First Union Center, Philadelphia, PA
December 6th 2002

Axl Rose brings reloaded Guns
- Tom Moon, Philadelphia Inquirer

Tommy Stinson, longtime veteran of the rock wars, actually sounds defensive.

"We're not the Guns N' Roses cover band," the former Replacements bassist and current Axl Rose sidekick says, a bit petulantly, referring to one snarky description that's been following the reconstituted hard-rock band around on its first tour since the early '90s.

"I'll accept the 'Village People of Rock.' No use pretending otherwise - this is something different from the old band. We didn't want to sound like a cover band learning these songs, and you'll hear it - we're adding our own thing to them. If I could be so bold, we're playing more aggressively than the old band."

To be sure, the motley crew that famously erratic frontman Rose is bringing to the area for two performances this weekend - tonight's show at the First Union Center is sold out, while tickets remain for Sunday's appearance at the First Union Spectrum - isn't the same group that last tore up arenas in 1993.

The new G&R is essentially a Rose-assembled cast with three guitarists (including Buckethead, the NY noise merchant), two keyboardists (one is Dizzy Reed, who, having joined the band in 1990, is the lone returning veteran) and drummer Brian Mantia (who has worked with Primus).

For five nights a week over much of the last five years, these musicians and others have been sequestered in Los Angeles studios, writing and recording with Rose for the first new Guns material since 1991, which is tentatively titled Chinese Democracy.

Stinson says that after several changes of producers, the opus is ready to be mixed.

"It's gotten to the point where the songs have evolved over time, and they can't be any better. It needs to be mixed now."

It was the writing process that stretched the record into a massive marathon, Stinson explains.

"Axl doesn't bring in a song and tell everybody how it goes... . He'll take one idea, then ask somebody else to finish it. He's trying to draw the best out of each individual."

Those who go to the shows will be able to hear the fruits of this extensive labor, which has involved several producers, including Queen mentor Roy Thomas Baker. In addition to surveying songs from the band's multiplatinum 1987 debut, Appetite for Destruction, and 1991's two-disc Use Your Illusion I and II, the band has been playing three or four new songs each night.

Keyboardist Reed, who reupped with Rose because "I had absolutely nothing to fall back on," says the response has been phenomenal: "People are totally into it. I know the old band left a mark, and no matter what we do, some people are going to think we're crazy. But people seem to really like the new songs."

And, Stinson says, Rose has surprised everyone around him: "As we've gotten into the tour, he's really put his groove on. His voice is sounding amazing - he's just ripping through these songs."

As for Rose's famously turbulent personal life, Stinson says he considers Rose a friend, and is constantly amazed by what's written about him.

"Most of what the public thinks about Axl Rose is misconceptions. I trust him with my life, and I definitely feel more a part of a band now than I ever did in any other situation. I think it's an intrigue thing, where those misconceptions meet myth, and legend is what draws people to him. That's the rock-and-roll part. You want to see him fall apart. You want to see the car crash."