Guns N' Roses takes stage but not audience
- Brian McCollum, Detroit Free Press
Ten years is a long time to disappear in rock 'n' roll. Expectations mount, doubts start to simmer.
That's the spot occupied by Axl Rose Thursday night as he headed into the Palace of Auburn Hills, where 10,000 fans gathered for the latest stop on the first Guns N' Roses tour in a decade.
Of course, purists will tell you that wasn't GNR who took the Palace stage in traditionally tardy fashion (the show started after 10:30 p.m.). The band that once stood behind the writhing Rose - Slash, Izzy Stradlin and the rest - have long parted ways with their mercurial front man.
On paper, the new Axl N' Friends lineup is solid, with prominent players including former Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson and freako guitarist Buckethead. In a big way, the success of a GNR show in 2002 rests firmly on Axl Rose and his larynx.
Rose's vocals showed glimpses of promise early, punctuating "Welcome to the Jungle" with familiar primal shrieks and summoning a throaty growl for "Mr. Brownstone." But as the night moved on, his 40-year-old voice got away from him too often, and on songs like "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" and "Think About You" Rose was reduced to a slippery caterwaul.
Axl, sporting a Red Wings jersey, wasn't short of energy, frequently dashing to the wings of the stage and taking full advantage of the tiered stage. He slowed down just once, to park at a center stage piano for the lighter-invoking ballad "November Rain."
Buckethead led a three-guitar attack with effortlessly lithe licks that occasionally got lost amid the band's ample wall of sound. Thursday night's ensemble, in fact, was far more technically smooth than the original GNR cast could ever hope to be.
But that was part of the problem. For all the tight recreations offered up on a night fully stocked with greatest hits -- "Sweet Child O' Mine," "Paradise City," "Rocket Queen" -- it was easy to notice what was missing. The Guns N' Roses name bears a rich legacy: scrappy, unpredictable, explosive, soulful. None of those adjectives applied to Thursday's performance, which often felt like a proficient GNR tribute helmed by a guy who reminded everyone of Axl Rose.
Jeff Shelden's Review
Got there a half an hour before the doors opened at 6. Bought a "I survived the Palace" shirt and found a spot with my friend first row/ right up against the barracade to the left of the Axl jut out (Buckets side).
CKY went on real late. 8:30. They kept thanking us for not minding that they were late, but the guitar player got into it with a fan in the first row who was shouting for GNR and actually spit on him during the show. Then when it was over he jumped off the stage and started throwing punches at this guy. Security pulled him away...he got back up on the stage walked off and then threw his guitar into the crowd.
Mix Master Mike came on a bit later and played until 9:35 or so, I actually thought he was good this time (compared to Moline & Chicago).
Then the wait began. Real long. 10:30 and the lights and curtain go down and we get Axl in a Bret Hull Red Wings jersey and Jungle/ Easy/ Brownstone/ Live & Let Die/ Heaven's Door and Think About You in rapid succession.
Bucket was cool. He did Star Wars and When You Wish Upon a star and the crowd seemed to dig him and his toys. Rocket Queen was cool...not much of a jam up front. And then it was time for the 4 new songs.
After the Blues you could see Axl calling for an audible. And then Tommy saying into his band mic (at the amps) which only the band can hear what they were going to play. And it is Rhiad! Axl messed up a few words on this one and was looking at the telemprompter for help....the only time of the night really.
Patience is next and it seemed like Axl was a step behing the band on some of the lyrics during this one. I think they main messup though which set it all off was when Brain didn't pick up the beat after "The Lights they shine so bright" part when the band starts to play a little louder. If you've seen the new band play this song you'll know what I'm talking about maybe. So Axl has to sing that verse a second time and then they pick it up. Well...when you have to sing the light shine so bright and have a special effect go off it is kinda embarrassing. After that verse Axl tosses the mic in the air and walks out. Fink starts up the end of the song as usual and Axl comes back out to finish it and then says good night.
