PARADISE CITY, AXL AND THE HIRED HELPMAKE IT LOOK SO EASY IN LONDON
- Ian Winwood, Kerrang! Magazine
As the allotted showtime of 9pm approaches, its quite something to think what might happen here if axl rose doesn’t show up. Or if he appears onstage at the morning side of midnight, as he did at Madison square garden when he refused to leave a new york Yankees baseball game before the ninth inning. Or if he turns up on time but decides that 15 minutes worth of music is plenty entertainment enough and calls it an evening, as he did in Montreal after his pychic had allegedly warned him against cities beginning with th letter ‘M’. its not a bad way to pass the time before guns n’ roses – or gn’r as they seem to prefer to be know these days – are due to take to the stage, wondering what might be if eccentricity turned to insanity and the evening turned to shit. Welcome to the jungle, indeed.
The London arena is full of people, steam and volume: the crowd isn’t quite the old school sartorial horror show you might expect, and the air is gravid with the expectation of madness and genius. What we actually get is quality and professionalism, which is hardly the same thing at all. What we get is a regular rock band, albeit an extremely good one. What we get is more questions thatn answers.
The first thing to say. Atleast on one level, is how good guns n roses are this evening. Or at least how good they sound, which is good enough to give the impression that this is a band of seasoned professionals playing cover versions of songs by a band their singer used to sing for – which is really all this is. Away from the thrill of the evening – and it was a thrill – you might wonder what the point of this tour actually is. And if you could get a tape recorder in front of axl’s mouth, then you might ask him.
Rose himself is, as always, a star – perhaps even more of a star sinse he appeasr to be, for all intenets and purposes, insane. Only tonight he isn’t. wearing an Oakland raiders football jersey – number 80, jerry rice – leather trousers and a bandanna (anyone for the time warp?), he glides onstage to the stuttering electric riff of ‘welcome to the jungle’ doing that dance, his hips gliding from side to side, his arms outstretched. Next thingh you know, he’s making us laugh, railing against press reports about him being ‘ as big as a house’ (he’s actally no bigger than a garage). Then hes speaking of the arrival of the incredibly delayed ‘chinese democracy’ album, which may or may not appear before the event of, well, Chinese democracy.
‘It all depends on wether uncle Axl turns out to be n asshole or not,’ he says, ‘and the jury is still out on that.’ Which is pretty funny, especially when you consider the jury actally returned in 1994, and that axl rose has been sentenced to death on all charges.
Tonights concert is a thousand miles removed from the band guns n roses used to be – or at least the type of band guns n roses used to be. It might seem obvious to say this but ‘appetite for destruction’ did not find its way into 15 million homes entirely by accident, but rather by dint of melody and authenticity. The melodies still remain, but long gone is the sense of fatal chaos, laughable paranoia, aggressive vulnerability, cheapness, sleaze, ugliness and unpleasantness that made this outfit – or at least the on ewho remains tonigh such a thrill. So when axl rose sings ‘ your dady worked in porno’ on ‘my michelle’, you get the sense that its been a while since axl actually knew anyone who’s daddy worked in porno, and that this is now an exercise of nostalga. As it is for its so easy, you could be mine, November rain patience, nightrain, mr. Brownstone, rocket queen, live and let die, sweet child o mine and all of they other songs they play so fantastically well this evening.
If there is a point to all this, it will come in the form of – don’t laugh – new music, whenever that may be. To point toward this, guns n roses do play four new songs this evening, at least three of which – Chinese democracy, Madagascar , and the blues, the blues sounds amazing. And as good as guns n roses are at the London arena, as great a sign off song as paradise city is to a packed and sated venue, its in the present sense that gnr need to exist. Until then, no matter the musical quality, evenings like this will largely be about nostalga, where the bullets are blanks and the roses are plastic.
