Mile High Stadium, Denver, CO
September 19th 1992

- Justin Mitchell, Rocky Mountain News

There were more thorns than Roses at the once-delayed, long-anticipated Guns N' Roses blowout for about 42,000 at Mile High Stadium Saturday night.

After two seamless sets by Ice-T and Body Count and Metallica, Axl Rose and Co. got off to a shaky start.

Rose already has the turf to himself as rock 'n' roll's reigning bad boy. Link him up on a bill with Ice-T, late of Cop Killer infamy, and you've got the anti-Christ and Satan on the same bill, in some people's minds.

The reality, however, wasn't quite as menacing - at least for Ice- T's portion of the bill.

Guns N' Roses, closing the night after a napalm-fueled two hours- plus by Metallica, were another matter.

Getting onstage at 10 p.m., the band ripped into Welcome to the Jungle, while a mammoth, inflated crab-like monster (no, not Axl) rose in an empty area of the lower southwest stadium stands. Not a bad opener, but what followed for three more songs simply upped the anxiety level.

Rose skipped offstage, leaving the rest of the crew to play without a net. Bassist Duff McKagan took over temporary vocal duties for two obscure songs, one a ballad and another Ramones-flavored, quick-tempo number called Attitude. The remaining band members then worked out a slow blues instrumental. Still, no Axl.

Slash went into a solo guitar spot until he was interrupted by a returning Axl, who told him to "shut up." Live and Let Die with Axl followed.

Then the band finally seemed to work its way into something resembling a groove for the blues-flavored Bad Obsession. Slash's slide guitar, and the inspired harmonica work of Ted Andreadis, were other bonuses.

Indeed, it was Slash who carried great loads of the show on his tattooed shoulders. Songs such as Double Talking Jive, Mr. Brownstone, Civil War and You Could Be Mine owed less to Rose's vocals and more to Slash's creative embellishments - flamenco stylings, blues, snatches of a Jimi Hendrix riff (Voodoo Child surfaced more than once) and even some Beatles and Rolling Stones when he and new guitarist Kilby Clarke worked out instrumental arrangements of Lucy in the Sky and Wild Horses.

By 11:20 p.m., when Rose sat down at a grand piano in his umpteenth costume change for a ballad and pop-classical solo, there were noticeable clumps and lines of fans filing out. Meanwhile, many of those who stayed hefted their Bics, points of light for a flickering talent pounding the keys in the spotlight.

It took the familiar siren call intro of Sweet Child O' Mine to put the force back into a show that seemed to have otherwise wandered off to a place only Rose could comprehend. After an extended version of Knockin' on Heaven's Door, the band left the stage and returned for an encore of Paradise City at midnight.

Seven hours earlier, Ice-T and Body Count were full of aural fire, bluster and bravado, but when it was all said and done, what you got was a lot of swaggering showmanship, some bargain-basement speed metal and a few laughs.

Watching and applauding from the side of the stage was Guns bassist Duff McKagan, who seemed especially taken with the hockey mask and sunglasses sported by Body Count rhythm guitarist D-Roc.

Ice-T and his four cohorts boasted about the fears that people with the mindsets of, say, Dan Quayle or Tipper Gore might have with him and his music unleashed.

"They said if Body Count plays they're gonna need more security . . . maybe they thought I was gonna tell you guys to overthrow the government . . . kill your mother or kill the police!

"Nah, I came to Denver to find myself a KKK Bitch!" That song (a satirical, salacious thrash excursion) and others from Body Count's controversial debut album have, of course, been overshadowed by the controversy over Cop Killer. He saved that for last, and no casualties, cops or otherwise, were apparent when he strutted offstage having primed the crowd's adrenaline prior to Metallica' s fearsome 2-hour-and-25-minute set.

The band, using temporary guitarist John Marshall (on loan from Metal Church) to compensate for injured singer / rhythm guitarist James Hetfield, performed around a smaller version of the mosh pit featured on the band's solo tour earlier this year.

Most of the moshing, however, went on beyond the pit. While the band's range isn't spectacular, power and precision are its main currencies, with subtlety definitely in the small-change department.

The band's power comes from an ensemble blitzkrieg approach, a cohesive sonic assault that doesn't so much vary tempos as burn rubber and pop gears with a perpetual power.

Metallica is no stranger to stadiums, having cut its teeth on the Monsters of Rock tour years ago, and this Mile High date showed them to be one of the leanest, meanest acts in the end zone in some time. (Maybe the Broncos could use a trick or two to punch up the running game . . .)

Metallica's portion of the night whiplashed from intensely brooding melancholia (Harvester of Sorrow, Nothing Else Matters, Unforgiven, Fade to Black) to the breakneck jouncing of Whiplash and The Shortest Straw, among others.

Hetfield, who seemed none the worse for the burns he received last month when a flash pot went off in front of him, sounded at times like the hoarse- man of the apocalypse, urging the crowd along for unifying sing-alongs such as Wherever I Roam, Evol and Seek and Destroy. In fact, he picked up a guitar for the final song of the set, Enter Sand Man.

It was Seek and Destroy that found Hetfield in the audience, shoving his microphone into eager faces, seemingly auditioning Dante's choir.

Twin giant video screens captured audience and band action in a compelling visual mix that added a lot of momentum to the show.