"Guns N' Roses" live September 23, 2006 at the Hyundai Pavilion, Devore, CaliforniaPrologue
Ironically, this blog has slowly devolved into a Chinese Democracy of its own. I started writing it three days after the show and now the show was almost three weeks ago. I've since wasted time, adding and adding, editing, updating my blog format, searching the internet for pictures for it and fired some band members...no wait.... I know it's long, but it's been a long journey so there was a lot to say. Thank you for bearing with me.
Thirteen and half years have passed since Guns N' Roses were at my front door, figuratively speaking. My mum wouldn't let me answer it, and so this missed opportunity has haunted me ever since. Let me be clear. I had only just gotten into them, so even if I had been allowed to go to the show at Calder Park Raceway on February 1, 1993, aside from being a few miles from the stage, I would have known just a handful of songs anyway. But still, putting all those facts aside, my life has never felt complete since then. For three consecutive nights after the show, I dreamt I was there.
Not long after that, the shambles of Guns N' Roses revealed itself. As my fanship grew, the band was falling apart. Axl owned the name, and everyone else either quit or was fired. Axl went into hiding and started working on Chinese Democracy for which we are all still waiting.
*NOTE* From here on, Axl's new group will be referred to as "GN'R" or "Guns N' Roses" in inverted commas to denote the ghost of a formerly great band. Without inverted commas refers to the REAL band. The classic line up.
Then, in 2000, Axl re-emerged with his newly assembled "Guns N' Roses". One show in Vegas and another in Brazil. I lived in Sacramento at the time, but I didn't find out about the show until less than 24 hours before it. There was nothing I could do. If I knew earlier, I'm sure I'd have got to Vegas somehow.
And now, in 2006, I really wish I had made it to that show as it would have saved me a further six years of seeking a dream that was impossible to realise.
All the writing was on the wall that there was no way Axl and his collection of hired goons could recapture what was once great about GN'R. But, I guess when you've never experienced any better, you are willing to take what you can get. But STILL, how stupid could I have been after seeing the first televised appearance of "GN'R" on the MTV Awards of 2002? Axl was fat, hair in corn rows, obviously had plastic surgery (not very bad ass) and most importantly, his voice was shot. So all that coupled with a backing band that no-one cared about, what was the appeal of this new "Guns N' Roses"? Perhaps the most painful moment of the performance was the finale as Axl holds the mic stand above his head, looking straight up and out as if to reclaim the glory he'd chosen to avoid for all those years...but alas, it was not there. It's like the embarrassment you feel when you stick your hand out to shake hands and the other person pulls theirs away. Just times that feeling by a million.
And still, I wanted to see this...
One morning, as my alarm went off, I heard the KROQ DJ about to make a big tour announcement. I don't know why I didn't hit snooze and I'm glad I didn't because the announcement was that "Guns N' Roses" would be headlining their lame ass Inland Invasion festival. Within seconds Axl was on the phone for an interview. I looked over to Gregg and asked "Am I dreaming?" and he advised me that indeed he also heard that "GN'R" would be playing. The dream was finally going to come true.
This announcement all but vanished after this day. Had I not heard it, I'm sure I wouldn't have even known about it. I was planning a trip to Australia and made sure I was back in time for the show. I decided that if I could only get lawn tickets, I wasn't going. It wasn't going to be worth it to see a tick sized Axl.
When the tickets went on sale, I paid the highest price of $75 for okay tickets, but on the day my friend and I were able to scam down to the front section. I had my new contacts prescription in, so I had 20/20 vision for the first time in ages, I was close...this was going to be great!
Since I had just flown in from Australia that day, I was in to no hurry to get to the Hyundai Pavilion over an hour away in the middle of nowhere. Matt and I agreed that the only bands we were interested in were Muse, Alice In Chains and of course "Guns N' Roses". They were the last three bands so it worked out well.
Muse, who we were merely interested in and little more, sounded really great and we were very impressed. I was in no hurry for them to end, but after 45 minutes, it was a good amount of time and I was satisfied. After Muse was when we negotiated our way closer to the front. Even though Layne Staley was dead, I thought it would be cool to see Jerry Cantrell and hear those Dirt songs loud and live. But when they came out and opened with Them Bones, I screamed with excitement and from that moment was totally into the show. They too only played for about 45 minutes and what a fabulous 45 minutes it was. Then the wait for "GN'R" was on...
As I waited, I thought about the moment when I would first see Axl. My body was covered in goosebumps and I could sense the possibility of tears. The burst of emotion swelled almost to that point just thinking about it. This was going to be good.
I'm not going to pretend that there wasn't a shadow already cast over my excitement. Whenever I told anyone I was going to see "Guns N' Roses", the inverted commas were in my voice. I knew it wasn't ideal, but I was insistent on having a good time and I thought the songs sung by Axl could trump all the problems.
There was over an hour wait before "GN'R" were supposed to start. In true Guns N' Roses form, they did not start at 10pm, but another hour after that. So that's nearly two hours since the last band. Very poor form, but when it's Axl whose behind it, it seems like part of the show. Before long, people started throwing shit and a few fires were started. Awesome. I was involved in a pissweak "Guns N' Roses" riot. On second thoughts, I wasn't too interested in dying in a "Guns N' Roses" riot. A Guns N' Roses riot would have been another matter entirely.
And so finally, at 11pm, the lights went down, the people screamed, the guitar intro to Welcome to the Jungle echoed throughout the darkness. FINALLY, it was on. That riff gave me chills. The lights were up and there was Axl, finally, in his somewhat diminished glory. And so I proceeded to go nuts. Axl was sounding pretty damn good! His famous swagger was a little off, but I was there, looking at Axl Rose singing Welcome to the Jungle. My dream was coming true, right?