Lights go up a minute later. Very weird, I thought they might re-group backstage get it together and then just play a longer encore, but that was not in the cards I guess. As far as people walking out...it was f'n late. People have to go to work and nobody actually lives by this venue. It is a long drive home for most people and they got done with the four new songs at 12:10 for goodness sake. Everyone up front with me was digging the show for real.
By all means up until Patience this was the best show I've see on the tour. Next stop for me is Toronto!
Andrew Down's Review
Well, I just got home and now have access to a computer, thus I can report my experience from Detroit. Being this was my first GNR show, I don't have anything to compare this performance to other than bootlegs and the live CD, so it may be a little off. Also, hopefully I can she a little light on the Patience meltdown and why Axl left so abruptly.
I'll give my ratings first:
First off, great performance. Then why only a 7 you ask? Well, his vocals were getting a little weary two thirds into the show, so I docked .5 off. Secondly, talk about not reaching the audience, it wasn't until the band introductions that he actually said anything. No, "how's it going," "glad you came," "thanks for showing up," or even any rants. Nothing was really spoken to the crowd, hinting that Axl just wanted to get this concert over with and be on his way to Pittsburg. Hence, he's docked another 1 point. Finally, I'm docking 1.5 off for no encore. I'll alude to why I believe it's Axl's fault for people leaving a little later, but damn it Axl, I drove 5 hours to see your bloody show, give me a damn encore (or at least include Paradise City in your setlist). Great performance overall, but it's just too bad that it was marred by a few things that could have easily been fixed.
Like other reports posted, you have to see this guy to believe him. His solo truly is amazing (not so big on the Starwars medely, sounds a bit amaturish), but the rest was pretty cool. His stage presence is not GNR 1.0, but it does fit in well with the misfits that currently take the stage in this version. His solos are breathtaking and do the job of making everyone else forget about Slash. I love Slash too, and his "I don't give a shit" attitude was cool, but Buckethead's more serious take on things is a nice change. His nunchuks thingy was a nice bit of variety as well.
Did a great job with SCOM, but what the hell is with his solo before he breaks into the opening riffs. I agree with whatever critic said that this is probably one of the worst solos I have ever heard. For the most part he puts on a great show and his energy is high, but that solo before SCOM really brought him down a few notches. Plus, his hair really freaks me out for some reason.
Great work with the bass licks, and his stage presence, like has been mentioned before. What brings him down is the fact that there are so many other people who you'd rather look at that you kind of forget about him. It's no wonder he works so hard on stage, as usually you have have your eyes glued to Axl, Buckethead or Fortus.
Great job all around. His slide guitar work on Rocket Queen is astounding. All you have to do is close your eyes and you could swear Slash was still handling the solo. As mentioned before, his energy is incredibly high, higher than I think anyone else in the band. You can tell he is not taking this chance forgranted one bit. Performance wise, I think he's the best rhythm guitarist to ever grace a live GNR show.
Overall, good job. I can't give an honest review as I had my mind on other things than the drums. His tempo in November Rain was inconsistent at times, but other than that, nothing really much to complain about. He did his job and that's all I wanted.
Great to see Dizzy playing those Bongos during WTTJ. Did he do that during the Illusion tours? He complimented Axl on November Rain, as always, and his performance during The Blues was cool.
I can't honestly give this guy a review because I don't know what he did. I'd love to hear a concert without him to see if there's any difference. With every else going on, how on earth am I suppose hear what he's doing. I'm not saying that what he does is not worthy of being up there, but as of right now, I can't tell, so I'm unwilling to give him a review.
So reading this over I find it hard to believe that the person who i gave the lowest review to was Axl. It was nothing to with his performance that caused a bitter taste, it was more to do with his lack of interaction with the crowd.
