Hammerstein Ballroom, New York, NY
May 12th 2006

Matt G.'s Review

Night 1 is complete...

My thoughts are so disjointed I don't know where to begin... after Bullet for My Valentine played the worst set I've seen since CKY (the only fun part of their 45 minutes on stage was when Fortus, holding his little baby- being at this show can't be good for its hearing but it's not my baby so whatever- nearly wandered out onto the stage until security stopped him, as though he were totally unaware that someone was playing just then), GN'R took the stage at 11 pm and played straight through to around 1:15, 1:20 in the morning. The only song they removed from the setlist since we last saw them is Think About You, which has been replaced with three of the four leaked songs (all but Catcher in the Rye).

I think the new material ROCKS live; they did stumble through it a little but on the whole it sounded really good.. it was kind of akin to hearing the band struggle through some of the UYI material at RIR 2.

During TWAT I was singing along in the front row when Robin spotted me and mouthed a single word back to me: "Wow." That alone was worth the price of admission and pretty much made my whole shitty week seem better.

Later Axl came out and said something to the effect of "I see you all singing along, you downloading motherfuckers!"

After Better, which was the 4th song in the setlist, Axl went on his first rant, saying something about people "who think they know the inside deal but don't really know what's going on inside GN'R" or something along those lines (a veiled reference to Slash giving a release date in an interview, or to rumors Slash is returning?). The he said that Better "is a Robin song" (e.g., Robin wrote the song) and the band all looked to Robin and clapped and he gave a little wave; Axl wrapped his arm around Robin and continued "I know that will piss people off." It was great to suddenly have Robin's importance to the new line-up put out perfectly exemplified like that; it showed how much Axl respects the new guys, and from that moment on, it seemed like Robin pretty much had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand. During Nighttrain he jumped off the stage and bent over the railing to give a hug to a disabled girl sitting a wheelchair next to where I was standing; later in the night, at the end of Paradise City, he did a stage dive. He just ripped it up; it's like BH not being there finally allowed the guy to shine.

BTW, Robin is UNRECOGNIZABLE to the point where when he first came out, I thought he was the new guitar player. He's got a full head of long hair and very long beard (think Zakk Wylde) and from the way he dresses he could almost have been a member of The Black Crowes; the goth element is comepletely gone. The band as a whole seemed to gel much more aethestically now, looking less like a random collect of various dudes from randomly selected bands and more like a unified group of friends. It's as though everyone finally got together and chose a style of dress.

Everyone will also be happy to know that Axl ditched the jerseys and baggy pants in favor of jeans and a leather shirt (and a LOT of diamond bling), although Del James, his head completely clean shaven, was standing just off stage w/ Beta (hugging one another at several points), sporting... an oversized jersey. Oh well.

The actual new guitar player is Ron Thal a.k.a. Bumblefoot. I'm willing to give this guy the benefit of the doubt, but my first impression is that Axl's love of one-named guitarists has finally let him down; the guy seems techincally proficient (and less gimmick-loving than BH; his similar nick name aside, the only reference made to feet was a guitar he played for a few songs shaped like a giant foot) but has no stage presence, was the least physically active member of the band, and lacks both Slash's soulful intensenity and BH's mind blowing technical prowess. By the time Madagascar came around and Robin was clearly playing a more active role in the song than he used to and Richard playing BH's old solo, I was wondering why Axl felt the band needed a new guitar player at all. Plus, I hate to be shallow, but he has a kind of a mullet thing going on.

In any case, he moved around so little and was so far from me that it became easy for me to forget he was there, which was fine, b/c the rest of the band kicked ass. I've never seen these guys so happy; everyone, from Axl onto Robin and Brain and maybe more than anyone Tommy, was smiling and hugging and applauding one another... it didn't exactly seem like "the most dangerous band in the world" up there, but it somehow added to my own excitement to see how much they were enjoying themselves (Tommy grabbed the mike at one point and said to Axl "I'm having a great fucking time, how about you?" And Axl just grabbed him and hugged him for what seemed like an incredibly long amount of time).

When Axl introduced Brain he said that his friend Sebastian (presumably Bach) said "Where the fuck was this guy when you hired Matt?" It was the only explicit swipe at the old band Axl took all night (personally, I was DYING for a comment or two about Weiland, but no such luck).

Speaking of Baz, he did "My Michelle" as a duet with Axl. It was just as cool as it sounds. When Baz first took the stage (in a Pantera shirt) he just started screeching "You're CCCCCRRRAAAAZZZYYY!" and the place went ape shit (it does raise the question, why was Baz referencing a song he wasn't there to perform, but whatever, it got the crowd pumped).

All of the Chinese Democracy material was slightly modified from what we've heard. The title track now has a cool ambient electronic intro and then Robin plays the first part of the main riff three times before the song starts (think of what Robin does at the begining of WTTJ only for CD and you'll have some idea of what I'm talking about)... and Axl completely missed his cue on the song and didn't come in until the bridge.

The Blues now begins with more or less just Axl singing and the piano playing, and when it finally kicks in around the first chorus, the main riff Robin used to play is now completely gone.

