white one – still with the number 80, and a black bandana. His hair hadn’t changed at all since Hong Kong.

After “Chinese Democracy”, a piano was rolled onto the stage, and Axl started a little solo. He played a few notes with his head down concentrating on the keys … da da da … and then snapped his head up and looked right at the crowd. Everyone screamed their approval of this jaunty little performance he was giving. He laughed and did it again. Axl and the crowd played in this manner for awhile like two old friends cracking each other up. (I took a photo of this, too. My last photo of the roll.) And then, Axl launched into "November Rain" with no real transition. The drum started in and made the song a little more up-beat than normal. Again, a superb interpretation of the song.

Buckethead was not there during the song, but he made an appearance at the end (like in Rio). Then, Axl told us that he would leave the piano there and that Dizzy would be playing it. Everybody knew right away he’d play “The Blues” – those who had seen the Rio video, in any case – and he gave us a more energetic rendition of it than he did in Rio. I have to admit, though, that Axl missed a couple beats during the song, but to be fair, he really had to reach up in the high notes to pull it off, and that can’t be easy! Toward the end of the song, he sat down on the piano where Dizzy was playing. It put a real nice touch to concert.

Between songs the crowd would chant: "Guns...N...Roses...", which made Axl laugh on a few occasions. He would even start chanting with us once in awhile in a deep, husky voice. The whole thing was pretty comical.

Then, two old classics came: "Patience" and "Rocket Queen". Again, I couldn’t have been happier with their renditions. Reading this review, you all must think that I’m exaggerating the quality of the performances, but you really had to be there to believe it! I was so tight! At the beginning of "Patience", Axl pretended to be crying – another comical moment between singer and fans. “Rocket Queen” was every bit as hardcore as it was in the 80s, and Richard made sure the main solo went off without a hitch. He definitely has more charisma than Paul, and his solo proved that.

After “Rocket Queen”, Axl presented Buckethead again saying: "Ladies and gentlemen, Mon Seigneur Buckethead", who played a solo resembling the one he played in Rio. I usually fast-forward this part in the video, but I found it rather interested to watch it live. It’s pretty impressive to see the way he masters every bit of that instrument. Apparently I wasn’t the only one to think so judging from the jaw-gaping expressions on the faces around me. After the solo, he took a mannequin (a life-sized doll in foam or some sort of she-scarecrow), and put it on his back and danced with it. Then, he put his guitar down, took the mannequin, kicked it from behind, and continued playing again – a strange site to see, but funny nonetheless.

After this solo, the group came out again to play two more classics: "My Michelle" and "Nightrain". I had the impression that Axl was getting tired toward the end of the show, but it didn’t effect his performance. He was still in top form and still smiling. The version of “My Michelle” was really nice, very energetic and pretty different from the one played in Rio by the fact that the group was tighter this time. When they started playing “Nightrain” everybody started going crazy. Just like in Tokyo, Axl stayed away near the end of the song as the crowd sang the refrain: "Loaded like a freight train...", then he came back out again and sang the end of the song.

Axl said goodbye to the crowd and the group left the stage. The cries for an encore didn’t last more than a couple minutes before Robin came back on stage and played us a nice solo that lasted a few minutes. He gave us an impressive demonstration of his musical talents – while Buckethead might have the technical skills, Robin has the soul. Then, just as Robin finished his solo, came the intro to “Paradise City.” Not a second passed between solo and intro. And, since we’re on the subject, nearly the whole concert was like that: one song after the other after the other with little or no pause. Everything happened at an incredible speed. During “Paradise City” everyone in the crowd was belting out the lyrics and jumping in the mud like a single entity. Again, the rendition was quicker and livelier than normal, which only fed the crowd’s appetite for action that night.

Toward the end of the song, two fireworks were lit from on stage as flames and confetti shot up from every direction. It was spectacular. At the end of the song, Axl said goodbye again and told us they’d stop back again “on the same way,” implying, in my opinion, a real European tour for next year! Axl didn’t make any of his famous speeches during the concert and didn’t speak once of the new album. But that didn’t stop the concert from being one of their best performances in a long time. And I’m sure I won’t be the only fan who is going to remember this day for years to come!

Finally, a little note for those still doubting the talent of the new GN’R lineup: Go see them live!!! Viva GN’R!! Viva Axl!! Viva rock n’ roll and viva Chinese Democracy!!"

Jasper van Vugt's Review

Hi Guys,

Here's a quik review of the Pukkelpop show.

After 3 days of rain, mud and music, with excellent shows by Dj Shadow, ...And you will know us by the trail of dead, 16 horsepower and the dj set of Simian, the climax came at Saturday night, with the long awaited gig by GNR. During 16 horsepower, GNR arrived at the festival in style: by helicopter.

At the end of 16 horsepower, most of the hardcore GNR fans already went to the front of the stage, including me. This got me a place front stage, standing to the front fence/barrier, so there was no one in front of me except the security. I was right in front of where Buckethead was going to play.

We had to see the set by the Stereo MC's and Suede, who ended at 22:20, 20 minutes late. After that, a lot of people worked on the stage to get the stage set up for GNR. Lots of security, firemen and Vlamish Cross people walked by, preparing for the show by GNR.