GUNS N'ROSES - DOCKLANDS ARENA, LONDON
- Chris Heath, Dotmusic.com
Welcome to the jungle, the Docklands concrete jungle that is. London Arena is a sanitised American-style venue where vendors wander around trying to flog candyfloss to metal heads - bizarre. The less said about the bandanas and 80s T-shirts the better. We could be in downtown Kansas City but when the lights finally go down we prefer to imagine we're on Sunset Strip circa 1985.
Because, for one very special night, Axl Rose and an extended family of hired hands, these days known as Guns N'Roses, are in town. G N'R without Axl wouldn't be worth contemplating. But, nostalgia value aside, are tonight's absent originals (Slash, Dizzy etc) actually missed? Wouldn't you rather see a masked man with a KFC bucket on this head do a body popping/num-chucks routine then play a guitar solo incorporating the Star Wars theme? Thought so.
No disrespect to the aforementioned ex-members but there's absolutely no difference in the sound whatsoever. Faced with the prospect of never seeing G N'R again or this version, it's clear what the 15,000 souls in attendance would take anytime.
To say the pre-show atmosphere and reception that greets the band is beyond belief would be doing a disservice to the reaction. It's colossal multiplied by ten to the extent that seismologists probably registered a small earthquake in E14. dotmusic hasn't witnessed such a tidal wave of sights and sounds, EVER.
Axl's rumoured obsession with 'Appetite For Destruction' (according to legend he re-recorded the whole thing) is borne out by the majority of the set-list. 'Welcome To Jungle', 'It's So Easy', and 'Mr Brownstone' are dispatched early on by an athletic Axl sporting an obligatory bandana tying back his braided ginger mane. The whole arena is leaping up and down as one, fists punching the air, screaming every word. This is surely too good to be true. And for those of you wondering, yes, he's still in possession of the most terrifying squeal in rock.
This is stadium rock at its finest with lighter-waving moments ('Knocking On Heaven's Door', 'Live And Let Die', 'Patience') and classics ('You Could Be Mine' back to back with 'Sweet Child O' Mine') coming thick and fast. The epic 'November Rain', complete with grand piano, is simply out of this world.
The handful of new songs prove less industrial than we've been led to believe and are given the crowd's full attention if only because they provide a lull between the manic hour just experienced and the imminent finale. It's also the first time Axl speaks to the crowd about the new album 'Chinese Democracy' and even slips into a minor rant but he seems relaxed and hungry to regain what he once discarded. The neurotic recluse we've read about failed to show up tonight.
Delirium reaches new heights during the climax of 'Michelle', 'Nightrain' and 'Paradise City' with flamethrowers and fireworks pushing the temperature even higher. Two hours have flown by. The only question is can Axl go all the way and make Guns N'Roses the biggest band in the world once again? Try telling him he can't.
Axl finds a change of gear
- Burhan Wazir, The Observer, Sep. 1 2002
New band, new haircut and sound, same old destructive anger: the notorious singer is on to a winner
More than 10 years ago, W Axl Rose and his group took to the stage in his home state of Indiana for the third gig of a tour that, by its close two years later, would make Guns N'Roses the biggest band in the world. That 1991 gig came after George Bush Snr had launched Operation Desert Storm against Saddam Hussein. 'So I don't know nothing about Iraq,' sniffed Rose from the stage at the Deer Creek Music Centre, 'but I know what the fuck's going on out there and this band's one of the only things these kids got.'
After the tour, Rose, by then a front-page tabloid rock star in the Jim Morrison mould, disappeared from view. There have been few sightings since. These days, he lives in a secluded mountain-top residence high above the Malibu coastline. He has spent nearly six years working on a new record, Chinese Democracy, that remains unreleased. Finally, last year, Rose emerged for a handful of low-key live dates. 'I have traversed a treacherous sea of horrors to be with you here tonight,' he told one audience.
