When I was a kid, I had to hide things under my bed so my mother would not find them. Believe it or not, I am not talking about nudie magazines, but, my collection of Guns N' Roses cassettes. Appetite for Destruction came out when I was six years old, and I was lucky enough to have an older cousin that would play it for me and copy it to a Maxwell tape. Gn'R Lies came out shortly after, and by seven, I had heard the N-word, fuck, and faggot so many times, and unfortunately, my mother must have heard a song or lyric, but from than on, I was forbidden to listen to the Gunners. She scorned my cousin, threw away my Maxwell's and forbid me to listen to my favorite band. Of course, the tapes were replaced the next time I saw my cousin, and that is when I put them under my mattress and only listened on my headphones.
To say I am a die hard Guns N' Roses fan is an understatement. I have been listening to them for 25 years and the songs are just as great to me today as they were when I was a kid. I never got the chance to see the classic lineup (thanks mom), so when they started touring again in 2002 with the new lineup, I haven't missed a Chicago show since.
It seems that Axl and the guys have only gotten negative media attention since the 2002 re-birth. Whether it was the god awful 02 VMA appearance or the recent Rock in Rio off night, the press is all over it. But, what we rarely see reported is the good nights, and in this case in Chicago, a great night.
The night started off for me and my buddy Josh at the casino down the road from the venue as we decided to forgo the opening band Aldelitas Way. Reverend Horton Heat had done a few dates leading up to Chicago, but unfortunately for us, was not a part of our show. Instead we got some modern rock band I never heard of.
This is my third time seeing GnR, so I know the drill. Ticket time is 9PM, which means stage time for the guys will be 11 or shortly there after, so we had time to kill. Well, we timed it just right, arriving to the parking lot around 10:45, slammed a few beers, and walked into the venue just past 11 and got to the floor as the lights went out. Perfect. I had heard of some shows of the tour being half full or closing the balcony. This was not the case in Chicago, as the venue was at, or very near, capacity.The crowd was a nice mix of original fans and some younger faces as well out for a good time. Most were die hards, but there were some casuals there that had no idea what they were getting into.
The show opened with new guitarist DJ Ashba standing on a platform over the drums to strum the opening chords to "Chinese Democracy". Pyro was insane and it was on. The band came out full force, utilizing the entire stage and running wild the entire song, and it certainly did not stop there. After "Chinese", the band went right into "Welcome to the Jungle", which of course got the crowd going. A few more songs off Appetite followed and the band was in full force. Rumors of Axl's weight gain were greatly exaggerated, as he looked his best since his hey-day in the nineties. At 49, he ran back and forth across the large stage the entire night, with the rest of the band right behind him. Along with DJ Ashba, the other members included longtime keyboardist, Dizzy Reed, Tommy Stinson on bass, Frank Ferrea on drums, second keyboardist Chris Pittman, guitar virtuoso Bumblefoot and third guitarist Richard Fortus.
High points were hearing "Estranged" and "Don't Cry" live for the first time with the new lineup. "Estranged" is a 9 minute epic with scorching guitar solo's and some of Axl's best vocals ever. Whether or not that DJ Ashba and Bumblefoot, wrote these solo's and leads is not the question, they nailed every note to every song with ease and it was intense.
The show went for just over three hours hitting every era of the band. "Sweet Child O' Mine", "Out ta get Me", "Rocket Queen", were highlights of the Appetite days, while, along with the above mentioned from Illusions, they also whipped out "Live and Let Die", "You Could be Mine", and others.
As the set was coming to the 2 hour mark, many people, obviously unaware of the Gn'R reputation of performing all night headed for the door. Some people tired and others unaware that Slash was not there (really people? It has been 14 years since he left). Unfortunately for those few, the best was yet to come.
Around 1:30AM, Axl got behind the piano for a massive solo portion of the show, starting out with two Elton John classics, "Someone Saved my Life Tonight", and "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road", before leading into a perfect version of "November Rain". Bumblefoot followed with his solo of the Pink Panther theme, than the band covered AC/DC with "Whole Lotta Rosie", and Appetite's "Nighttrain" capped off the set.
The band only made the crowd wait 5 minutes before coming back for the encore starting with "Madagascar" and "Shackler's Revenge" from Chinese before hitting the crowd with "Patience" and the closing "Paradise City" accompanied with even more pyro and so much confetti that after the floor was cleared of fans, was covered with yellow and red pieces of shredded paper.
The show ended around 2:15am, and those remaining were all completely satisfied. After seeing the new Guns in 02 and 06, I can say this is, far and above, the best they have ever sounded, and Axl finally looks and seems happy on stage. He has not missed a single show on this tour, and is even granting interviews now. With 50 quickly approaching, I really hope that Axl keeps on touring for the next few years while he still is on the top of his game.
Those who wont go see this band because the original boys are not backing Axl should give up the dream and catch a gig, it is worth the late night and the money. I can't imaging the original lineup sounding this great anyways. Duff's new band, Loaded, will be opening the tail end of this tour, and that is likely the closest anyone will come to seeing the original band, as I am sure he will take the stage to jam with Gn'R for a few tunes.
With talks of Guns possibly being inducted to the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame in 2012 and Axl not denying them all being there for the induction, we may get a chance to see Slash and Axl on stage one last time, but a tour is not likely. Axl is perfectly content with the current lineup of players, and for good reason, and Slash doesn't seem all to concerned about not being a part of Axl's life.
So, if you want to see a true Rock N' Roll show with amazing lights, more pyrotechnics than a Motley Crue performance, and 3 hours on non-stop music, get off your asses, and get a ticket to this concert. If you don't want to take my word for it, read any local newspaper write-up from this US tour, and you wont find one negative review.