When it comes time to place blame for the new songs not being well perceived, I put most of it on Axl. The first reason: they played all four one after the other. People stayed during Madagascar and the Blues, but when Rhiad and Chinese Democracy came on, people must have assumed that the rest of the night was new songs. Secondly: Axl did not introduce one song throughout the entire night (at least, I did not hear him do any introductions, correct me if I'm wrong). Now, is suppose that's permissable with all the old classics, but not with the new songs. A lot of people were giving me weird looks when I was singing along to the new ones, as in, "how the hell do you know the words." Thirdly, the order was completely wrong for the debuting the new stuff. Chinese Democracy should have been first to pump up the crowd, then madagascar, and then the blues. In my opinion, they should abandon Ryiad as it sounds as lousy live as it does in bootlegs. To me, it's a song you have to listen to at least 10 times in order for you to like it or get it stuck in your head. People hearing it for the first time during live are not going to be too pleased.
So it was no surprise to me that a lot of people were leaving during the new stuff. If Axl isn't going to be nice enough to let the people know what they hell they're listening to, then there's not much reason to stay.
Granted, encores should be given to audiences who deserve it. I can see why Axl felt frustrated and let down when the lights went up and a third of the audience were filing out the doors. But what about the rest of us who stuck around and supported you. Not hearing Paradise City was a major disappointment as I was really looking forward to being covered with confetti and listening to one of my favourite songs.
I'm not sure if it has been mentioned yet, but there were a few things of note during their performance of Patience. One, someone did screw up with the guitars. People have been saying it was Fortus, but I'm not so sure. Anyway, what I heard was a guitar jumping ahead into the chorus, which caused Axl to skip a verse and jumped to the chorus, but the guitar player, realizing his mistake, jumped back to the verse and left Axl hanging singing an out of sync chorus. Maybe it was played out differently, but that's what I heard at least. At the point Axl realized that they had screwed up big time, he gave a mean look to whoever screwed up, followed by a "what the fuck are you dumbasses doing, let's get your act together" hand gesture. He seemed pretty pissed, tossed his mic after singing the last chorus, walked off stage, as the band played the guitar solos. He then walked back on stage, sang a great rendition of final end, said "thank you, goodnight," and walked off the stage. About 20 seconds later the house lights went up, followed by p.a. music. I'd really like to know what set Axl off.
Overall, I did have fun. It was just too bad that a few things like no encore and stuff detracted from a great experience. If you have tickets and haven't seen the band yet, you're in for a great time.
- Welcome to the Jungle, "Do you know where you are Detroit?"
- Knocking on Heaven's Door (they played the new version for most of the night, but I did notice Axl mixing things up a little at the end and was singing the chorus a couple of octaves higher a la 1990-1993 version).
- November Rain
- The light, pyro show
- cool camera effects
- Buckethead's cool solo efforts (the dance is a bit weird and may not be for everyone).
- Sound: I heard someone else complaining that they had a heard time hearing Axl. I had no such problems and could hear him through most of the night. Very little echoing happening. I suppose it depends on where you're sitting maybe).
- obviously, NO ENCORE
- the setlist, should not be playing the news songs in a row.
- merchandise prices (I could only afford the $10 shot glass).
- Axl's unwillingness to interact with the audience (the intro he does for November Rain was cut real short, with him pausing only once or twice).
Chris Kuhn's Review
I guess this is the 1st review posted from the show...I was there...and I'm goin to keep this kinda short... The band came on late...like 10:30 or so...Mixmaster Mike was brutal...I can't tell you how long those 30 minutes were...what I would give to get them back...anyways...