Ten years on, however, against the backdrop of another possible war in the Gulf, and another Bush, Rose has finally gone public with a reconfigured Guns N'Roses. The original group - none of the other founding members are present in the current line-up - recorded four albums. First up was 1987's debut, Appetite For Destruction, a vortex of sincere anger that introduced Rose and his band as a musical revolution against the Top Forty. The record produced a glut of hit singles, sold 15 million copies and continues to sell around 9,000 a week. Two follow-ups, Use Your Illusions, Vol. I and II, were released on the same day in 1991. In the UK, record stores remained open past midnight for the first time to satisfy consumer demands.
The decade-long absence, however, has stripped Rose of his relevance. In his self-imposed exile, he has been out-manoeuvred by grunge and American punk rock. And like his contemporaries from the late Eighties, the most popular image of Rose is that of an insect-thin, volatile frontman, dressed in jeans, a T-shirt and a red bandanna: he was a white male backlash against multicultural America.
Onstage at the London Arena, Rose looks surprisingly unchanged. His voice still alternates between a high-pitched siren, like a toddler in distress, and a nasal mumble. His flame-red hair, previously lank, is now braided neatly into dreadlocks underneath the bandanna.
And while Rose might have packed on a few pounds, his stage movements have their usual coiled fluidity. His signature sprints to the sides of the stage remain intact. The costume changes, however, have disappeared. Rose no longer wears kilts or T-shirts with the word 'Martyr' inscribed across them - at London Arena, he wore a long sweat-top and black trousers.
In the absence of a new record, Rose and his fledgling group play material primarily culled from Appetite For Destruction. The new line-up - featuring three guitarists and a bassist - gives GN'R a contemporary sound. The subtly re-arranged 'Rocket Queen' and 'Mr Brownstone' sound like Nine Inch Nails-inspired, bass-heavy punk rock. Likewise, the newer material, particularly 'Rhiad and the Bedouins', adopts dance rhythms, samples and hip-hop beats.
The hiatus, furthermore, seems to have won him a new generation of curious fans. Here, late-twentysomething men and women enthusiastically rubbed shoulders with nu-metal teenagers. The show occasionally lapsed into the kind of stadium excesses Rose was once famed for, however - including overlong guitar solos. If Rose can curb his band's plethoric behaviour, he should have few problems re-establishing his relevance.
And let's face it, a re-energised Rose, especially on this form, would help the state of music. Rose - who was defined by his anger, his obsession and his self-destructive tendencies - has undeniable appeal. And his teen anthems, like all great teen anthems, remain ageless. 'They're out to get me,' he sang last Monday night. 'They won't catch me.'
Rock music has undoubt edly changed during GN'R's absence. But Rose shouldn't be miscast as a deluded recluse: he is a realist. The music industry has gone full circle, with young consumers once again tired of mass-produced pop. This time around, Rose might not yet be offering anything more substantial than a raised middle finger, but his new music could engender a reaction. Ten years ago, Rose gave rock music an edge of pure, authentic anger. In 2002, the contemporary charts again need a piece of his mind.
GUNS N' ROSES KNOW THEIR NME!
GUNS N' ROSES played their first show in LONDON since 1992 at the DOCKLANDS ARENA last night (August 26) — and NME was the subject of two onstage comments from AXL ROSE!
Early in the set, which ran to two hours, Rose commented on the NME.COM review of the band’s performance at the Leeds leg of the Carling Weekend Festival, which stated that he looked "as big as a house". Said Axl: "If I’m as big as a house, maybe I should start charging rent. Some pussy ass writer at NME owes me rent — for living in my ass!"
However, Rose later took a time out to thank NME for its glowing coverage of Guns 'N Roses’s comeback gig in Hong Kong on August 14. "That was nice," he remarked.
Rose also provided details on the band’s long-delayed studio album, ‘Chinese Democracy’, promising that it would include 18 tracks, with "10 extra tracks "on top of that". He added: "Just because we’ve only played five or six new songs, people think there mustn’t be any other songs on the album. Au contraire, mon frère!"
He went on to vow that once the album had run its course, the band would "do it all over again", and maybe then think about a more albums — "as long as Uncle Axl doesn’t act the asshole!"
