Guns N' Roses @ Hard Rock Hotel Las Vegas|11/23/12
Let's face it: The original Guns N' Roses lineup is never, ever, ever getting back together.
It was once again confirmed when lead singer Axl Rose declined induction to the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year. While the glory days of the band that killed hair metal may be over, Rose seems to be more than happy with his new cast of gunners, who ended their three-week "Appetite for Democracy" residency at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas this weekend.
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As a GN'R fan, there are certain things you just have to accept and expect. You know that the time on your ticket might as well be useless, because the band is never starting on time. Even Rose's new band members have no idea when the show is going to start. You should also be prepared to just call in sick to work the next day, because the show is like a four-hour rock 'n' roll marathon.
Both proved to be true when the band hit the stage around midnight on Friday, November 23, for a 34-song (including guitar solos and jams) set to a nearly packed house. As the lights went down, guitarist Dj Ashba appeared on a platform behind drummer Frank Ferrer for the opening notes of "Chinese Democracy." Rose, decked out in a black leather jacket, hat, sunglasses, and plenty of bling wasted no time running around the stage. The crowd erupted as Ashba played the intro to "Welcome to the Jungle" and flashes of pyrotechnics exploded as the band blasted into the song that put Rose on the map. The Appetite for Destruction staples "It's So Easy" and "Mr. Brownstone" followed and sounded as dangerous as they did in 1987.
It was interesting to watch each of their three guitar players Ashba, Richard Fortus, and Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal take turns handling the solos. The epic "Estranged" followed and really showcased the strong dynamic of Rose's voice and the bands chemistry. Their cover of "Live and Let Die" is still better than the original Wings version.
The set list was well constructed, touching on each era of the band's catalog, including the best tracks from Chinese Democracy -- "Better" and "This Is Love," which sounds like it could have been included on either Use Your Illusion record. Rose also showcased each of his band members with guitar solos from each guitarist, and bassist Tommy Stinson even played his own solo track, "Motivation."
While the three-guitar attack of Ashba, Fortus, and Bumblefoot might seem like overkill, they are very different kinds of players: Bumblefoot is the technical player of the three, at times playing a fretless double-neck guitar; Fortus is the bluesier axman; and Ashba plays with heart and is the showman of the three, interacting with fans throughout the show.
Rose introduced original GN'R (and underrated) rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin to the stage to join the band for "14 Years" (featuring the guitarist on lead vocals) and "You Could Be Mine." Stradlin looked fit and healthy, and the years have treated him very well despite years of hard living. The GN'R staple "Sweet Child O' Mine" rocked the theater and had fans singing along to every word of the arena-rock anthem.
Axl sat down at the piano and joined the band for a partial cover of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall Part 2" before "November Rain." As the song started, his grand piano was lifted above the crowd. As the bridge of the song came to an end and Rose started the end, sparks shot out of the stage. It was a real spectacle and was the highlight of the show.
Bumblefoot gave Rose a break as he sang his own track "Glad to Be Here." Rose returned for "Don't Cry" and a version of The Who's "The Seeker." Stradlin rejoined the band for "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" and "Nightrain."
The seven-song encore started with a cover of Neil Young's "Don't Let It Bring You Down" and a rocking version of "Used to Love Her." After another jam, GN'R closed the show with "Paradise City," raining down so much confetti you couldn't see the person standing next to you. Rose, who has so much control over the crowd and so much energy, showed why he's one of the best frontmen in rock 'n' roll.
While he's made some questionable decisions over the years, he is not the only one to blame for fans probably never getting the chance to seeing the Appetite-era lineup. Former drummer Steven Adler is attention-starved and will praise or slam Rose in the press to try to sell more tickets to his GN'R cover band, Adler's Appetite. Even former bassist Duff McKagan joined the band overseas last year for a couple of tunes. Izzy Stradlin played with the band during their 2006 shows in New York. Where does that leave former lead guitarist Slash?
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Is Axl the scapegoat and bad guy in the press or was Slash the one throwing up road blocks? Though we may never know the truth, Axl has moved forward, and the true test will be this group's making a new record together. Rose still has something to prove, but it doesn't feel like he has much to prove to himself.