10:32 - I think the houselights went down...I remember checkin my watch so I could post this...the stayed dark a minute or so...then the intro started...and when the first chords of Jungle started the place was electric...the played the usual...pretty much the same setlist I've been reading...Jungle, Easy, Brownstone, LALD, KOHD...which I loved...was sorta thinkin I was goin to hate it...they did a great job on it...SCOM, played YCBM, Outta Get Me...then November Rain...by far the highlight of the show for me...then Axl introed all the guys...and Buckethead...you got to see this guy to really appreciate all he can do...my friends I went with don't even like GNR that much...and were amazed by how this guy can play...noticed all nite he played Slash's solos to perfection..and added to them...Then came the 4 new songs...and I did notice the crowd start to file for the doors...Madagascar, The Blues, Rhiad, and CD...and by the time Patience started...the lights for the song kinda lit up the Palace...and there were a lot of empty seats for the entire show..but moreso by this point in the show...I didn't notice Fortus mess up the chords...but immediately noticed, and said to my brother that he messed up the 2nd verse...before the solo...he tossed his mike in the air...the band played the solo...and he finished the song, said good nite and threw his mike again...with no energy to even HINT there was an encore coming...I waited and waited...and the houselights came on..not sure what pissed him off...the lack of enthusiasm or something else...who knows...I was there...and ppl were pissed as we were leaving...think the only songs we got jipped on were Nightrain and PC...my overall impression was very positive of the band...they rocked...but Axl was hard to hear...he wore a #17 Brett Hull Red Wings jersey...then put on a Ben Wallace #3 Pistons jersey...
I'm gonna cut to the chase and skip talking about the guests. the only thing I would add is I don't think CKY deserved the shit it got from gn'r fans, they are just doing their thing, not bad really.
the whole thing was 30 minutes late, CKY claimed the people at the airport were fucking with them or something. I think that's what I heard.
Guns came on, yada yada yada, same old. Axl wore a Detroit Red Wings shirt for the first half, Detroit Pistons for the second. he seemed to be in a good mood, giving his hand to people on the side and grabbing roses from them.
the crowd loved buckethead's solo. bh as usual was right on, flawless. now to Mr. Robin Finck.... a few dead notes here, missed notes there. his solo before SCOM had absolutely no meaning. he is a good player though, with awesome presence.
they played Rhiad. it's a very powerful song live.
the biggest reaction seemed to be SCOM. new songs didn't seem to do much for the crowd, but have I mentioned they were cold? me, I was stuck with a bunch of old people. the fat dude besides me spent the whole thing with his arms crossed. I had OK seats (I guess I was 20 meters away from the band), but had I bought general admission, I could have been first row floor. I got to the venue at 6:45pm and there was hardly anybody there.
now, really, to the unusual event of the night... here's my take.
the band, actually, I think it was Richard's fault, screwed up on Patience and at least to me, it was very noticeable. noticeable to Axl too - he walked besides Finck and Richard while scratching and shaking his head. at this point, he seemed pretty pissed off. the song carries on but Axl skips a verse... the band doesn't know what to do. weird moment - you could tell they were confused - Axl hesitated, almost stopped. at that point, I thought they would restart the song, but no. solo comes in, Axl throws mic and storms off stage. the band kept on playing, and I noticed Finck looking back to see if Axl was coming back or not. he did and finished patience. said a very dry "good night" (where's our AAAAAHN... DETROIT... GOOOD.. FUCKING... NIGHT! ??) and left.
I just stood there for a while hoping they would come back, but when Brain's drums came down I convinced myself it was over.
I can't help but feel a little upset about not hearing My Michelle, Nightrain or Paradise City. perhaps I'm just greedy but that's how I feel. now I'll sit back and wait for Toronto...
sorry, I really don't remember the exact setlist. think of the usual minus Nightrain, My Michelle and Paradise City, and plus Rhiad.
note: the little piece Axl plays before November Rain - I think Axl is teasing us... it's pretty awesome, could be a new song. who knows?
Well let me start by saying I'm not pissed off at the band. I am still going to buy the album and I will go to another show even if I have to wait almost ten years again. I'm going to give my take on what happened last night. Some parts were mind blowing and others were just shocking.
At about 7:15 turned to 101.1 fm in Detroit and caught the last part of the Axl interview. Pulled into the Palace at about 7:45 and it was strangely silent. I thought my prayers were answered. CKWHY was not going to be there. Needless to say they showed up late and they still SUCK. They were held up at the airport and they bitched about that and how you can't get peanuts. They bitched that you can only get dairy and the asshole guitar player is lactose intolerant. At least maybe he read my interview the other day because he didn't try any of his cheesy Pete Townsend windmills.
