Joe Robbie Stadium, Miami, FL
December 31st 1991

- Howard Cohen, The Miami Herald, 1.2.92

Prior to the start of the much-anticipated New Year's Eve Guns N' Roses concert at Joe Robbie Stadium the stage stood empty. A towering behemoth of gleaming metal and black fabric. The emptiness and sheer size of the stage offered a sense of foreboding. Fitting for the pending appearance of the primal fury that is Guns N' Roses.

The field was dotted with security personnel in yellow shirts, but even with their presence apprehension hung in the air. Entering the field at a GN'R concert that close to the stage is akin to stepping into the ring with Mike Tyson. GN'R even has the audacity to bill this as the "Get In The Ring Motherf----- Tour". Now I know how the Christians must have felt squaring off against the lions.

I needn't have worried.

The Guns N' Roses that roared onto the stage with a fierce rendition of Welcome To The Jungle was a polished and professional machine. Gone were the excesses and boorish behavior that marred earlier dates of the tour -- namely the infamous St. Louis concert that sparked a riot last year.

Axl Rose, lead singer and enfant terrible, is the child Mick Jagger and Janis Joplin never had. Jagger-like in his stage mannerisms, the man is possessed of an inexhaustible level of manic energy and flashy showmanship approximating Joplin-level intensity through his raspy, emotionally raw vocals. Rose is clearly the star of this outfit. Bursting onto the stage in a brilliant red jacket and minuscule red shorts, Rose was constantly on the move, sprinting up and down the length of the mammoth stage, throwing mike stands and leading his fellow Gunners in one explosive number after another -- the beastly You Could Be Mine, blistering Civil War, the mega-wattage of Live And Let Die and manic finale Paradise City in particular.

Rose is also capable of tenderness, exemplified best on the ballads Don't Cry and the epic November Rain in which he surprised the audience with a stunning display on the piano before launching into the heartbreaking lyrics of the song. The band's brilliant new albums, Use Your Illusion I & II, paint a fascinating portrait of a man battling his demons. On this night Rose won out, even offering an uncharacteristic stab at humor when he donned a Mickey Mouse headpiece and crept up behind lead guitarist Slash during a solo.

Slash himself is a brooding presence in concert. Decked out in beige leather pants and puffing a cigarette, he says few words and rarely acknowledges his adoring fans. He does offer razor sharp guitar licks that brought the 40,000-strong audience to its feet on Estranged and Sweet Child O' Mine.

Few bands can fill a stadium with enough sound and fury to justify holding a show in such large venues. The Rolling Stones' flashy pyrotechnics and even Paul McCartney's silly love songs worked on those acts' last tours. Add Guns N' Roses to that list. In fact, as evidenced by Tuesday's show, put them on the top of that exclusive list. Axl and company conquered Miami with a vengeance, culminating at midnight with a brilliant display of fireworks in the sky that could have been lit from the sheer energy of the 2 1/2-hour show.