Four new songs featured in the band’s stunning 19-song set, including ‘Chinese Democracy’, ‘Madagascar’ and ‘The Blues’. The new songs were rapturously received by the capacity crowd of 12,000, as were Guns N' Roses classics such as ‘Welcome To The Jungle’‘, ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’, ‘November Rain’ and ‘Paradise City’.
With no further live dates scheduled, Guns 'N Roses will now return to the studio to complete work on ‘Chinese Democracy’.
Guns N' Roses
- Stephen Dalton, The Times
3 out of 5 stars
AXL ROSE appeared in playful mood when the long-dormant heavy rock legends Guns N’ Roses played their first London show for a decade last night. After a shaky warm-up show in Leeds three days earlier, the notoriously hot-tempered singer mocked his reputation as the tantrum-throwing John McEnroe of rock, at one point dropping his leather trousers and shuffling around in his underwear.
Reports of Rose’s newly bloated girth have been exaggerated, although he is clearly no longer the lithe young prima donna who ruled LA’s late Eighties heavy metal scene. Wearing a voluminous sports smock and mud-coloured dreadlocks, he resembled Rory Bremner in an ill-fitting wig. But the sole surviving member of Guns N’ Roses proved that he still had the charisma and energy to electrify by dusting off much-loved relics including the gnarly battle cry Welcome To The Jungle, the war-torn love serenade Sweet Child O’ Mine and the blustery piano ballad November Rain.
Rose’s manner may have mellowed but his thin, screeching voice remains as untrained as ever. Last night it was fleshed out by three guitarists, one of whom concealed his face inside an upturned KFC tun throughout the show. This was the semi-legendary Buckethead who, in a moment of Vic Reeves surrealism, was allowed a solo breakdancing spot. The crowd erupted.
Rock historians decree that Guns N’ Roses were rendered irrelevant in the early Nineties when grunge and gangsta rap stole their outlaw thunder. Fast forward to 2002. Grunge is dead, Guns-style hard rock acts such as Limp Bizkit dominate the teen market once more, and Rose could well reclaim his vacant throne as the biggest brat on the block.
The crucial test yesterday was the clutch of new tracks from the next Guns N’ Roses album, Chinese Democracy, whose perpetually postponed release date has already earned it mythic status. Alas, these compositions mostly proved to be nondescript three-chord trashes, with scant evidence of the more futuristic, industrial direction promised in periodic bulletins from the band’s inner circle.
And yet this belated comeback was more fun than it had any right to be. Friends and foes alike were expecting Rose to trip over his mammoth ego and fall flat, but ultimately his clownish antics and indestructible self-belief proved oddly endearing.
Single Rose loses his way in the performance jungle
- Steve Jelbert, Independent.co.uk
27 August 2002
A mere 11 years since their last albums of original material, the Gunners finally returned to London, moreobjects of curiosity than a vital musical force. Despite numerous muted appearances over the past few years, only now has the lucrative lure of the European festival circuit tempted Axl Rose and his cohorts across the pond.
Though Slash, Izzy, Duss, Dopey and Doc are now long gone - Rose even went as far as banning his former band-mates from seeing the current line-ups at US shows last year - G'n'R still behave like the megastars they once were. Reportedly their Leeds show on Friday saw the backstage area cleared of mere encumbrances such as the other performers on the bill, who responded with a celebrity honour guard of boos as Rose finally took to the boards 90 minutes late. Despite the wait the crowd loved the set, unlike local residents.
With a wave of gloriously unironic rock bands like the Datsuns and the Darkness emerging, a chance to see the daddies of the style can't be missed. Rose's raging paranoia might have some sound reasoning behind it though. Fewer conflicting egos means fewer guitar solos and a far more direct approach. Kicking off with "Welcome To The Jungle'' it's a pleasure to be reminded just how sharp G'n'R were before drugs and megalomania interfered. "It's so Easy'', "You Could be Mine'' and "Sweet Child of Mine'' fly by, all but denuded of their worst guitar excesses.