TWAT now started with a soothing electronic bit (akin to some softer NIN songs) in the place of the piano loop in the demo we've all heard; there were some IRS changes as well but I'm blanking on what they were. In any case, it seemed clear that what we heard in the demos has been modified for the final recording.

And yes, there was pyro, raining sparks, and confetti.

That's it I think... I can't wait for night 2...


Ravi's Review

It didn't matter what Axl was wearing or how he looked or even his hair - Axl and GNR had something to prove and they proved it! Waiting outside in line for over 5 hours plus several more hours inside including enduring a loud and crappy set from Bullet for my Valentine was well worth it all. Axl sang better than I've ever heard before and despite some minor glitches and sound problems, Guns simply took over the place and practically exploded on the stage. Even as I tried to look at the other guys, my gaze kept going over to Axl because he has such a commanding stage presence. Axl sounds even more powerful and controlled than the last tour and I was pretty impressed even then with his vocals.

There were so many highlights, it's difficult to remember them all but I will try to mention everything that I loved and interesting things that I noticed. Jungle didn't have the scream or the "You know where you are???" part in it but it had SO much energy it was unbelievable almost. We were up front and I got pushed and tossed around so much in the beginning of the show. There were way too many moshers and crowd surfers which is ok sometimes but I ended up being knocked over once which was not fun! It was worth being up front but it was kind of hard to hear everything so for the next one I decided to be farther back to get better sound and also to not be crushed!

I was also surprised that they did so many new songs. I only expected to hear one or maybe two at most that they never played before. I liked the fact that they were trying them out even though they weren't all rehearsed that much. Better was so heavy and intense!!! I've rarely seen Axl that into one of the songs and Robin was kickin ass on the guitar parts. He was really impressive throughout the show actually. The new guy, Ron is pretty good but he still seems a bit uncomfortable with the songs. He probably just needs some more time to figure out his parts since he barely just joined. It also didn't help at all that several times his guitar wasn't turned up high enough. I have to say I did miss having Buckethead there though; even though he looks freaky, his playing is unrivaled!

The new stage setup is very cool. There are white banners with Chinese lettering as the backdrop and 3 separate screens on the top. The drums and keyboards are raised also like the last tour and there is a ramp in front for Axl to run out.

Robin had a little solo before SCOM which was ok, but he really nailed that song including the solo!! Axl dedicated that song to a girl named Carolina, not really sure who that is though. Both Robin and Richard are just so into the show, the energy is infectious. They also have improved their playing a lot, especially Robin who really impressed me. He was a lot more inconsistent last time I saw them. Also I love his new long haired/bearded look. Knockin' on Heaven's door wasn't as good as I hoped it to be, but they made up for that later. They really need to have a solo in that song, on the last tour the Robin solo was very sweet!!!

Madagascar was a bit different, I think it may have been the solo section, I'm not sure. It also wasn't the best version I had heard. Then again these are just warm up shows and I'm sure things will be much tighter in Europe. You Could be Mine was powerful and venomous and Axl had the crowd in the palm of his hands.

The Blues was really beautiful, definitely one of the highlights of the night for me. They really nailed it and also changed the arrangement a little bit (less instruments in the beginning) and Dizzy had a beautiful Axl-esque solo piano section before the song started. I also really dig Robin's solo on this song. Out ta Get Me afterwards really put fire and energy back into the crowd and Axl traded verses with us, it was so much fun!

November Rain was just amazing and although there were a few issues with timing and the solos at the end, it was an epic performance. Axl did a nice piano intro plus there was pyro at the end! My Michelle was a lot of fun when Axl and Sebastian went back and forth trading verses like the old days. Before the song he was yelling out "You're Crazy!!!!" and it seemed like he really wanted to hear that song.

Chinese Democracy had a trippy ambient sounding intro and then Robin teased the first chords which I'm not a big fan of. I think they should just rip straight into the song!

There was a Time was a surprise and it turned out pretty good despite the fact that according to Axl they were going to "try to muddle through this one." Awesome guitar work on this tune. Patience is great as always but this time Axl had some lower register vocals more like the old days which was very nice to hear. IRS totally rocked, and even Axl had a hard time singing all the words. Even so they did a good job on it and I was psyched to hear yet another new song!

Nightrain was extended out very long and they JAMMED! The band was having so much fun, and they just kept it going and going on. It is probably one of the best versions of that song ever! Then Axl introduced the band who all got pretty good ovations except for Pittman and the new guy. As is tradition, Paradise City lit up the stage as the perfect song to end the show among crazy pyrotechnic explosions, confetti flying around everywhere and general pandemonium among the crowd. Its one of those moments you can only see at a GNR show, it was so much fun! Axl and the band seemed to be having the time of their lives and he threw out the whistle and the mic out into the crowd! The only thing close to that for me was the new year's show in 2001. Overall, despite the flaws, it was an amazing show and I was blown away. It's almost as if they just took a few months off and they are back again! I can't wait to see what happens next and how things change when the album is released.

illusionone's Review

I've been up for over 24hours at this point so i'm not sure how this is going to come out - but here it goes.....

