Hammerstein Ballroom, New York, NY
May 14th 2006

Matt G.'s Review

I'm exhausted and I've got work in the morning so this will be the abbreviated version...

This subject line of this e-mail was Axl's battle cry for night 2 at the Hammerstein, which he dedicated to his mother - whom he identified not as Mrs. Rose or Mrs. Bailey but as good old Beta.

He commented that this crowd was wwwwaaaayyy louder than Friday night's, and they were. Rowdier, too. Even though I got on line an hour earlier than Friday, I was further back - until a few songs in, when people started dropping like flies, asking security to bring them over the rails. I was very quickly back up front where I belong.

It's been really fun to watch this band progress over the past 5 or 6 years; it's been like watching a friend's band get better and better, only it's GN'R. Bumblefoot started to come out of his shell a little more (and while I appreciate that he was trying to dress a little classier than on Friday night, his new black pants and matching sports coat made him look a little like the long lost member of Genesis), Fortus, for the first time, got to take TWO individual guitar solos while the rest of the band rested, the first time dueling with Robin Finck on, of all things, Christina Aguilera's song Beautiful (kind of like what Slash and Gilby used to do with Wild Horses, but more equal trading off of lead and rhythm duties), which might sound really lame but was actually very cool (a friend who didn't recognize the song and was therefore unprejudiced thought it was amazing), the second time doing a song I recognized but am having a hard time naming (can anyone help out? It's right on the tip of my tongue but I can't quite place it).

And then there was the (at least seemingly) spontaneous jam session, starting with Tommy funking out on his bass, soon joined by Brain and Robin and then Axl playing, I kid you not, a maraca. The spontaneity continued when Axl called out "What do you wanna play next?" and Tommy cried back "Patience!" before Axl nodded. The fact that the not dissimilar setlist was performed in an almost completely different order (save the first three and last three songs) made me wonder, perhaps they're back to the good old days of no setlists. If there's less variety in this band's choices than there was in the old band's, that could be b/c at this point these are the only songs they've had time to learn, but I guess we have to wait and see.

Baz showed up and once again did My Michelle with the band. This time Axl started with an intro explaining that on Saturday morning he woke up and realized his voice was gone and he freaked out and called Baz, and even though he hadn't spoken with Baz in 13 years and Baz therefore easily could have told Axl to "go and suck my own dick," he hooked Axl up with a vocal coach and throat doctor so Axl could go on tonight. "He saved my life," Axl said.

Alas, all this good stuff did have one down side: while Rocket Queen was reinstated into the set after being absent on Friday, TWAT, IRS and, perhaps most upsettingly, Madagascar were all missing (Think About You was still not played; The Blues, Chinese Democracy, and Better, which somehow rocked even harder than Friday, were all still played... a friend of mine commented that he didn't realize it was Better until part way through the song; it's starting to sound more and more guitar driven, and I mean that in the best possible way).

The band - well, mostly Axl - did screw up the intros to Patience and Paradise City, but they all looked to one another, silently communicating, and pulled it together. This, to me, seemed like the best evidence that they've become a real band - slight mistakes don't phase they as much as they did in, say, Rio or Detroit.

And everyone still seemed happy as hell. Robin once again more or less walked away with the spotlight (doing another TWO stage dives on top of his usual insane antics and wicked soloing), but I can't tell you how great it was to see Fortus also get some time in the center of everyone's attention; and it's starting to seem like maybe, with some luck, Bumblefoot will come into his own. Axl commented of BF that he just joined the band LAST WEEK, and my pal observed that it's very possible the guy has never played in front of 500 people before, let alone 2500 people... so we'll wait and see. He's certainly being tested under fire.

Alright, off to bed. I made some new friends tonight, but Ravi - if you're out there - I've yet to be able to find you in the crowd, drop me a line. Less than 24 hrs to night 3...


P.S. One of my new friends allegedly has some industry connections, and take this with the grain of salt you take all GN'R news, but he claimed that the band is trying to put together a North American arena tour for the fall - with Alice in Chains. I would assume, if true, that it would mean Duff would not be present in the AIC line-up...

P.P.S. Celebrities sighted: Randy Blythe from Lamb of God, one of the dudes from Mastodon, Lenny Kravitz (interesting since he's allegedly gonna work with VR soon), and... ugh... Fred Durst. Durst, at least, was happy to slap hands with whomever asked him.

- New York Daily News, 5.16.2006

Someone must have given Axl Rose a personality transplant.

At a rare Guns N' Roses show at Hammerstein Ballroom on Sunday, rock's most celebrated loon often acted like the perfect gentleman. He smiled broadly, cracked jokes, thanked the crowd incessantly and even saluted his mom for Mother's Day.

He did not, however, change his famously tardy ways. Seventy-five minutes past the stated start time, the band took the stage at 11 p.m. With a 2 1/2-hour show, that meant fans didn't go home until after 1 a.m., leaving them necessarily bleary-eyed the next day.

On that level, Rose conformed to his old operating principle, which is the opposite of Jesus' "We must suffer for His sins."

Few in the crowd could complain, however, given the punch, vim and authority of this performance. (A final show takes place tomorrow, then the band heads off for some Euro dates.) Though Rose remains the sole original member of the band, the show recalled GNR's prime, packed with expert solos, a churning rhythm section and Axl in (largely) fine yowl.

Fans had reason to doubt things would end so happily. The band had previously toured only once in more than a decade. That stint, in 2002, ended, inexplicably, after Rose didn't show for a Philly date, sparking a riot.

Consider, too, that Rose hasn't put out an album of new material in 15 years. And every time he claims a release date for his work in progress ("Chinese Democracy"), it never seems to show. It's the Big Foot of CDs. Rose's latest claim is that it will arrive in December.

We'll see.

Sunday's show featured several songs from "Democracy," but they earned little audience response. Mostly, the band dutifully twisted to the oldies and did so with verve. The three guitarists traded solos with aplomb.

Rose himself did a credible version of his old serpentine dance, though he's got less swivel in the hips. The now meatier, 44-year-old Rose looks like Gregg Allman with Bo Derek's hair. But his energy made up for some loss in finesse.

Otherwise, the show was largely about re-creation rather than reinvention. With much of the material drawn from the band's debut "Appetite for Destruction," they were partying like it was 1987.

If that meant the show ended up an exercise in nostalgia, at least it was a rare brand. Most in the crowd probably hadn't seen Rose in over a decade. Many probably never had at all and, surely, not in a theater this cozy. For their wait, Rose and company exuded plenty of old-time rock star charisma and showcased a catalogue still worth celebrating.

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