Target Center, Minneapolis, MN
November 14th 2002

Guns N' Roses: Dying hard with a vengeance?
- Laura Singara, Star Tribune, 11.13.2002

An Axl To Grind

Ghosts N' Ruins. Guitar N' Rasp. Back in 1992, Nirvana may have briefly seemed like the soul of wit. But Dave Grohl's MTV Video Music Awards taunting of Guns N' Roses' dethroned metal man--"Hi Axl. Hi Axl... Where's Axl?"--seemed too cruel even at the time. After all, costume metal was already moribund. It was more fun to decode "married/buried" riddles than to watch the single-entendre video of a rock star wedding where the frontman's Victoria's Secret model girlfriend ends up in a coffin. And thus, taking Axl down to the Paradise City devolved into just taking him down. The Honeymoon: For those of us 1980s Classic Radio Rockers too young and brainwashed to slide over to the dark side or be saved by real punk, us who had resisted the hot-tubbing tease of the hair metal and cleaved to the cock-rawkin' authenticity of the moldy oldies that buzzard-like Zoo-jocks fed us, Axl's arrival on the mainstream scene was a godsend. He was pure Hollywood, sure, but not box-office Poison. He wasn't scary, but he definitely wasn't joking around. With his angel face and devil strut he welcomed us to the L.A. jungle with a n-n-n-nuh-nuh-nobody's-fault-but-mine bravura. And for the first time, we considered making some space on the Robert Plant pedestal for a new crooner who dripped more vinegar than honey.

He was hot. He could howl. And during that four-year-long comet blast, before grunge and alt-rock truly squashed him, Axl provided a universal strip-malled under-the-bridge-kegger soundtrack for suburban kids too timid to appropriate hip hop (or too racist to embrace it). (My pal who sang, "Take me down to the Paradise City/ Where everyone reads Will by G. Gordon Liddy" really nailed a certain segment of GNR's gun-show fan base.)

But ever since his Seattlite trouncing, we seem to care more about where Axl is, how he must feel, what he's cooking up, than we do about any other hair-metal icon. Everybody else is Behind the Music-ed out--Tommy Lee is redecorating fans' houses on MTV and Bret Michaels is whining about his insulin, which makes him sound like your uncle rubbing BenGay on his old football knee. Axl retains some of his mystique. But he was always an odd duck, as Chuck Klosterman points out in his section of Fargo Rock City that ponders Axl's decision in the "Estranged" video to frolic underwater with dolphins. What could it have meant? Was it some kind of portent? For some reason, we still care. Hell, Spin slapped his mug on the cover twice post-heyday, most recently to bestow upon him the honor of best metal album of all time (with GNR beating out Zeppelin), and in 1999 just to speculate about his whereabouts, physically, artistically, and psychologically. The issues flew off the stands.

Now that crybaby nu metal is beginning its decline, by Axl-ine logic, it's high time for the GNR reunion tour. Maybe that's because the ass-shake boogie of GNR has more in common with the new rock's back bands like the White Stripes than all that broken-home Korn-husking. And at this exact moment of bash-groovy reverie, even the tykes seem to be jumping on the upcoming show tickets--like emo kids reaching back for Weezer, but much weirder and kitschier. They were sweet children themselves when "Sweet Child o' Mine" played on their older sibs' tape decks, so maybe for them it's like going back to grammar school. (Axl even kind of looked like a creepy old Botoxed marm on MTV's 2002 Video Music Awards show.)

The new record? Well, as you know, he's had Tommy Stinson locked in his basement (delaying the fabled Replacements reunion) just in case Mr. Rose got a flash of inspiration for the tracks of his years-in-the-concepting and now supposedly done Chinese Democracy album. The tour has begun--in China, for real, though nobody still has a clue what illusion he's using, politically speaking. Anyway, he's Gone N' Returned, and there's suddenly a lot of him to go around.

Guns 'N Roses a fitting replacement for Stinson
- Chris Riemenschneider, Star Tribune

Of all the weird rumors that surfaced about Guns 'N Roses in the past half-decade, the one that most surprised local music fans was news that former Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson had joined the multi-platinum metal band.

That was almost three years ago, and some people still cannot believe it. Of course, that's partly due to the fact that Axl Rose and his all-new lineup of players have only played six gigs total in that time. The proof will finally be in the cranking Thursday night, though, when the new GNR makes its debut at the Target Center with Stinson on bass.

Tommy's addition to the band seems to fly in the face of what the Replacements were all about. The Twin Cities-reared garage band offered fast-paced rock 'n' roll without flashiness, concept or pretense.

However, maybe Stinson isn't such a bad fit for GNR.

"I'm not the least bit surprised," ex-Replacements frontman Paul Westerberg said last spring of his old bandmate's new gig. "People don't move to Los Angeles to be a musician or a songwriter. They go to be a star. That's what Tommy is doing. . . . It's what he's always been groomed for."

Since Stinson himself was not available for comment (no one discusses Guns 'N Roses to the press except Axl), we decided to look to the bassist's storied history for proof that he is GNR material:

• 1978: Tommy's older brother, 'Mats guitarist Bob Stinson (since deceased), threatened to beat up the 12-year-old if he didn't learn the bass. Lesson applied: His first of many experiences with bossy bandmates would make Axl more bearable 20 years later.

• June 1980: The Replacements' first gig was in the basement of a Minneapolis church. Lesson applied: His first of many experiences with Christ figures would make Axl more bearable 20 years later.