Venue: Unfreakin real, I never thought that I would see GNR in such a small club sized venue. IF you are short your best bet is to get Mezz seats. The line to get in wrapped around three buildings roughly about 3 blocks never thought I'd get there. PS: Don't drink beer while waiting in that line - the cops will write you a ticket ( I have 1st hand knowlede of that :-)

Opening Band: Sucked - not my cup of tea

Guns N Roses: Went on at 11pm sharp, and ended around 1;15.

Set List: (not going to attempt it right now)

Here are my general thoughts:

Axl sounds better than ever. I saw him in '02 and he is 10x better - he has complete control over his voice and is allot closer to the late 80's ealry 90's. Matter of fact, I couldn't pick up one note that he didn't hit. I felt like I was listening to Live Era - HE FUCKIN ROCKED. I was amazed by his performance on stage - the guy knows how to capture an audience. He took the Hammersein by storm. The band looks and sounds great - I almost get more of a band feel from them than I did with the original group. The new guitarist was pretty much a non-entity ( I'll be honest, I don't even know what he looks like. He was not a huge factor. All of the other band members ROCKED. The band played the new and old songs with power.

My highlights:

Better, T.W.A.T, Night train (this really stuck out to me, best version i've ever heard), My Michele w/ Baz (fuckin great), fuck it - every song was a highlight. The way they played them mad me feel as if I had heard them for the 1st time. Power, energetic etc. . . Pyro and stage set up was unfreakin real as well.

My Lowlights:

I love the set list, but they need to mix it up so that all of the slower songs are in the back half of the show. I would not change the songs though, just the order - and i'm only suggesting moving one or two here or there. Another lowlowlight would be the mosh pits - I know it's part of the whole 'rock n roll' thing, but there were some drunk guys plowing over 4ft tall women - never got the whole mosh pit thing.

I'm looking forward to the 17th - Enjoy the shows in between.

Guns N' Roses Live: Basically Axl With A GN'R Cover Band, But Great Anyway
- Chris Harris & Daniel Montalto, MTV.com

... And the band hit the stage just an hour and 15 minutes late!

That was the main question on the minds of the 3,300 people who packed the Hammerstein Ballroom here on Friday night. And if the unpredictable, reclusive Axl did come through, as promised, to take the stage with his current incarnation of Guns N' Roses, would the much-rumored reunion of expatriates Slash and Izzy Stradlin also materialize?

"I have my doubts," said Josh, a 24-year-old GN'R fan who drove down from Boston and coughed up $200 for a scalped ticket. "I was at the 2002 concert in Philadelphia, when he didn't show, and I was pissed. I thought it would never happen again. Guns is the best band ever. And if I see Slash tonight, I'll sh-- myself."

At around 11 p.m., the sell-out crowd — which included actor Ethan Hawke and Skid Row's Sebastian Bach — got some answers. Approximately an hour and 15 minutes after Guns were due to storm the Hammerstein stage, Rose emerged with his latest configuration, which — at the moment anyway — consists of keyboardists Dizzy Reed (the sole holdover from the Use Your Illusion-era lineup) and Chris Pittman, ex-Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson, former Primus kitman Brian "Brain" Mantia and three guitarists: erstwhile Nine Inch Nails member Robin Finck, ex-Psychedelic Furs axeman Richard Fortus and Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal, a New York musician hired just last week to replace long-departed virtuoso Buckethead.

But it wasn't until the show's end, at around 1:30 a.m., that the realization set in that that sometimes rumors are just that: Slash and Stradlin were no where to be found.

The audience (which ranged in age from not-yet-old-enough-to-vote to "Grandma? Is that you?," with the median age appearing to be around 35) welcomed Rose — who was clad in a pleather shirt unbuttoned to reveal a crucifix hanging from a large necklace, tattered blue jeans, designer shades and his cornrows tied back in a ponytail — and the band with thunderous cheers and screams as the band launched into its opener, "Welcome to the Jungle."

The gig was Rose's first in more than three years, and the first of four sold-out "warm-up" shows preceding GN'R's summer's worth of European festival appearances; the second concert went off Sunday night, with the third set for Monday (May 15), and the fourth on Wednesday (see "Guns N' Roses Line Up Two New York Shows,"). The New York shows are Guns N' Roses' first since the ill-fated global comeback tour of 2002, which sputtered to a halt following the band's performance at New York's Madison Square Garden; he didn't take the stage for the following day's booking in Philadelphia, the crowd rioted, and the remaining dates were axed (see "It's Extra Official: Promoter Says GN'R Tour Totally Off").

Halfway through "Jungle," Rose was sopping wet — not since Patrick Ewing last hit the hardwood has one man sweated so profusely after just two minutes of physical exertion. As he roared, "I, I wanna hear you scream," Axl unleashed his signature serpentine sway.

Fire blasts and roman candle-esque pyrotechnics exploded at all the appropriate moments, and the heat from these on-stage detonations could even be felt by those huddled around the venue's back bar area. Indeed, the feel of the set was energized and huge: This was a stadium-sized performance inside a theater-sized venue; it was as if the band were playing for 50,000 fans.