You know you are watching a true stadium rock outfit when there are at least three autocues on stage along with the requisite flame-throwers and explosive charges.
But the second half, featuring a handful of mediocre new tunes, loses its way. Perhaps those battling egos were what gave the young Gunners their spark. None the less a breakneck "Nightrain'' and the inevitable "Paradise City'' finished things brilliantly.
Time will show if this line-up actually produce something more lasting than an enjoyable revival show.
Mark Reed's Review
Normally I hate using bland clichés to describe things. But there are no other words to describe it. Guns N Roses ROCK like bastards.
Even when Axl Rose’s trousers fall down and he sings a song stock still trying to pull them up. Even when one member of the band falls over and spends a whole song lying on his back. Even when Robin Finck, dressed as a silver-suited alien, gets hit in the face with a bottle during a solo and doesn’t miss a note. Even when Buckethead condenses the whole of the Star Wars Trilogy theme music into a three minute speedmetal guitar solo whilst spending the whole gig in a ski mask and a KFC bucket covering his head. Even when giant pillars of fire sprout up all over the stage. Even when that infamous Axl Rose banshee wail unleashes itself. Even when Buckethead performs a solo that consists of a synchronised kung-fu/karate Nunchuck demonstration and a bit of moonwalking. Even when there’s smokebombs, giant Catherine wheels throwing sparks all over the band, the air of full of confetti, glitter, fire and smoke, and the bands kit is being thrown all over the stage at the climatic end of the gig, they are the single personification of rock. If you want rock, you got it.
From the opening chords of a gigantic "Welcome To The Jungle", to the final breakneck thrash out of "Paradise City", there is simply no way that this band can do anything other than impress. Expectations are astoundingly high for GNR’s largest indoor date anywhere in the world in a decade. Especially as this is the fifth date that the new look band have booked for London’s Docklands Arena. And the first time they actually show up. And they deliver the goods. They should have a Government Health Warning.
Axl Rose is simultaneously the Kylie and the Howard Hughes of metal : He is both a paranoid meglomaniac recluse and a Metal God that spans generations (and there are a multitude of ages here, from the 50 something balding Denim brigade, to pre-pubescent children in special GNR bandanas and bootleg Offspring shirts).
Uncle Axl (as he calls himself) appears oddly humble, yet has his very own towel roadie who mops the stage up from the torrent of bottles thrown at it, and then retreats into a mysterious black tent hidden at the back of the stage whenever there is a guitar solo. And there are plenty of those. Throughout the two and a quarter hour, 20 song show, with an average of two solos per song, Axl manages to wander off stage to do ‘something’ about 30 times.
Whenever he’s absent what we’re left with is a new look, strange Guns N Roses that neither looks nor acts like the original band, comprising as it is of three new guitarists, a new bassist, a new drummer, and a new keyboard player. But they still sound amazing. Even though history tells us otherwise, this is the definitive version of Guns N Roses.
There’s also a multitude of songs from the new album, due out… well, sometime. There’s the beefed-up three guitar attack of "Rhiad And The Bedouins" which sounds absolutely colossal. There’s the epic, beautiful "Madasgascar". I have no idea what it’s about. But it rises to a crescendo in a squall of guitars and screaming before returning to its original, tender self. There’s the big-balls-rock-out of "Chinese Democracy", and the oddly chorus-free "The Blues".
These songs are genius. And yet Axl says later on that these songs might not be even on the new album, as they have better ones waiting to be completed in their Millionaire Rock Star Studio in the Hollywood hills.
And what else? Every single song you’d want to hear is here. Every last one. From "It’s So Easy", to "Nightrain", to "November Rain", to "Patience", to "Live And Let Die"…...
When this band finally finish their new album and get out into the big bad world and tour, the whole world will fall in love with 80’s hair metal legends all over again. I know it’s a completely different band, but make no mistakes, Guns N Roses are the best rock band in the world.
