Pacific Amphitheatre, Costa Mesa, CA
July 25th 1991

- Dave Wielenga, The Press-Telegram, 7.27.91

Axl Rose arrived at the Pacific Amphitheatre late and angry Thursday night, stomped off the stage early and even angrier, and tossed in a couple of tantrums in between.

Whether or not all this nastiness is necessary may never be known - it has become a staple of Guns N' Roses performances, and why mess with a good thing? The band has elevated its brand of bad-attitude rock and roll to the stratum of superstardom, and amid all the animosity exists a mesmerizing music machine.

For two hours the band - lead guitarist Saul ``Slash'' Hudson, bassist Duff McKagan, keyboardist Dizzy Reed, drummer Matt Sorum and guitarist Izzy Stradlin - supplied a tight and powerful musical springboard for Rose, who sprinted and whirled and danced as he sang a mix of material, some familiar and some from the still-awaited albums, ``Use Your Illusion, Parts I and II.''

Guns N' Roses doesn't work from a set playlist, instead moving from song to song at the whim of Rose - who can get pretty whimsical. This is a guy who took to the stage wearing a red and black kilt, the kind of belt favored by boxing champions, combat boots and a catcher's chest protector.

After opening with ``Mr. Brownstone,'' the band moved into ``Our Obsession,'' then to the Paul McCartney song, ``Live And Let Die,'' then to a bawdy, grinding tune off one of the new albums, ``Dust And Bones.''

It was at this point that Rose, never reluctant to air his complaints onstage (he criticized his band members' drug use and threatened to quit the group during an appearance opening for the Rolling Stones at the Los Angeles Coliseum in October of 1989) explained why Guns N' Roses didn't begin performing until 9:10 p.m. - 1 1/2 hours after the opening act, Skid Row, had departed.

Basically, he blamed it on overzealous film crews from local television stations, who Rose claimed, in a profanity-laced tirade, demanded interviews and threatened to have him arrested.

``I told them, `You are nothing but parasites. If nothing happens you make it up,''' Rose recounted, adding that the controversy would help him ``go out and sell another half-million records.''

(Fans had their own troubles getting to the 6 p.m. show. Traffic from rush hour, the Orange County Fair, the nearby South Coast Plaza shopping center and the concert created a Sig-Alert in the area.)

But there was no meaningful explanation for the sudden end to the show, which occurred after the band, to the accompaniment of a thunderous ovation, had assembled on stage for an encore.

After the first few notes of what Rose had introduced as a new song called ``The Strange,'' the music stopped, apparently because Rose was dissatisfied with it.

``You can start over any time,'' he said sardonically to his bandmates.

They did, briefly, until Rose threw his microphone to the floor and stalked off stage. He never returned, but Sorum, Slash and Reed came back to collaborate on a brief instrumental jam before pleading that ``we don't know any more songs'' and departing for good.

An announcement to the crowd blamed the situation on ``technical difficulties.''

In between, Rose also delivered a scathing attack on Guns N' Roses former manager and former drummer, Steven Adler, who was banished for alleged drug abuse and is now suing the group.

Another time Rose stopped one of the band's most popular songs, ``Welcome To The Jungle'' to take issue with something that a man seated in the front row was doing - something that Rose, who has been accused of being homophobic because of lyrics to his song, ``One In A Million,'' interpreted as a homosexual gesture.

``When a guy is doing that I don't know what to think,'' sneered Rose. ``I guess I have to remember that we are in L.A.''

It's at moments like these that it becomes difficult to know what to think about Rose, a guy confident enough to perform in shorts and boots and a fishnet shirt - just one of his unusual ensembles - but worried about what somebody's gesture might mean as a challenge to his masculinity, and compelled to react hostilely toward it.

Rose resumed his performance with the same passion and grit - and the same frightening cat-like scream - through songs such as ``Patience,'' ``Sweet Child O' Mine'' and ``Knockin' On Heaven's Door.'' There was no denying the emotion invested in his art.

However, while his unpredictable outbursts give an edge to Guns N' Roses shows, at some point they begin to detract from the messages the songs were designed to deliver. At the end, no one seemed surprised - or even especially angry - when Rose abruptly ended the evening. The overriding emotion seemed to be amusement.

And that is what should really make Rose mad.