Rose, 44, scampered around the stage like a schizophrenic with a hard-to-reach back itch, defying the extra poundage he's visibly added. However, his voice isn't what it once was: At several points during the 19-song set, it appeared Rose couldn't sustain certain notes, taking breathers here and there or simply deferring to the crowd. Although his pipes were smooth for most of the night, they failed him on at least two critical occasions: "Sweet Child O' Mine" and Paul McCartney's "Live and Let Die" (see "Axl Rose Named Coolest Old Person In Teen Mag Poll — Right After 'Grandparents' ").

The band also stumbled at times, most noticeably during "Better" — one of several new songs that have leaked online and are believed to be from Rose's decade-in-the-making LP Chinese Democracy, which he said in a recent interview should be out this fall. The crowd even sang along with many of the leaked tracks, which also included "Madagascar," "There Was a Time," "I.R.S.," "The Blues" and the album's title track (see "Are Guns N' Roses Finally Coming Back? The Signs Are There ...").

But the audience came to hear the classics, even if they were being performed by Axl and what basically amounts to a GN'R cover band. The floor at the Hammerstein seemed to buckle under the weight of the foot-stomping, horn-wielding mob during "It's So Easy," "Mr. Brownstone" and Bob Dylan's "Knocking on Heaven's Door," which Axl introduced by saying, "This is about a place I've been one too many times."

The night's most memorable moments came with "November Rain," "Patience," and the confetti-coated closer, "Paradise City," which inspired a sea of butane-fueled light. Even the night's opening act, Bullet for My Valentine, couldn't resist rockin' out at the bar, even if it was in jest. At one point, Bach joined Rose onstage and the pair belted out "My Michele," signaling an official, belated end to a long-running feud that many may have forgotten about.

Sunday night's performance brought virtually the same set, with one additional song tossed in to the mix: Appetite for Destruction's closer, "Rocket Queen." Rose seemed more comfortable during the second show and interacted with the audience, shaking hands and talking to fans; the show felt more organic overall.

Sure, this wasn't 1991, and yes, it was Rose standing up there with a bunch of hired guns that doesn't seem capable of holding a candle to the band's classic lineup — but regardless, the energy and the essence of GN'R remains intact. To true fans, hearing Axl sing those songs, and seeing his rosy mug, was enough to justify that hundreds they'd dropped on tickets and $85 GN'R hockey jerseys.

"I'm just psyched," said Terry, a 40-year-old fan from Long Island, after the show. "They nailed it. This was even better than I imagined. It didn't matter to me what they played — I was going to love it regardless."

No Riots as Guns n' Roses Rock New York
- Charley Rogulewski, Rollingstone.com

Axl and an all-new G n' R rip through two of four Hammerstein shows

Police reported that Friday night's line to get into the first of four Guns n' Roses warm-up shows at New York's Hammerstein Ballroom spanned nearly five blocks. A late sound check prevented fans, decked out in vintage G n' R tees and swilling booze in brown paper bags (some of whom were later served public drinking tickets), from entering at the scheduled door time of 7:30 p.m. At around 8:15 p.m., the line began to inch forward, bringing fans waiting since 11 a.m. closer to the door. At neighboring bars, laid-back tailgaters were getting lit to classic Guns n' Roses singalongs. With anticipation mounting, devotees were hoping for at least one G n' R song out of Axl before he possibly walked offstage -- a "Welcome to the Jungle" opener? Others feared that the man himself wouldn't go on at all, and the collective buzz would only lead to rioting.

With the pile-up outdoors, Bullet for My Valentine received a bigger crowd than usual for an opening act. But another hour of the Hammerstein mix tape would pass, with the crowd shouting out the "Hey" in Gary Glitter's "Rock and Roll, Part 2" on autopilot. Finally, at 11:02 p.m., the house lights went dark. "Are you ready? Let me hear you. Are you ready?" came an announcement from offstage. An ambient bass and string overture was drowned by the thunderous roar of the crowd, which grew even louder at the opening guitar riffs and pyrotechnic explosions of -- surprise -- "Welcome to the Jungle."

With Axl Rose's piercing howl, the crowd was assured at last the show was actually happening. Dressed in a black leather shirt and big, black, bug-eyed sunglasses, Axl, charismatic as ever, flew across the stage zigzagging between the seven members of the new Guns n' Roses lineup -- guitarists Robin Finck, Rich Fortus, Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal, bassist Tommy Stinson, drummer Brain, keyboardist Chris Pittman and Dizzy Reed.

1987's Appetite for Destruction classics "It's So Easy" and "Mr. Brownstone" followed. Axl and Co. would go on to perform almost every song of the 1987 chart-topping release during the first two nights, but while the evening was basically dominated by old G n' R classics, Axl didn't hog the spotlight. Each of the three guitarists took the front of the stage for solos. Axl, however, was the rock icon, and he pulled some larger-than-life moves, stretching his arms out in time with the flames that shot from the stage during the chorus to "Live and Let Die."