Mark's general notes:
Axl's still got it. Whatever it is. And I want some. That spinechilling banshee wail that seems to come from nowhere still gets me. His voice is better than ever. He's an odd mix of humble, eccentric, egotistic, and humourous. Calling himself "Uncle Axl", wiping the stage with a towel between his boots, and singing a song with his pants round his ankles are just some of last nights highlights. And those weird female vocals on Knocking On Heavens Door..... came from Axl himself. Yowsa!
Buckethead. He's weird. But he can play better than anyone i've ever heard. I suspect he doesn't actually like "November Rain" though - he's only on stage for the second solo of the song.
Robin Finck. What was with all that weird drunk walking whenever he was playing?
Tommy & Forteus. Both look and feel like old Gunners. Richard was particularly good. He seems more into the band than anyone else.
Chris Pitman. What does he do? Any ideas? Bueller? Anyone? Anyone?
Last night was absolutely brilliant. Mark my words. Anyone, ANYONE, who doubts GNR are a band, or the new lineup, will be given a firm smack of common sense as soon as they see this band. They are the definitive line up of GNR.
Robin Sergeant's Review
As I was lucky enough to witness GNR last night I thought I would add a few words. Definitely the best gig I've ever seen and as everyone keeps saying the new GNR is awesome.
Didn't really see much of Buckethead from where I was standing, but his solos were impressive. Star Wars sounded really cool as did the acoustic thing he played. Robin looked weird, but sounded great - like when he played the SCOM intro. As I was roughly in the centre I got to see quite a bit of Axl running around like a lunatic and singing his heart out - great to finally get to see that for myself :-) He doesn't seem to have aged and really seemed to be enjoying himself. The other band members seemed to fit and every song sounded great.
Nearly everyone in the crowd seemed to know the words to all the old songs which is encouraging, especially as half of them didn't look old enough to remember the original line up :-) I hope they add a few more UYI songs to future sets, but everyone loves AFD - Civil War and Don't Cry should definitely be there. The new songs sounded even better than on the MP3's I'd heard. Does anybody else think that Axl sounds like Robert Plant on a couple of them? In fact CD or Rhiads sound a lot like Led Zeppelin to me. I can see Madagascar being a big hit and getting plenty of air play - brilliant song.
I haven't seen this mentioned before, but for me one of coolest things was the video they played during Paradise City. It started with the union jack and then went on to show London scenes like the London Eye and Buckingham Palace. I thought that was a nice personal touch to show that London really is Paradise City - or at least it was last night! It also rained confetti during that last song!
Anyway, I could go on, but would only be repeating what others have already said so well...
Luis Martins' Review
Its half midnight right now in London and just quickly logged in to see if someone had mailed something but looks like i've got here first.
Firstly I was one of those who had a ticket for the two previous GNR shows that were cancelled at the London Arena so I was skeptical right up to when the opening chords of WTTJ came out. Anyway about the show:
Weezer opened and warmed up the crowd a bit. The lead singer said something about how GNR were the real deal and loads of other bands have just been GNR rip offs. He got the crowd's approval. He also stated that we were all in for a "treat"..."I know what I'm talking about as I've seen it"...
When Axl came on it was like the lid off a pressure cooker had just been lifted. The crowd went mad. I was one of those right at the front and its fair to say my feet hardly touched the ground during WTTJ, ISE and Mr B. Axl was on form, in a great mood wearing black leather trousers and a baggy sports top with the number 80. The crowd were awesome and sang and jumped to every word and note that was played. Axl cracked up the crowd by coming to the lip of the stage after Brownstone and saying "I know, I know, I'm as big as a house". To be fair I thought he looked in great shape. His voice was out of this world.
Someone on here mentioned his vocals on LALD and KOHD. Totally agree. Me and my mates were gobsmacked at how powerful Axl's voice was. He was in a great mood all night, he had a pop at NME for writing a negative review about Leeds (which was posted on here). He then joked "Oh no, was that a rant...(then spoke to Tommy Stinson)...no no it wasn't, I've just been told it was too short to be a rant".
