Idaho Center Arena, Nampa, ID
November 11th 2002

Axl's 'Appetite' returns
- Michael Deeds, The Idaho Statesman

Itīs been nine years since Guns Nī Rosesī last tour and studio album, and although singer Axl Rose may have been living in one of those time capsules like Brendan Fraser in "Blast from the Past," the rest of the world has moved on. Thereīs been grunge, crossover divas, pop-punk, boy bands, and if weīre lucky, we may plow through this nasty Christina Aguilera trend by 2003.

Even more pressing than the question of whether Axl Rose still rocks is whether anyone wants to rock with him. Sure, we all remember Guns Nī Roses. But do we want to peek into that whiskey-stained scrapbook again? Itīs easier to write off a Guns Nī Roses comeback as a scam, another washed-up rocker trying to relive the glory days while the other original band members enter rehab for the umpteenth time or wash up on shore somewhere.

But thereīs a problem: The album. "Appetite for Destruction" -- that resilient, gracefully aging hard-rock epic -- makes it impossible to ignore these return-of-the-bad-boy shenanigans.

The memories are painful, but the truth is, we were listening to Winger when Guns Nī Roses came knocking. This band singlehandedly revitalized rock music. Until Rose gives us a reason to doubt him, we canīt.

We owe the man.

"Appetite" was life-changing, but it feels even bigger now. The first full-length album from Guns Nī Roses, it took 10 months to crack the Top 100. During that time, Rose, guitarist Slash and the rest of the sleazy G Nī R circus toured with leather-clad hellraisers such as The Cult, Motley Crue, Alice Cooper and Iron Maiden.

When fans finally realized what they were hearing, "Appetite" roared up the charts on an adrenaline-fueled rampage. Three Top 10 singles -- "Sweet Child Oī Mine," "Welcome to the Jungle" and "Paradise City" -- propelled it to No. 1 for five weeks. It took nearly three years for "Appetite" to drop off the Billboard charts. It was that good.

Meanwhile, Guns Nī Roses took over the universe. Rose milked his image as an innocent Midwesterner turned nasty by the sins of Hollywood. He frightened parents with silly posturing and dangerous quirks (his name was an anagram for "oral sex".) He even wrote lyrics that offended ("immigrants and faggots" in the song "One in a Million"). But this guy was no Eminem. Rose was too wasted, too out of control to have a truly threatening agenda. Meanwhile, Slash was a perfect sideman -- hairy, talented and rarely photographed without a Jack Danielīs bottle present. Everyone saw the obvious influences -- Rose was a younger, more belligerent Steven Tyler, Slash was a drunker, goofier Joe Perry -- but Guns Nī Roses rocked so hard that nobody cared.

G Nī R is often viewed as a figment of the ī80s, but this group was still as huge as ever in 1991, which is when Guns Nī Roses started to lose touch with reality. Even as flannel-clad slackers from Seattle worked to usher hair-metal out the door, Rose was pushing new egotistical boundaries with the ambitious "Use Your Illusion I and II" albums -- separate, simultaneous Guns Nī Roses releases. Both went seven times platinum, thanks in part to MTV, which aired that ostentatious, orchestral "November Rain" video every 5 minutes. Rose had traded his sweat-stained wifebeater for a white tuxedo. G Nī Rīs raw energy had given way to one manīs pompous vision.

The End was getting close.

By this time, drugs and boozing were catching up to G Nī R, which had always reveled in its own debauchery. Two band members had come and gone. By the mid-1990s, Guns Nī Roses, like so many rock bands before it, had fallen victim to its own excess. Slash left the group. Lawsuits were filed. Roseīs girlfriend, model Stephanie Seymour, dumped him and claimed abuse.

Rose disappeared.

In retrospect, the demise of G Nī R wasnīt as jarring as it should have been. Blame it on Kurt Cobain, who was there to ease us into another evolutionary stage of modern rock. Somehow, G Nī R just sort of faded away into rock oblivion, dying of natural causes.

But Rose remains a figure of myth and mystique, which creates haunting questions as he launches a North American tour with a bunch of hired musicians, calling this entourage Guns Nī Roses.

Why isnīt Slash in this band?

Will the new G Nī R album, supposedly titled "Chinese Democracy," ever be released?

Will a Guns Nī Roses concert still make your girlfriend (or, more likely, wife) want to jump your bones when you get home?

The first question is a no-brainer: Rose doesnīt want Slash in the band. In fact, he doesnīt want Slash in the building. Slash was banned from attending a G Nī R show in Las Vegas last year.

The second question is tougher. Although weīve heard new G Nī R songs such as the epic ballad "Madagascar," nobody knows when this album will be released. Touring without an album isnīt new for G Nī R, however. Thatīs precisely what the band did in May of 1991, five months before the release of the "Use Your Illusion" records.

As for the effect Guns Nī Roses concerts will have on fans? Well, thatīs not clear, either. Ticket sales on this tour have been erratic so far, with two particularly slow-selling concerts in the Northwest. Obviously, some fans are on the fence about Guns Nī Roses. The groupīs recent, sluggish performance on the MTV Video Music Awards -- featuring a chunkier, 40-year-old Rose with cornrowed hair -- didnīt help much.

For the eternal optimist, though, Guns Nī Roses has a chance. Thereīs a core audience that remembers being knocked on their butts by this band. If Rose delivers the right stuff in "Chinese Democracy," he could make an argument for relevance in 2002.

Itīs hard not to root for him. In his own eccentric way, Rose obviously wants to welcome us back into his jungle. What remains to be seen is whether he can create a future for G Nī R, or if, in the end, heīs gonna die there.

Nampa show still a go
Although Axl Rose did not show up Thursday in Vancouver, B.C. for the first show on Guns N' Roses' tour, the Nampa concert is still scheduled to go on. However, if Rose doesn't show up for the band's Seattle show Friday (Nov. 8), the entire tour likely will be canceled. In other words, if Rose shows up in Seattle, expect him to show up in Nampa.