While Friday night's crowd didn't start surfing until an hour in, during another Appetite for Destruction staple "Out Ta Get Me," Sunday night's audience -- not as crowded, with scalpers dumping last-minute tickets at thirty bucks a pop -- featured an instant mosh pit. Fans were surfing by the second number, "It's So Easy." "Damn!" Axl pointed out at Sunday's crowd. "We had people screamin' their heads off Friday, but you guys are kickin' the shit out of them! Happy Mother's Day, motherfuckers!"

Axl would eventually dedicate Sunday night's show to his mom and rekindled buddy, Sebastian Bach, whom he said he hadn't talked to in thirteen years. "I was trying to save my life, and [Bach] was trying to destroy his," Axl told the crowd. Both nights, Bach took the stage screaming "You're fucking crazy!" before the two buddies, arm in arm, launched into "My Michelle."

Low points included guitarists Robin Finck and Rich Fortus delivering an unexpected yet oddly powerful dueling guitar instrumental of Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful" -- which probably only Fred Durst enjoyed. Yes, Durst was among the VIP crowd, which also included Lenny Kravitz, comedian Jimmy Fallon, Goo Goo Dolls frontman Johnny Rzeznik, and actors Mickey Rourke and Shannon Elizabeth.

The most moving moment in the show was probably "November Rain," with Axl on the ivories, singing "Do you need some time on your own/ Do you need some time all alone/Everybody needs some time on their own" -- letting his lyrics speak for ten years recovering from Guns n' Roses' messy breakup. "I think we're doing pretty fuckin' all right, considering we have a guitarist that joined our band last week," quipped the frontman, referring to Bumblefoot during the song's signature intermission on Sunday night.

The weekend shows also included staples "Patience," "Sweet Child O' Mine," "You Could Be Mine," "Rocket Queen" and the encore, "Paradise City" -- with Axl coining New York his new "Paradise City." Each show ended with a shower of confetti -- a shower that, in the dim light, seemed to herald a real return for Guns n' Roses, or at least a sign that Axl is out to rock again. With Axl out of rock & roll rehab, he's no longer a notorious recluse -- just notorious.

As for one of rock's most famous unreleased albums, Chinese Democracy -- the band played a few already leaked tracks, including "Madagascar," "Better" and "IRS" -- Axl had just a few words.

"In regards to our new record . . . hold your breath for a little longer for that," he said. "I want to thank you for that."

No problem, Axl. Lighters up: "Everybody needs some time . . . on their own."

'Warm-Up Show' for Guns N' Roses
- Ben Ratliff, New York Times, 5.13.2006

Rock and roll audiences want to identify with the guy singing the song; they need to, in fact. But you’d be hard-pressed to prove that the crowd at the Hammerstein Ballroom on Friday night was identifying with W. Axl Rose. What does he represent, at this stage of the game? Survival? Re-invention? Creative control? The tortured artist? The persistence of the yowl? If the spirit of his age resides in him, his long postponement of an infamous album has diluted that spirit somewhat.

But if the physical reality of Mr. Rose - dressed L.A. style in a leather shirt and jeans and wearing a large silver cross, his hair corn-rowed and pulled back - wasn’t an easy figure to identify with, his voice and body language did the job instead. When he sang “Paradise City,” the crowd adopted a yowl in kind; when he danced in his undulating movements, like the letter S turning itself inside out, the men and women in the audience involuntarily moved that way too.

Friday night’s concert was the first of four Guns N’ Roses shows at Hammerstein Ballroom. On stage, Mr. Rose called them “warm-up shows” for the band’s European tour, which begins May 25 in Madrid. It’s fair to assume that the large-theater shows will have clearer sound and more effective stagecraft; Mr. Rose’s voice sounded strong, even in his highest nasal shrieks, but the band wasn’t using the warm-up time to experiment. The set list of the two-hours-plus show, complete with flash pots and confetti, came pretty close to what an only slightly different version of the band was playing four years ago, on its last tour.

Mr. Rose is the only original member left in the quintessential ‘80s hard-rock band, and this has been the case since 1997. The newest of the seven musicians backing up Mr. Rose on Friday, one of its three guitarists, is Ron Thal, also known as Bumblefoot. (One of his guitars has been designed to look like the bottom of a foot, with bumblebee stripes.) He takes up the role of the pyrotechnic shredder, vacated in 2004 by the guitarist Buckethead. At certain points in the show, including a few discontinuous unaccompanied solos, he accelerated to impressively fast chromatic runs; he also played some lavish, Hendrix-influenced blues language. Why this band’s gut-level songs now require the ornamentation of a wizardly guitarist at all remains unclear. It makes the band more atemporal, more Vegas-y, than necessary.

It was the group’s principal guitarist, Robin Finck, who made the sweetest and most grounded music of the night, and seemed most comfortable at work. An off-and-on member of the band for nine years now, Mr. Finck assumed most of the lines in the old songs formerly played by the guitarist Slash. But when he improvised, he spun out simple patterns, shaking the guitar’s neck and getting warmth and resonance out of each note or chord; his own unaccompanied solo, just before the concert’s final number, was a beautifully coherent, non-shredding couple of minutes, the best of the less-familiar music played in the show. He gave himself to the crowd, even literally, diving in to the audience three times.

