Axl Rose and his new cast of gunners wrapped up their second residency at The Joint inside The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino over the weekend in Las Vegas with a bang. While their were no Izzy Stradlin or Duff McKagen surprise appearances on the final night this time around, there was plenty of star power in the sold out venue. Comedian Andrew Dice Clay was on hand to provide his signature adult-oriented comedy before actor Nicholas Cage brought the band onstage right after midnight.
The fact that Axl Rose is the only original member of Guns N' Roses in the lineup these days is old news, but when he throws a two week party in Las Vegas he has been known to call on some old friends. In the band's 2012 residency at The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, original GNR guitarist Izzy Stradlin joined Rose's eight-piece band for a handful of classics. This year bassist Duff McKagen showed up during the first week of this year's residency, which wrapped up over the weekend.
The band launched into the three-hour carrier spanning set with the title track from 2008's Chinese Democracy and a stage full of pyrotechnics. They went right for the throat with the iconic "Welcome To the Jungle" as Rose and the band stormed all over the stage. The raunchy "It's So Easy" followed, and the band started getting locked in. While there are three lead guitarists in the band, it's really DJ Ashba who seems to thrive on interacting with the crowd and hamming it up. Ashba had as many wardrobe changes as you'd expect to see at a pop concert. Axl, on the other hand, sported sunglasses and a variety of hats throughout the night, but there were a couple points in the show where he removed them both. The band continued to lean heavily on Appetite For Destruction with "Mr. Brownstone." The dramatic "Estranged" sounded as beautiful as ever, and the guitar lead remains timeless. Rose's voice seem to get stronger throughout the night and was strongest on newer material like "There Was a Time" and "Better."
There is really something electric about the guitar playing of Richard Fortus. He really has much more of a mysterious vibe than Ashba or Bumblefoot much in the same vain as Stradlin without trying to imitate him. It's pretty obvious how much Axl loves these guys in the band as give gave each of them props all night and gave most of them solos to showcase their skills. He even let bassist Tommy Stinson handle vocal duties on the Sex Pistols cover "Holidays In the Sun."
"You Could Be Mine" sounded huge (maybe because there are three guitar players) and Rose did plenty of his signature moves. Rose can go from playful to fierce at the blink of an eye the same way he did back in the day. He is just as over the top as well. During "November Rain" Rose's piano was lifted from the stage to far above the crowd and as the song climaxed during Bumblefoot's solo sparks cover the back of the stage which was nothing short of a spectacle.
Other highlights from the night included "Civil War" and "Yesterdays" though Rose flubbed the lyrics and restarted the song as he joked with Stinson as to who's fault it was. The band could have easily called it a night after "Nightrain" as the show was already two and a half hours deep.
They returned for a five-song encore that started with the intro to The Rolling Stones "You Can't Always Get What You Want," with Stinson again on vocals before "Patience." A cover of The Who track "The Seeker" followed before closing things down with "Paradise City" and enough confetti to cover everyone in attendance.
While there were many moments during the show that felt the same as the 2012 residency, it's hard to feel shortchanged when the band played some of the greatest songs ever written during the late '80s to early '90s and they never let up for three full hours. Axl Rose has always been a target for the haters, even in the bands heyday, when he was the biggest rock star on the planet. The difference between those days and now is that in the past he would lash out against anyone who criticized him, and now he seems content to be the 52-year-old version of himself. Imagine if Slash, Duff, Izzy, and Adler had the GNR name and played out with another singer under the name -- how much more criticism would they get? The true test will be if Rose put out any quality original material with this lineup. Only time will tell.
Over the weekend: Guns N' Roses at The Joint inside The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
The Crowd: Lots of older women everywhere.
Overheard: "Eventually you forget none of these guys playing with Axl wrote a single GNR song." Personal Bias: Axl Rose was my first rock 'n' roll hero and made me want to be in a band.
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