I’ve been to a lot of concerts featuring a wide range of genres of music, from Judas Priest to Peter, Paul and Mary. And out of the more than 140 concerts and 200 artists I’ve seen perform, I don’t think that there is a single better song to open a concert with than "Welcome to the Jungle" to open a Guns n’ Roses concert. The initial riffs of the song are a rock idiom that are instantly recognizable and signals the seething power that lies in wait behind the rest of the song. In concert, those echoing notes are repeated over and over, teasing the audience into a frenzy, making them want the release that only Axl Rose’s wail and screaming guitars can bring.
Last night was the second time I’ve seen Guns n’ Roses. I’ve never seen them with the original lineup, but fortunately, both incarnations I’ve seen have delivered a great and entertaining show filled with classic songs. When a band has a catalog as small as Guns n’ Roses, it is remarkable that they do have so many songs considered "classics" and so many that are just so good. I don’t need to inform you of the fact that we’ve been waiting for years for the new GnR album, Chinese Democracy and who knows if we’ll actually ever see it. Luckily, in concert, they concentrate on Appetite for Destruction, playing 9 out of the 12 tracks on the record.
Axl hasn’t gotten over his own self-importance since the last time I saw him back in 2002 – the band came on stage around 11:45 p.m. and played until two in the morning. No complaints about the set list or the length of the concert, but it is the epitome of inconsideration for their fans who have to work to pay the money they spent to see the band in concert. Good thing the show is good!
The only major complaint is that there were simply too many guitar solos that went on for too long, including a disturbing rendition of Christina Aguileria’s "Beautiful" which is an odd choice for a guitar solo at a Guns n’ Roses concert, to say the least. A better choice was the other guitarist’s (I seriously don’t know who’s who any more in the band line-up…) solo guitar rendition of the GnR song "Don’t Cry" which was a great way of showing off good guitar work and fitting in another well-loved song.
A few new songs were played, but they were presented unusually. Typically, when a band plays a new song, they introduce it as such, telling the audience the name of the song and perhaps the name of the album it is off of – a little free advertising to a captive audience of the band’s biggest fans. Since no one knows when – of if – the new GnR album will be released and the songs have been leaked onto the Internet for so long, they don’t even bother – they just play them as if they have been around for 20 years.
Instead of playing these new songs, I’d love to hear them play a few more deeper cuts off of Use Your Illusion I or II, albums that still regularly make it into my listening rotation and often stay there for a while. "Breakdown," "Bad Obsession," "Pretty Tied Up," "Perfect Crime" and "Dust n’ Bones" are among my favorites that would be fantastic to hear. As it was, it was a nice surprise to hear them play something off of The Spaghetti Incident, an album that I think is somewhat underrated by many people. "Down On The Farm" sounded great live, complete with Rose’s affected British accent to complete the punk image (does anyone know who originally did this song? I don’t have the CD here and can’t find anything online!).
In the end, it was a long, late night but well worth it to hear so many great songs – some of the best hard-rock and heavy metal songs ever written – performed live. Axl sounds great, even though he had technical issues. He may be showing some signs of maturity for actually working through the issues and now storming off stage and inciting a riot. The band sounds good, though those more attuned to the technical aspects of the original riffs and guitar solos might notice slight differences from the sacrosanct original versions of the song. If you’re in the market for a great rock n’ roll show complete with lots of lights, explosions, fireworks, loud rock and a great front man, then it is tough to beat Guns n’ Roses.