The less-familiar songs were, actually, kind of familiar. That infamous, postponed Guns N’ Roses album, of course, is “Chinese Democracy,” which has been in the making for much of the last decade, and still has not been scheduled for release. Some of its songs included in the concert—“The Blues,” “Better,” “Madagascar,” “Chinese Democracy,” “There Was a Time,” and “IRS”—are easy enough to find on the internet, in leaked demos and bootlegged live performances. And in the concert, the new songs distinguished themselves visually as well as sonically, with serious-looking video backdrops: stained-glass details, religious portraiture, Martin Luther King speeches.

The crowd didn’t go nuts for them. Most of the new songs are dystopian, tense, portentous, finally a bit inconclusive; they dabble in electronic rhythms, big keyboard sounds and droning repetition. They didn’t produce much catharsis, on stage or in the audience. “Sweet Child o’ Mine” and “Patience,” on the other hand, were among the set’s old songs that motored along on earthy, meaty riffs, and provoked the fully expected but still astonishing spectacle of a full house roaring along with every word.

Guns N’ Roses continue at Hammerstein Ballroom on May 14, 15, and 17.

Guns N' Roses
- David Sprague, Daily Variety, 5.15.2006

(Hammerstein Ballroom; New York; 3300 capacity; $63.)
Presented by Live Nation. Opened and reviewed May 12, 2006. Also May 14, 15, 17.
Band: Axl Rose, Robin Finck, Tommy Stinson, Ron Thal, Richard Fortus, Dizzy Reed, Brian Mantia.

Axl Rose has been so reclusive and obsessive in the years since Guns N' Roses' last full-on foray into the public eye, but he hasn't, based on Friday's appearance at the Hammerstein Ballroom, missed a step. Rose careened through a two-hour perf with all of the manic energy and banshee vocal agility of the band's heyday.

True to form, Rose tested aud patience by taking a -- to say the least -- relaxed attitude towards timely performance, taking the stage a full 90 minutes after opening act Bullet for My Valentine finished. Having waited more than a decade for the chance to glimpse the new-model G n' R in action, however, fans didn't seem prone to grumbling about the additional delay.

The singer wasted little time in breaking out the red meat, firing off a feral opening salvo of "Welcome to the Jungle" and "It's So Easy" that crackled with live-wire intensity. Impressive though Rose's voice was during the bulk of the set, he did come up noticeably winded after a few of his stage-crossing sprints.

This version of the band -- other than Rose, only keyboardist Dizzy Reed has appeared on officially-released studio material -- didn't add perceptibly to the arrangements of the set's battle-tested tunes. On the other hand, the musicians didn't slip into tribute-band mimicry -- primary guitarist Robin Finck, in particular, made an impression through leads that bristled with steely cool, a stark contrast to the sensual bluesiness of the departed Slash.

For most of the house, of course, the elephant in the room was "Chinese Democracy" -- the album Rose has been tweaking fanatically lo these many years. The set -- which didn't end until well after one A.M., featured a surprisingly generous helping of the disc's songs, which ran the gamut from gripping to baffling.

The tense, menacing "I.R.S." fell squarely into the former category, its dark progressions enhanced by a throbbing keyboard underpinning and an infectious chorus that had many in the aud singing along -- a fact Rose acknowledged with a wry "you fuckers sure know how to download."

Other new offerings, however, dragged palpably, particularly the aimlessly sprawling "Madagascar" and a sloppy version of "Better," neither of which yielded a memorable moment. That disjointed quality stemmed in part from the unwieldiness of the three-guitar lineup, of which new addition Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal -- who was granted two solo spotlights, which proved two too many -- seemed the most out of place.

While there were certainly moments of unfettered nostalgia -- like Rose duetting with fellow '80s survivor Sebastian Bach on "My Michelle" -- the show didn't feel like a Vegas spectacle. That's due in large part to Rose's force of will. The singer seems to have shed his "most likely to incite a riot" baggage, but the edginess that remains could clearly fuel a conflagration should the need arise.

Guns N' Roses In New York City
- Debby Rao, Boston Contributor, KNAC.com

They're back!!! Guns N' Roses, one of the most controversial rock bands of the 80's are back in full force taking New York by storm with a fury that hit like ya like a freight train.

Guns N' Roses performed their first concert since 2002 last night at the historic Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City. Last night's concert was the first of four sold out GNR shows which are slated to take place May 14, May 15 and May 17. All four concerts sold out in 3 minutes. Pretty amazing for a band who hasn't toured since 2002.

Last time I saw GNR perform was on the Use Your Illusion Tour in 1990.at the Worcester Centrum. I have always loved their music, and tonight's concert was everything I thought it would be. Up Close and Personal, In Your Face, Axl Rose at his best!!!

Driving down 95, it may have been raining buckets but nothing could damper the mood for the day. We were going to see GNR perform in a very rare club appearance.

New York City was alive and well, the city that never sleeps, and that sure held true tonight. It is good to see somethings never change.

