Guns N' Roses fans needed patience
- Chris Riemenschneider, Star Tribune
Guns N' Roses fans -- or what's left of them -- have waited 10 years for the decadent hard-rock band to reemerge, so what's an extra hour or two?
That may have been the thinking of Guns guru Axl Rose on Thursday, when his wholly reorganized but still notoriously unorganized group was about 70 minutes late taking the stage at the Target Center.
Unlike last week's canceled concert in Vancouver, British Columbia -- which resulted in riots and about $100,000 in damage to the arena after Axl's plane was reportedly delayed -- the Minneapolis show did go on. But the 8,000 or so fans had to wait until 10:40 p.m.
The wait was compounded by the fact that Rose, 40, has been living like a hermit in Los Angeles for the past decade. He had a falling-out with the other original members of GNR, and has hired a new crew that includes former Replacements bassist and local boy Tommy Stinson, plus former members of Nine Inch Nails and Primus, as well as the mysterious KFC-bucket-wearing guitarist Buckethead. Rose has also delayed release of the band's album, "Chinese Democracy," since 2000.
However impatient fans had grown, the tension was lifted as Rose took the stage in a Vikings jersey and asked his familiar question, "Do you know where you are?"
That line, from the visceral show opener "Welcome to the Jungle," was answered confidently as the band tore through two other classics, "It's So Easy" and "Mr. Brownstone."
Judging by the first 45 minutes, which also included covers of "Live and Let Die" and "Knocking on Heaven's Door" (songs the band played heavily in its 1988-92 heyday), the greatest thing that can be said of the new Gunners is that they do a great job of mimicking the old ones. "Sweet Child O' Mine," in particular, raised the nostalgia level to bliss.
Even the handful of new songs played later in the concert sounded rock-steady but were not a whole lot different from the GNR classics. Rose apologized to the crowd for not introducing more new material.
"We're still withholding," he said, which was his way of segueing into the older song "Patience" at the end of the show. The band encored with a drawn-out "Paradise City."
Personality-wise, Rose did not come off as the weird, reclusive nut-case that many think he's become. With his red hair long and braided, he played the role of the consummate rock star, doing his wavering dance moves and runaround antics. He was even chatty and poked fun at how the press has portrayed him.
"My name is Fat Bastard, and these are the Yes Men," he said.
One of those Yes Men, Buckethead, made up for Rose's lack of freak-showiness. Before a guitar solo that found him wailing through the "Star Wars" theme, the masked guitarist spent a couple minutes swinging numchucks and break-dancing.
The most off-kilter aspect of the concert, though, was its hi-fi lights-camera-action production. The stage show was full of glitches, and it seemed excessive for an only half-full arena. What's more, with all the tricks on hand, you'd think they could have better hidden the five plain-sight teleprompters from which Axl could read all his lyrics.
The timing of the new Guns N' Roses tour was probably the most interesting thing about Thursday's concert. When the original band emerged from the Hollywood rock scene in 1987 with the landmark album "Appetite for Destruction," they were seen as the guttural, decadent antithesis of polished pretty-boy hair bands like Poison and Def Leppard. Then came Nirvana four years later, and suddenly GNR was the band that was overly glamorous and commercial.
Today, way more rock bands on the radio sound like Nirvana than GNR, so maybe it's time for the pendulum to swing back. This new Guns lineup certainly sounds enough like the old one to make the case for a revival. Unfortunately, it also sounds so much like like the old GNR that it can't be sold as anything but a remake.
Josh Steans' Review
Arrived at 8:30 - after CKY had played. Don't know what they were like. I asked one girl and she thought there weren't too good. I saw and actually enjoyed Mix Master Mike. For the first 20 minutes at least. Lots of familiar rock songs (especially Zeppelin) put to different beats with him scratching and prompting the crowd. The crowd was ready for entertainment and most people were really into it, dancing and yelling, etc.