He seemed to have a lot of fun. As for the songs I can't tell you the order precisely but he played 5 new songs, including The Blues (AWESOME), Madagascar (the crowd loved) and Chinese Democracy. All of Appetite was played apart from Anything Goes. He played NR, YCBM, LALD, KOHD from the Use Your Illusion sets. Highlight for me was Nighttrain, what a phenomenal version. Anyway better wrap up, sorry for going on but hope you guys find this informative.
One thing Axl did mention was the new album. He said that some of the songs they were playing aren't even being considered for the album. He said the new album would have 18 new songs, plus they have 10 other songs, so "by the time the record company release the second group of songs, and we do this all over again, who knows? Maybe I will have finised the 3rd album". That got huge cheers and it sounds like the album will be released pretty soon.
I'll wrap up by saying that I criticised Axl and the "new" Guns N' Roses but I was BLOWN away tonight. Richard Fortus is Izzy in disguise but with more energy on stage, he's awesome. Buckethead is just a guitar freak, absoluely brilliant. All great musicians who have definitely brought their own style to Guns N' Roses rather than just be an imitation. Can't wait for the new album, can't wait for the tour that follows the album, can't wait to see Axl put all these current bands to shame. No doubt in my mind, I've seen Hetfield, Jagger, Robinson, Tyler live. Hadn't seen GNR for 9 years but there is no doubt in my mind, there is no frontman that even comes close to Axl, no frontman who gets the reaction from a crowd he can get. What a show!!!! I'll be sleeping with a grin tonight...:-)
What a frickin' amazing show! Let me start off by saying that this was the first time I've seen GNR live so I'm in no position to argue whether or not they were better than any past incarnation of the band - but I have to say I prefer my Rio 2001 CDs and video to any other GNR bootlegs I have so I concede I am biased towards Axl's new (fresh) line-up.
Got to the Arena at about 2.00pm and there was already a small queue, some guy had a large card on which he was inviting people to write a message for Axl but I never got the chance to ad my two cents! By the time they let us in at about 6.30pm my feet were bloody killing me. The crowd had swelled by this time and I did notice a huge number of Brazilian flags about - those folks really do love GNR! I also saw Buckethead in the queue! Well, a guy in a near perfect Buckethead outfit (quite a few people wear carrying KFC buckets with them). Onr thing - that queue sure did smell of 'funny' cigarettes...
When they finally let is us I was amazed to see that we were among the first into the arena and so were lucky enough to secure a place almost on the barriers - the stage was no more than 10ft away from me and so I had a bloody brilliant view of the entire show!!! Weezer came on at 7.00pm (30 minutes earlier than scheduled - did this mean Axl would be early...?!) and played for about 50 minutes. I'm not a big fan but did sing along to the only two tunes I knew: the 'Hep Hep!' one and the 'Buddy Holly' one. Weezer were good, but the crowd wasn't there to see them and it's a shame that a few arseheads let them know this by chanting "F*** OFF" and throwing bottles at the stage (I'm sure the Axl of old would have said something about this when he came on - but 2002 Axl didn't)
At around 9.00pm (30 mins late, if you believe the lead singer of Weezer had told us) the lights dimmed and George C Scott's Exorcist "Slime!" voice boomed out over the Arena and the place went absolutely frickin' bonkers!
The stage in Docklands Arena is quite small, maybe about 80ft across and 30ft deep so I had a great view of everyone. Axl didn't look fat at all - I think his hair looks stupid with those braid things in and he has the eyebrows of a serial killer but he looks like a frickin' rock star! In all seriousness if I saw him in a bar I'd avoid him cos' he does look like a mean motor scooter. He wore a bandana (blue paisley I think?) heavy duty boots, black leather trousers (pants) and a white US football top with the number 80 on it and the name 'RICE'. He didn't change his outfit during the entire set, never even took his shirt off, although he did drop his trousers to his ankles during You Could Be Mine! (or was it Patience?).