This was my first time seeing a concert at the Hammerstein Ballroom. The historic venue which is right int he center of Manhattan and was the perfect venue for this GNR concert. The place doesn't have a bad seat, and the sound system was amazing.

We were right down on the floor, and had a great view of the band. Opening the show was Bullet For My Valentine. I recently got to see them perform on the Rob Zombie Tour. Their modern day set with great melodies was better received on the Rob Zombie Tour. It was clear the audience was their to see one band their heroes Guns N' Roses.

The excitement in the air was so thick you could cut it with a knife. hit the stage right at 11 P.M. and played till 1:15 A.M. in the morning. GNR performed most their hits, taking their fans into the future with this stellar new line-up that includes new guitarist Ron Thal of Bumblefoot fame , who didn't disappoint the die-hard GNR fans.

Opening with "Welcome To The Jungle", Axl Rose dressed in a black long sleeve shirt, and jeans with his newly dread locked hair in a ponytail took complete control of the stage. Axl was back, in great voice, and looking amazing. It was clear to see, that Axl is back for the long haul and ready to rock.

GNR first part of the show inspired their old school hits which included ,"It's So Easy", Mr Brownstone ," and "Live and Let Die." GNR sounded really tight as Brain played down some of the hardest hitting drum solos that you could imagine.

One of the most amazing of GNR's sound that I enjoy enjoy is the amazing keyboards. I have seen GNR keyboard player Dizzy Reed perform with his band HNB many times and let me tell ya tonight Dizzy was on fire. Tickling the ivories on his grand piano solo leading into "The Blues." Tonight it was so great to be able to see Diz perform with one of the greatest rock bands of our time, . Axl sang his heart out on this song, and proved his diversity as a singer.

Axl also sat down at the piano on "November Rain" and performed one of the most touching moments of the evening. This song has always been one of my favorites and seeing Axl perform this song tonight was simply amazing.

Tonight's GNR concert was prompted by spontaneity and even included a special guest star. No it was not Slash or Izzy, but 80's rocker Sebastian Bach. Seeing two of the best 80's singers singing "My Michelle" was simply.priceless!

GNR performed the title track off of their upcoming album, Chinese Democracy and song "I.R.S." These songs best describe GNR in 2006 very modern with a touch of old school. Another one of the highlights of the show was my all time favorite GNR classic,"Patience." Axl shined.

As the evening was coming to a close, one thing was for certain. The momentum of the band never let up. All eyes were on Axl Rose as he captivated the audience with his magical stage performance. GNR ended the night with guitarist Robin Finch blistering solo into "Night Train" and closed with the ferocious "Paradise City."

The audience went into a frenzy, headbanging when Axl sang, "Take Me Down to The Paradise City" as Axl and his new version of GNR rocked New York City hard. Never looking back, only looking into the future. The baddest of the bad boys is back, Mr Axl Rose. Ready to reclaim his throne as one of the best rock "n"roll singers of our time.

Get ready to witness one of the best rock and roll shows this year, as GNR invade New York City all this week. The band will be touring Europe this summer. They say timing is everything. Axl Rose has surely picked the best time to make a comeback. 2006 is shaping up to be the summer where old school metal rules the concert scene.

GNR are back with a vengeance, and making their old school rock and roll roots come alive once again, as Axl Rose proves he is indeed one of the best rock and roll singers of our generation.

GNR Setlist

Welcome To the Jungle
It's So Easy
Mr. Brownstone
Live and Let Die
Sweet Child O'Mine
Knockin On Heaven's Door
You Could Be Mine
The Blues Dizzy Solo!
Out to get Me
November rain
My Michelle - Sebastian and Axl
Chinese Democracy
Paradise City

Axl Rose Welcomed to the Jungle in New York
- Reuters

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Reclusive rocker W. Axl Rose was on his best behavior as the new-look Guns N' Roses played its first concerts in more than three years over the weekend and dusted off a few songs from its long-delayed album.

His trademark shriek complemented by a trim goatee, the 44-year-old vocalist is the only holdout from the original lineup of the self-destructive band that ruled MTV and the pop charts in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

As Guns N' Roses struggled to record its follow-up to the two ``Use Your Illusion'' albums from 1991, Rose took control of the band and either fired his bandmates or watched them leave in frustration. His efforts over the last decade to record the new album ``Chinese Democracy'' with a revolving cast of hired hands have become something of a music industry joke.

In his early days, Rose had a penchant for antagonizing pretty much everyone, but on Sunday he repeatedly thanked the sold-out 3,300-strong audience at the Hammerstein Ballroom for its support, and shook hands with fans.

Guns N' Roses performed nine of the 12 songs from its 1987 debut album ``Appetite for Destruction,'' including ``Welcome to the Jungle'' and ``Sweet Child O' Mine.'' Other crowd pleasers included ``You Could Be Mine,'' ``Live and Let Die,'' and the ballads ``November Rain'' and ``Patience.''

It was the second of four sold-out shows scheduled at Hammerstein. After Friday and Sunday, the band will play again Monday and Wednesday before a series of European festival appearances that will begin May 25 in Madrid and will include two dates opening for the Rolling Stones in Germany.