It's So Easy, I got too excited and almost fell backwards off them. I grabbed Matt and the guy next to me to survive. Since I couldn't see without standing on the seats, I took off in search of a better view. I found it and continued my rocking out. Mr Brownstone was up next. What a trio of songs! I should have been in heaven right now, but it was probably at this point that I realised there were some cracks.
If any songs were going to have me in tears or at least goosebumps, these three were them. I know what it's like to have this feeling. Faith No More could do it to me with Land of Sunshine. In that case it might seem like a long time ago, but Foo Fighters can still do it with Stacked Actors and Supergrass can do it with about half a dozen songs and those are two bands I have seen numerous times and quite recently. So I am still capable of experiencing a flood of emotions and I get them with songs I have heard live before. It's not just that I'm old and lost my spark for this shit.
So why wasn't it working with three songs on my all-time favourite songs list which I had never heard live before? I felt like I'd suffered nerve damage and had lost my ability to feel. Something wasn't quite right and that is how I've proceeded to describe it. In Australia, there is grocery store called NQR (Not Quite Right) which hosts failed products and dented cans of vegetables. That is how I have described my experience. NQR.
Axl Rose? He's right. I was incapable of hating it. So the fact that I can't even profess to have had a great time shows that it must have been a pretty ordinary show that I was incapable of seeing for what it was. I must say, I am proud I've been able to admit as much as I have.
Once they went into Knockin' on Heavens Door about 5 songs in and I was ready to take a rest as I knew Axl didn't have me. I've always been bored by this song, and my subdued excitement was unable to elevate me from my usual feelings about the song. The set was then riddled with solos by each band member whom nobody was interested in. They were unbelievably painful. A few songs from the *ahem* much anticipated 'Chinese Democracy' passed by with little interest or involvement from the crowd. This has become a nostalgia act, Axl! Get on with it!
Probably one of the biggest disappointments was when one of the new members (possibly "Bumblefoot") did a guitar solo which morphed into Don't Cry. "Yay!" I thought....then I waited, and waited, and waited...and the rest of the bad didn't suddenly join him. Yes, we were subjected to a guitar solo version of Don't Cry courtesy of everyone's favourite Gun, Bumblefoot. Ack. I sang the whole thing since Axl wasn't going to.
I was never subdued for too long as they would always wake me up with adrenaline injections with My Michelle (with guest Sebastian Bach), Rocket Queen or other beloved songs, but the continual dip into new material, costume changes and boring solos (and believe me, I hate solos. I wouldn't have wanted to see even Slash doing this) left me feeling pretty low energy and I don't think that has anything to do with the jet lag. I feel I'm more critical than most about a lot of things, but scores of people had left by the end, so obviously I wasn't the only one not shaken to their core by this set. When I realised that the last big hit to play was Paradise City of which I'm not a huge fan, I thought to myself "I could leave now." The fact that I even CONSIDERED that speaks volumes. I don't leave my favourite bands early. Never crosses my mind. Obviously Axl left me with enough spare time to think about that.
Axl and Sebastian Bach singing 'My Michelle'.
I can't sign off without mentioning how much I fucking hate Dizzy Reed. I mean, does anyone remember him from the old days? Just a pudgy, missed the GN'R bus, keyboard player that no-one would look twice at*. GN'R was a band of characters and he certainly wasn't one of them. Well, you know you are in trouble when suddenly Pudge Master D is all buff with his shirt open, thrusting his chest out and rocking out like he's the next best thing after Axl. No, asshole. There are a few steps in between...namely Slash, Duff, Izzy anyone who was ever in Ugly Kid Joe, the janitor at my work, many more and THEN maybe you. Dizzy seems to think he's hot shit now that he's the last not-even-original-but-use-your-illusion member so he's pretty foul to watch.
I know this sounds like a lot of complaining, but believe me, I had fun! Just not enough fun. This was supposed to be Guns N' Fuckin' Roses so my mind should have been blown. Instead I had as much fun as I would expect at a club with these songs playing. Totally awesome at the time, but nothing memorable.
When I saw Slash's Snakepit in 2000, I had a great time because it was exciting to see him and a treat to hear some GN'R songs. It was actually totally boring until he played them. He was not posing as GN'R, but doing his own thing and threw us a bone which was enjoyed. Axl, in using the name still with this shell of a group is exposing the decline for all to see. If he just toured as Axl Rose, I would still go, with lower expectations and probably have a much better time. I don't think the original line up will ever get back together and I have no compulsion to see this "Guns N' Roses" again, so for me, I think this long open chapter is now closed.
Welcome To The Jungle
It's So Easy
Live And Let Die
Robin Guitar Solo
Sweet Child O' Mine
Knockin' On Heaven's Door
You Could Be Mine
Dizzy Piano Solo (Ziggy Stardust)
Richard And Robin Guitar Duet (Beautiful)
Out Ta Get Me
My Michelle (with Sebastian Bach)
Ron Guitar Solo (Little Wing, Don't Cry)
After writing all this and juxtaposing pictures of Axl from his prime against his current state of fallen glory, I feel kinda sorry for him and like a jerk for doing this to him. He seems to really believe that he can continue this new band seamlessly from what it once was. I do feel sorry for him, but then I remember that he's a crazy, spoiled, millionaire rock star who beat his wife and girlfriend, and I feel better.
A miserable looking modern day Axl, reduced to having the piss taken out of him by a bunch of teenagers. Back in my day, you'd be scared of him.
*If any keyboard players are reading this, please be aware this is not an attack on keyboard players, but one particularly boring man, turned stud in his own mind who happens to be a keyboard player.