I was directly in front of Buckethead. He started off in that yellow jacket but later changed to black. He also wore a "severed hand" glove for a few songs. There was no tombstone near him but he did have 'funeral' printed on his bucket. He was (after Axl) the best part of the show. His guitar playing was awesome and he freaked me out by staying motionless during the tracks until it was his turn to play! He did his breakdance/nunchuck solo (two people caught a set of nunchucks each) and during his guitar solo he played the main theme from Star Wars and what I think is called "Luke's theme" - crowd loved this!
Next to Axl and Buckethead the other band members had a hard time registering on my radar. I couldn't see Brain behind his drums and Dizzy, Tommy, Chris and the New Guy just seemed to 'be there' if you know what I mean. Robin Finck is hard to miss though. He was dressed in a white shiny sort of clown suit costume. He looks like Ben Affleck from close-up. I never saw him smile once. His guitar solo seemed to be a bit boring, I got the impression he was just improvising and I don't think it worked - he's no match for Buckethead!
The band played for about 1 hour 45 minutes. The setlist was the usual one but without Silk Worms or Oh My God which I found disappointing. I was amazed at how fresh the Appetite songs sounded (I put that down to Buckethead, his style really does add something to what are perfect - Slash's! - guitar parts in the first place). Every track sounded great although I though Rhiad fell flat on much of the audience, as did Madagascar and The Blues. I love those two songs but I think they are more suited to CD tracks as opposed to live performances. The Blues was played a lot slower than I've heard before. Chinese Democracy went down a storm though!
The three video walls were used to great effect. Apart from the generic death and horror imagery I also remember drag racing during You Could Be Mine, Buckingham Palace and a Union Jack during Paradise City, Pam Grier and Elvis during Rocket Queen, and a 50s Japanese robot cartoon during Bucket's solo! 20ft high flames, explosions and a massive ticker-tape 'rain' at the very end added to a great evening.
Axl was quite talkative throughout the set and it was great to see him smile and joke too. He had a go at the NME (more than once) for saying he was "as big as a house", had a go at people who say because they play the same "new" songs all the time they're the only ones ready - he said they play them because they're the ones that are NOT being considered for singles. He said the album would be "18 tracks and 10 extras" and that "when the record company feels that record had run it's course there were be ANOTHER album and so on".
Other things I remember ... a couple behind me throwing a soft toy on stage and almost exploding in cheers when Axl picked it up and put it on his wrist ... Axl ending the show by shouting "God Save The Queen" - hope he was being sarcastic!...some wanker near me trying to barge his way to the front only to be beaten up by some pissed off dude!...Axl playing a comedy piano tune before Rain...Axl being told by Finck that because he hadn't spoken for over 5 minutes his talk about the NME wasn't technically a rant!
All in all the best gig I've ever attended by a long, long way! Merchandise was quite sparse, I got a mug and had two of the five T-shirts that were on offer. I also managed to sneak off a few photos which should be quite good as I was so close to the stage. More on them another day!
London gig was even better than Leeds. I made front row, and was lucky enough to have Axl dancing not six feet away from me for a good part of the night. Worth travelling over 300 miles for, definitely :)
I'd love to hear some of his rants again, if anyone's recorded them. The one a few people have commented on, but couldn't make out properly went along the lines of 'So, according to ? at NME, I'm as big as a house. Well, maybe I should start charging him rent for living up my ASS!'.
The whole band last night seemed really at ease with themselves and the crowd. Axl was confident, self assured and looked like he was having a fantastic time all night, regularly interacting with the crowd - wearing someone's home made Buckethead hat, dropping his pants, with the complaint that it was too hot, etc. Finck has great stage presence, albeit with a tendency to dance like my dad... Buckethead was his usual self, and eveeryone else was bouncing about the stage all night.
Definitely the best gig I've been to thus far...