While the crowd came to hear the old hits, Guns N' Roses also played several songs from ``Chinese Democracy,'' including ''Madagascar'' and ``IRS.'' Rose told a New York radio station last week that the album might come out this fall. During the show, he thanked the crowd for its patience.

``You can hold your breath a lot longer than David Blaine. I want to thank you for that,'' he said, referring to the New York stuntman who last week failed in an attempt to break the world record for holding his breath underwater.

Rose is no longer the scrawny kid who ruled Los Angeles' Sunset Strip in the 1980s, but he displayed a surprising amount of energy. He wore his braided long hair tied up in a pony tail, designer sunglasses, blue jeans and a leather shirt unbuttoned to reveal a crucifix hanging from a large necklace.

He dedicated the show both to his mother and to former Skid Row singer Sebastian Bach, whom he credited for finding a vocal coach and a throat doctor when Rose lost his voice after the Friday show. The two reunited after not talking to each other in 13 years.

``I was busy trying to save my life, he was busy trying to destroy his,'' Rose said, before inviting Bach on stage to sing along on ``My Michelle.''

Rose's previous comeback fizzled in late 2002. After a triumphant performance at New York's Madison Square Garden, he failed to show up for the following day's show in Philadelphia. The crowd rioted and the promoters canceled the rest of the tour.

Despite rumors that Guns N' Roses refugees, such as equally reclusive guitarist Izzy Stradlin, might appear at Hammerstein, none materialized. With one exception, the seven musicians backing Rose played with him in 2002.

They were keyboardist Dizzy Reed (who has been with Guns N' Roses since the ``Use Your Illusion'' days), guitarist Robin Finck (formerly of Nine Inch Nails), drummer Brian ``Brain'' Mantia (formerly of Primus), guitarist Richard Fortus from the Psychedelic Furs, keyboard player Chris Pittman, and bassist Tommy Stinson from the Replacements.

The new addition was Ron ``Bumblefoot'' Thal, an obscure New York City musician hired last week to replace enigmatic guitar wizard Buckethead. Occasionally, Bumblefoot played an unconventional guitar modeled to look like a hybrid between a bee and a foot, complete with retractable wings.


Hammerstein Ballroom 5/12/06, 5/14/06
- Joe Knaus, Blender Magazine

Rocky. Lance Armstrong. The 2004 Boston Red Sox. Colonial America. They all had their detractors; they all triumphed over them. Perhaps the same can be said for a long-dormant rock band that, save for a handful of one-off shows, an ill-fated tour in 2002 and a song on a 2000 movie soundtrack, has not performed or released original material in roughly 13 years. By most counts, their career should be over, but judging from audience reaction at the first two nights of their four-night stint at New York's Hammerstein Ballroom, the final chapter in the GN'R saga remains unwritten.

Sold-out audiences crowded into the mid-size venue to witness the resurrection of the group largely defined by mythic, and now reclusive, frontman Axl Rose. Unearthed at Hammerstein, he appeared to be as comfortable as ever, delivering powerful vocal performances on GN'R classics like "Welcome to the Jungle," "Sweet Child o' Mine" and "Nightrain." It's clear that either Rose had been practicing hard for this moment or he's not lost much of the swagger that earned him such well-deserved notoriety nearly 20 years ago. In fact, if you closed your eyes during these performances, it wasn't hard to imagine that it was 1988 all over again (assuming you weren't in diapers, of course). Upon pointing this out to the concert attendee directly to my right, who happened to be former Skid Row vocalist Sebastian Bach, he succinctly replied, "Yeah, but this is 2006 and this is f*cking rock!"

Guns N' Roses now sport a full lineup with no less than three guitar players, the latest in the rotating cast being Ron Thal, a.k.a. "Bumblefoot." While it wasn't what you might expect to see, these relative unknowns proved capable of integrating new standouts like "Madagascar" and "Better" in with the old classics. Large stretches of shred time were afforded these guitarists not named Slash, but it was the sing-along staples of the GN'R songbook that stole the show — a fact that an impressed Rose acknowledged was keeping him from hearing himself on occasion.

Other highlights include near-flawless vocal performances of "Patience" and well-executed duets with the aforementioned Mr. Bach on both nights. On the second night, Axl thanked Sebastian at length for helping to get his voice in order for the show and went so far as to comment that he's "the man who saved my life."

Support for all four scheduled shows came from rapidly-rising U.K. metal outfit Bullet For My Valentine, a group whose sound is a refreshing, on-point mix of originality and influence from acts like Iron Maiden, Metallica and the headliners themselves.

After a rousing, confetti-laden version of "Paradise City" closed the show to a raucous ovation from the crowd, it became clear that Axl Rose's destiny is to be the frontman of Guns N' Roses. And as with all resurrections, the specter remains: While more improbable band reunions have taken place in the past, die-hard fans will always be checking the wings backstage for a glimpse of that tall black top hat.

In the meantime, if it sounds like Guns N' Roses and rocks like Guns N' Roses...

Reviewed by Joe Knaus

Show Rating - 4/5