Next MMM came on. I may have been a little critical of him the other day in my Chicago review. He played a more enjoyable set tonight and the crowd loved him. I thought he was much improved and didn't play the extent of rap that he played the other night. He also had a Jango Fett action figure on the turntable which I thought was cool.
During the intermissions I had several interest conversations. I met Mohawk one of the local DJ's in Lansing. He proudly told me that G&R were just Axl and Izzy. He actually thought Izzy was in the band. So I spent about ten minutes giving him the new G&R 101 and telling him about the Chicago show. I saw only one buckethead custome tonight. It was unique because the guy painted his face white, had the bucket, and the yellow rain coat.
The guy who has his ticket listed on gnrontour.com was in my section so I went to talk to him. He was a cool cat from Canada and said he had tickets to the Toronto show as well. I asked him if he was booting and he said he had no connections with gnrontour.com except just scanning and sending his tickets.
I also saw schnoogans_37 just like I do at every Michigan concert now. He caught the first part of the Axl interview and I had caught the second part so we filled each other in on what we had missed. We talked about Chicago and Guns N' Posers. I also got to see the kick ass GN'P shirts.
The crowd was different from Chicago it was more diverse. More people seemed clueless about this band and were skeptical. Unfortanetly I think the band lost a lot of fans last night. Instead of people leaving pumped up it was a lot of shock, anger, and dissappointment.
The band tore it up when they came out to Jungle. Axl had a Brett Hull Red Wings Jersey on. That is #17. Adds up to 8 ya know. The rest of the band was in all black. Robin had a black outfit with blank knickers and red socks which were cool. Buckethead had his usually and Chris and Tommy wore all black. Fortus wore black pants and a grey t-shirt. Dizzy wore a cut-off Colorado Rockies jersey that was black. Maybe that was foreshadowing to the funeral theme.
The band was great going through the usual songs in the usual order. People were excited and jumping and somewhere along the line the crowd lost its enthusiam. The floor didn't look like it got dull, but in the seats people were sitting and when they played the block of new songs people started to leave to go home. I mean a lot of people. At that point I felt the crowd didn't diserve this show. My God, we were the first stop to hear Rhiad and most people showed no interest. My vibe of the band was that they were doing great, but not quite as remarkable as Chicago. During Live and Let Die in '91 Axl really wanted everyone to sing the part where it goes you know you did, you know you did, you know you did. Well back in '91 before the album was released no one could do that. Last night when the crowd did it he was like a maestro waving his arms and it pleased him that people 12 years later now sing to that part.
During Think About You that band made a few mistakes and Patience was the worse version I ever heard. Other than that I enjoyed all the songs. I didn't see Axl throw his mic during Patience and walk off, but my wife did. The song was so awful was watching Buckethead and Fortus to see what they were doing with the accoustic guitars. Anyway peope really started leaving after Patience and I was about to make my move to get better seats and then the house lights came on. Everyone was stunned. Where was the finale. When the roadie took Axl's mic stand off I knew it was time to get out. Thank God everyone left peacefully. What should have been one of the better shows on the tour with the debut of Rhiad has now turned into a bizarre event. People will be talking about this show, but not for the right reasons. I even felt like something was missing and then I think about Axl D in Vancouver who didn't even get to hear one note and consider myself fortunate to see two shows in the same week. Would I feel so shocked if I wasn't expecting an encore or if I knew all the songs that they have played every night so far except for last night? Maybe Patience was the classic closer G&R style. Because in the time I've been a fan of this band you never know what to expect and that is part of what is desirable. Don't let this show discourage anyone from going to future shows and I'm sure they will be great more often than not. I'm now envious of everyone who has tickets to future shows because I wish I was right there with you. PEACE!!!