Show started about an hour late WITHOUT the Exorcist intro. Here's the set list (which I wrote down during the show. And I wasn't drinking, so you can be pretty sure about it):
1. Welcome to the Jungle
2. It's So Easy
3. Mr. Brownstone
4. Live and Let Die
5. Think About You
6. Knockin on Heaven's Door
7. You Could Be Mine
8. Sweet Child O Mine
9. Out Ta Get Me
10. Rocket Queen
11. November Rain
13. My Michelle
14. The Blues
15. Chinese Democracy
18. Paradise City
Like I said, there was no Exorcist intro.
The lights went down, somebody manually pulled the curtain, revealing the band in silhouettes on the darkened stage. All you heard at that point was the crowd screaming. The opening chords to Jungle made them scream louder. Axl: "Do you know where the fuck you are? You're in the Jungle baby, you're gonna diiiiiiiie!" And with that the stage lights went up, the song kicked in, and the whole place exploded. Axl was standing behind Brain, wearing a #35 Vikings jersey. There was a guy crouching next to Axl. Right after ".you're gonna die!", Axl got something from the crouching guy using his thumb and forefinger, and, to my eyes, took a monster hit off whatever it was. Then he jokingly stuck his tongue way out at the guy, so it was almost touching his chin, and took off like a banshee for front stage.
Here we go.
The mood all night was excellent. There were a ton of Axl clones there, with the long straight '89 hair and the bandana just above the eyes. Only a few rows in front of me I saw a kid with his hair in 7" spikes down the middle of his head. And yes, there were some mini-Bucketheads. The crowd was ripe for Axl and GNR, regardless of supporting personnel. And Axl definitely noticed and appreciated it. More than once he went out of his way to tell us that they would definitely be back. One time right before Patience he said that they would be back 'with a shitload of new songs'.
Axl was very chatty the whole night. The first thing he said to the crowd was "23 degrees (the temperature in Minneapolis), you guys are cold motherfuckers... Balls of molten steel!" At one point he referred to himself and the band as 'Fat Bastard and the Yes Men'. During one long speech he was talking about lyrics to the old songs, saying that they were not always autobiographical and that they about other people in some cases. He brought up Nightrain, saying something about the 'one for you, two for me line', then started talking about Rocket Queen and how it's named after some type of British motorcycle, and it's about some girl who was Izzy's girlfriend, then Axl's then someone else's. Or the other way around. I can't remember. I was just stunned to hear him utter Izzy's name at all. That was a shocker, and that was when I knew that he was in a great mood - that he would mention the old days without bitching. The emotion on the part of the band, Axl, and the crowd could not have been warmer. Even Buckethead was animated. A couple times he went up on Brain's riser and jammed with him. During one of his solos he actually got on his knees, or in some type of crouch, and started flailing away.
The band is extremely tight in every sense. They have found something in the old songs that the other guys never noticed. I'm speaking primarily of Brain. With this guy the backbeat to the Appetite material is totally fresh and alive. He is such a huge upgrade over Sorum it's not even funny. I liked him a lot in Vegas 01.01.01, but now that he's had a few shows, Jesus, unreal.
Instead of sounding like rock n roll drones they sound and feel like a living beast, always changing and inventing. And it all stems from the rhythm section of Brain and Tommy in my opinion.
I think the pairing of Robin and Buckethead will look genius down the road. I can't think of anyone other than W. Axl Rose who would have attempted build a rock band around these two particular guys, but it's really magic. The solos are so much more interesting now. I've always loved Slash, and I still do, but I really think he needed the kick in the pants that Axl gave him. Robin and Buckethead are so much more resourceful with their playing. And Fortus is really cool. He does a sort of guitar chop like Izzy did in the Sweet Child o Mine video, reminiscent of Pete Townshend. And he's added a little funk riff to the second half of Rocket Queen that I love.
I can't fucking wait to see what kind of songs they've made for this new record. If this band really converts on its talent, we are looking at something brand new in music. Something huge. Axl, pick it up man!