The show was supposed to start at 23:00, but since Suede stopped 20 minutes too late, it came as no surprise that GNR was going to be start later then 23:00. A few people in the crowd lost consciousness, since the crowd was pushing a lot during the waiting. Through the walkthrough under the stage I could see Buckethead running around backstage, already wearing his bucket and black windjacket.

Finally, at 0:06, the intro-tape started, and Axl, Robin and Buckethead came onstage, with Robin playing the intro to WTTJ. Axl was wearing a black football shirt, with the number '80' on the back, and was wearing some sort of black leather trousers. Later he changed the Bladk shirt for the same shirt, only difference was that it was white. The words on the back were 'Rice'.

Richard was wearing checked trousers and a black 'vive le rock' tshirt. Buckethead a black windjacket, black trousers, and the bucket with a sticker that read 'funeral'. I couldn't see what Brain was wearing, and I forgot about Robin and Dizzy. Dizzy had hair extensions, some with color. Same for Axl, they're not dreads, more like twines (if that's the correct word). Tommy was wearing a green/brown shirt, and Chris had a hooded jacket.

The place went nuts, with everyone around me was singing along. During the solo, you could see from the way Buckethead moved his head, that he looked at me. This was what I expected, since I bought the largest KFC bucket available at KFC, and was wearing it on my head all day.

Axl, Tommy, Robin and Richard were obviously having a great time, as they were smiling a lot. of course, Axl was running around a lot, and his voice sounds really great. Someone already posted the setlist, which is correct. I have the first half of it, it was 2 pages long (Jungle,Easy, Brownstone, Live & let die, Think about you, You could be mine, Sweet child, Heavens door, out to get me, Rhiad, Madagascar). Chinese Democracy was not played, and we didn't get to see the cover of the album.

Buckhead did 2 solo's, the first one with the ninja sticks and the Star wars tune, and the 2nd one with the country & western thing.

Some notes:

-During LALD, there were big fires behind Dizzy, Brain, and Chris.

-Between songs, there was a lot of 'Guns n' roses!!' chanting going on.

There weer also some people chanting 'slash', but axl didn't say anything about that.

-The left side of the stage was slippery, one time Axl almost fell. He then slipped a couple of times, which he found pretty funny seeing the smile on his face. following this, 3 guys came on stage with towels.

-Axl was joking a couple of times between songs, but we couldn't hear him since he spoke softly (probably to the other guys on stage).

-During one of the first songs, a guy managed to get on stage, danced a bit, and was removed from the stage by the security. Axl was on the left side of the stage at this time.

-Before November rain, Axl did the same piano-joke as in Leeds (and the crowd cheered too, which made Axl smile).

-During November rain, the same visuals as during the UYI tour were displayed.

-During Madagascar there were some nice visuals as well, mostly from churchlike buildings.

-Axl danced with Bucketheads doll, the one that lies behind Buckethead. After that, he threw it to the roadie of BH.

-shortly after that, BH did his 2nd solo, picked up the doll too, put it on top of his shoulders, played on, picked up the doll again (it fell down), acted as if he was going to punch the doll, and then kicked it backwards against the mikestand.

-During Nighttrain, Axl was too late to get back on stage, so the band played the same part over again, without a break.

-Brain didn't fuck up YCBM. his only 'mistake' was that he hit one of the cymbals a split second too early, but that's all in a 2 hour concert.

-Richard was really rocking, it looked like he had a great time. Buckethead was really cool most of the time, except during nighttrain.

-buckethead threw his first pair of ninjasticks to me, but the guy next to me got it, along with me and 2 securityguys. the securityguys got it after some struggle/wrestling.

-At the end of the concert, Axl stood in front of me, looked at the bucket on my head, smiled, and gave me the peace sign. very cool!

-lots of confetti and fireworks during Paradise city. At the end, Axl said that he would be back.

-Famous Belgian singer Tom Barman (singer of dEUS) stood in front of me (between the barrier and the stage) before the concert, and gave me a compliment about the bucket.

This was one of the best concerts I've ever seen, and everyone was really impressed by the band. Hopefully the album will be out soon!

Juhis' Review

It was really great to finally see Axl live on stage after all these years I've been a fan of his music. The show was quite good but somehow I was a bit disappointed in some older songs they played. Sweet Child O' Mine, Live And Let Die and some other tunes didn't have that same energy that I could capture in the Tokyo videos, so it reminded me a lot of Live Era, in which Axl sings some songs in his new style, which I don't like that much. Any way, the new songs were really great to experience live: Madagascar, The Blues and Chinese Democracy kicks ass but I really think this band shouldn't play that much the old stuff because it's not the same. And Rhiad and the Bedouins is not very well done I think. There is definitely some G&R elements but it's not that good that the other ones.

As many of you have said, Richard Fortus is really great indeed, much better than ie Buckethead. I'm really wondering what is this Buckethead doing there. He's not a good player for a rock n' roll -band. Obviously he can play really technical suff (and Nightrain was a kickass song) but he has his own show. Maybe that's why I liked November Rain (they had only 2 guitarists on stage during the song, except for the ending part). I just think that Robin and Richard is enough for G&R.

Somebody asked what does Chris Pittman do on the stage. I think he's directing the video clips which are shown during the concert. At least you can't hear him playing.

Anyway, I enjoyed the concert and the mixing was somewhat well done (the sound is never good in the festivals). I really hope that they will finish the album soon and perform more new material because that's what the band is all about. There was a lot of more feeling in the new songs where the players can play the part they have written themselves.