• Spring 1983: Stinson dropped out of the 10th grade to tour. Lesson applied: It doesn't take a genius to gig in a rock band. Especially one that averages two gigs per year.

• 1983-85: The Replacements build a reputation for erratic, alcohol-soaked live shows, some brilliant, some notoriously sloppy. Lesson applied: GNR's early troubles with heroin produced equally mixed results, but at least they never resorted to Jackson 5 or Yes covers.

• 1985: Like the rest of the band, Stinson allegedly doesn't read a single sentence in the Replacements' major-label contract with Sire. Lesson applied: So when your new boss comes around saying you can't do any reunion gigs with your old band -- as was rumored but is debunked by Westerberg -- don't ask if it's in the contract.

• Summer 1986: Tommy stays in the Replacements after his brother is kicked out, allegedly (and thus hypocritically) for alcoholism. Lesson applied: Doesn't seem so bad (or hypocritical) compared with Axl kicking out all of his bandmates for personality issues.

• 1990: Tommy sings lead for the first and only time on a Replacements song, "Satellite," originally issued on the "Don't Buy or Sell -- It's Crap" EP. The track was actually quite good. Lesson applied: It doesn't pay to contribute your own songs to somebody else's band.

• 1993-96: Tommy records a wildly underrated rock album with his own band, Bash & Pop, and again goes through the record-company wringer with another group, Perfect. Lesson applied: It also rarely pays when you release songs with your own band. So why not earn a regular, respectable salary and let somebody else deal with the labels, managers and botched tour plans?


Guns 'N Roses

Opening: Mix Master Mike.

When: 7:30 p.m. Thu.

Where: Target Center, 600 1st Av. N., Mpls.

Tickets: $33.25-$63.25. 651-989-5151.

Replacements reunion? Stinson says Westerberg blew it
- Reggie Royston, Pioneer Press

• Who: Guns N' Roses with Mixmaster Mike and CYK

• When: 7:30 p.m. today

• Where: Target Center, Minneapolis

• Tickets: $65-$35

• Call: (651) 989-5151

Praising a heavy-metal icon is the last thing one would expect of a punk rocker, let alone local hero Tommy Stinson of the Replacements, whose brand of loose garage rock put the Twin Cities on the map in the '80s.

But apparently praise is all Stinson has for Axl Rose, frontman for the rock outfit Guns N' Roses, with whom Stinson has been playing bass the past four years.

"[Axl] is a lot bigger than I ever really thought about when I got into this," said Stinson, who will perform with the band tonight at Target Center. "He is such a huge star. Even 10 years after the last tour, people are still dying to see him up there. It's really impressive and crazy."

What's impressive is that Guns N' Roses is touring at all. This latest outing marks the band's first major concert series in 10 years, a decade in which pop music styles have whisked swiftly past the era of teased hair with no major releases from GNR in between.

After the huge public exits of marquee guitarists Slash and Izzy Stradlin, Axl Rose kicked out — or forced out — the remaining GNR roster and withdrew from the public eye, taking on the image of a music producer who had gone the route of celebrity hermit William Randolph Hearst.

When Axl did make it out, he was usually overweight and hairier than ZZ Top, talking about the ever-changing lineup for the forthcoming "Chinese Democracy" album— a lineup consisting of punk bassist Stinson; ex-Primus drummer Brain; Robin Finck, formerly of Nine Inch Nails; and others, including a masked avant-garde guitarist who wears a KFC pail for a hat and goes by the name Buckethead.

With that maddeningly eclectic group (and rumors that the reclusive Rose was a tyrant with whom Interscope Records was locked into a contract), many doubted that Guns N' Roses would go on.

But Stinson, who describes the studio collaboration with the musicians as "magical," tells of a much different experience with Axl.

"I'm probably way more of a control freak than he is," Stinson said in a phone interview. "I know him as someone who's easy to work with, someone I like working with. If I were to compare him to anyone else, I would say he's one of the easier people I've had to work with in my years, you know what I mean... ?"

That not so subtle barb was directed toward former Replacements singer Paul Westerberg, with whom Stinson seems to be publicly feuding.

No doubt, Stinson is still smarting over his former bandmate's recent comments in newspapers and magazines deriding him for joining Guns N' Roses, whose glam-rock image and bloated musical approach seem the antithesis of punk.

In an article in the Star Tribune last week, Westerberg was quoted as saying: "People don't move to Los Angeles to be a musician or a songwriter. They go to be a star. That's what Tommy is doing... "

The remark and others like it haven't sat well with Stinson, who moved to California shortly after his group Perfect went bust in 1997. He began jamming with GNR after mutual friends introduced them the next year.

"[Westerberg]'s gone out on a limb to say a bunch of nonsense that's made me look bad, that's made Axl look bad, that's made him [Axl] feel bad... . It's just lame," Stinson said. "It's really unnecessary, for one. I don't appreciate it, and Axl doesn't deserve any of it."

With a recent Westerberg tour and rumors that his old bassist teamed up with him on the latest Westerberg album, many in the Twin Cities rock community have been hoping for a reunion of the punks who put Minnesota on the map. Stinson's statements, however, don't sound encouraging.

He maintains that he is not in an exclusive contract with Guns N' Roses and can record with anyone he chooses but that a Replacements reunion is now out of the question for both professional and personal reasons.

"This is my priority, and my other priority is the rest of my life. It was never a possibility of doing a Replacement reunion while I was in Guns N' Roses, and I'm in this for a while," he said. "And I tell you right now, there ain't going to be one. As a matter of fact, there will not be a Replacements reunion ever.

"He [Westerberg] blew it."