Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
December 5th 2002

- Marc Spitz, New York Post

December 1, 2002 -- If frontman Axl Rose shows up for the much-anticipated, sold-out Guns N' Roses show at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 5, it will mark almost exactly 10 years since the band last performed at the famous venue.

Unfortunately, this a big "if." And it's not exactly the same band either.

Founding GN'R guitarists Slash and Izzy Stradlin, and bassist Duff McKagan, are long gone (they recently announced the formation of a new group, with onetime Guns drummer Matt Sorum and a yet-to-be named singer).

The new Guns, which includes former Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson and a kabuki-masked guitarist named Buckethead, doesn't resemble the old Guns.

Neither does the heftier, braided, 41-year-old Rose, who owns the rights to the band's name. Still, he is no more predictable now than he was back in 1992.

In September, following a spotty performance at the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards, Guns N' Roses announced dates for the Chinese Democracy tour - an idea Rose, to the frustration of his devoted fans, had flirted with for years.

The band's first full tour since 1993 was set to open on Nov. 7 in Vancouver, British Columbia, but was canceled shortly after fans began taking their seats at the General Motors Place arena. Depending on who you ask, Rose was either en route to the venue via jet or grounded in Los Angeles.

Either way, impatient authorities pulled the plug. When keyed up fans were informed that they weren't going to get their Guns, a riot ensued, resulting in several arrests and thousands of dollars in property damage.

Even old bandmate Slash commented, "what better way to open a Guns N' Roses tour" by having Rose go AWOL for the first gig.

While the Garden show has long been sold out, many fans are not sure what they're in for . . . if anything. On one hand, this has always been part of what made GN'R shows so exciting.

"Once Axl gets comfortable being on the road again, he may realize that he's been long overdue," says GN'R fan and former MTV veejay Matt Pinfield, who adds that he hopes for a show that starts "relatively on time."

On the other hand, the 11-year wait for a new studio album, inflated ticket prices (cheaper seats went for $70) and the reconstruction surgery on the band's beloved original line-up - and, apparently Rose's face - have also left many fans weary of Rose's antics.

" 'Appetite for Destruction' was my life when I was 10 years old, but that's not Axl Rose anymore," says Lauren Blake, 22. "That's Mickey Rourke singing for the band." Still, when Guns N' Roses are on, there's no better rock 'n' roll show in the world. When they're off, you'll probably regret you didn't stay home and watch "Scrubs." Those debating whether or not to try to procure last minute tickets from scalpers should take note of the following pros n' cons.


The Set List

PRO: Wisely draws heavily from "Appetite for Destruction." Unlike Rose, Guns' classic 1987 debut hasn't aged a bit.

CON: New songs like "Madagascar" are somewhat ponderous and will probably never, ever be released.

Stage Chemistry

PRO: New virtuouso guitarist Buckethead, who replaces Slash, is already a fan favorite.

CON: Musicianship aside, a Slash-free Guns is like a Keith Richards-less Rollling Stones.

Nostalgia Factor

PRO: It's been entirely too long since New York City has hosted an extravagant acid-washed '80s metal monster.

CON: The absence of the rest of G n' R might make you feel like you're at a Japanese karaoke bar that holds 20,000.

The Beat

PRO: With all due respect, new drummer Brian blows away former Guns drummer Steven Adler.

CON: Girls might get hit on by someone insisting that he's original drummer Steven Adler.

Patented rock star eccentricity

PRO: To our knowledge, Axl has never, ever dangled a baby over a balcony.

CON: Axl's new cornrows resemble the burkas Michael Jackson forces his children to wear. Distracting!

- Dan Aquilante, New York Post

GUNS N' POSERS: Beating the odds that he had too powerful an appetite for destruction, Axl Rose has cleaned up his act and is again fronting a band he calls Guns N' Roses. Rose is the only tie to the original outfit of the same name that redefined obnoxious rock star behavior as well as offered some of the best neo-metal of the late '80 and early '90s. This tour got off to a rocky start earlier this month in Canada, when GN'R didn't bother to show up, sparking a mini-riot at the arena where the fans trashed the joint. Expect Axl to actually show at the Garden gig on Thursday. He is also expected to dust off most of the band's greatest hits for the show, as well as offer some new material he's been working on. The concert is supposed to start at 8 p.m., but Axl has never been on time in his life, so 8 is just an approximation. Tickets are $42-$80. Madison Square Garden, Seventh Avenue at 32nd Street: (212) 465-6741.