|Live Review: Guns N' Roses in Universal City, CA
December 19, 2006 03:45 PM
by Paul Gargano
If there are any questions regarding the return of Guns N' Roses, any cynics who still want to doubt frontman Axl Rose, or any suggestions that the current band is but a shell of the former lineup, they can all be laid to rest after Sunday night's (12/17) performance at the sold-out Gibson Amphitheater, in Universal City, CA.
Lay them to rest alongside grunge, rap-rock and emo, and in the vicinity of every other fad that has come and gone since Guns N' Roses last ruled the planet rock more than a decade ago. From top to bottom, the band's first of three nights in Los Angeles offered a two-hour-and-20-minute primer in rock-and-roll retribution, cementing the return of Axl Rose and showcasing a lineup poised to vault Guns N' Roses back atop the hard rock pantheon.
From the moment Robin Finck's truncated guitar riffs shot through the amphitheater like shards of shrapnel introducing "Welcome to the Jungle," a standing room-only crowd of more than 5,000 hinged on every note. Notes that Rose nailed with increasing--and remarkable--proficiency as the late-night set progressed into early morning.
While the iconic frontman has never been known for his range, his performance Sunday demonstrated a vocal maturity that surpassed even the most optimistic of expectations, running the gamut from the seductive color of "Sweet Child 'O Mine," through the pissed-off vehemence of "Out ta Get Me." While he hasn't transformed into a crystal-esque crooner, there was barely a sour note throughout the 20-song set. Clearly, Rose has markedly increased his command over his voicesince the band's L.A.-area show in September (at the KROQ Inland Invasion, their first So-Cal appearance in more than a decade).
"You Could Be Mine" offered an early highlight, the normally sedate L.A. crowd ripping through every word like it was 1992 and Nirvana never existed. Rose offered ample reason to revel, as he cut through a repertoire of now-classic hits like he'd been rebuilt and recharged in his time out of the spotlight, with his comeback, until now, serving as little more than fine-tuning.
It seemed as if nothing would rival the mid-set, epic build of "November Rain," but the fine showings kept mounting, Rose whistling the intro to "Patience" before putting in one of his more memorable performances of the night, then ripping through set closer "Nightrain" as if he had crossed the Hollywood Hills and returned to the Sunset Strip circa the late-'80s. All but the final three songs on Guns' "Appetite for Destruction" debut were performed.
It can be presumed that the five previously-unreleased songs will be heard on the upcoming and long-awaited "Chinese Democracy," which Rose announced last week will be hitting stores March 6. The encore-opening title track was a turbo-charged adrenaline rush befitting of the heaviest "Use Your Illusion" moments, while the Asian-tinged intro to "Better" and the mid-tempo flow of "Madagascar" demonstrated an understanding that while the punk rock madness of the band's early appetites may have been tempered by time, the residual grit is still resounding.
"Knockin' on Heaven's Door" proved a fitting segue into new ballad "The Blues," while "I.R.S." did the same leading into "My Michelle." Opener Sebastian Bach has become a tour fixture on the latter, but the manic, metallic onslaught of the duo sharing lead vocals was quickly overshadowed by the introduction of original GN'R guitarist Izzy Stradlin, who joined the band for "Think About You," "Patience," "I Used to Love Her" and "Nightrain," then returned for the encore-closing "Paradise City."
Of the current band--which features "Illusion"-era keyboardist Dizzy Reed, ex-Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson, guitarists Finck, Richard Fortus and Bumblefoot, drummer Frank Ferrer and keyboardist Chris Pitman--Finck, Fortus and Reed each received time in the solo spotlight.
Reed manned a center stage piano as he bled a solo run through The Rolling Stones' "Angie" into the new ballad, Finck did a commendable job of making people forget about founding member Slash with a blues-hued solo that led into "Sweet Child," and Fortus merged an arena-rock shredfest into a blues duet with Finck, and finally into "Out ta Get Me." As could be said of the entire band, each paid dutiful respect to the GN'R legacy without sacrificing their individual flair and unique personalities.
In an era where nostalgia would be just fine, Guns N' Roses circa 2006 deliver much more. Sebastian Bach, meanwhile, knows the power of nostalgia and played it to his advantage in an hour-long opening set that was heavy on Skid Row hits.
Opener "Slave to the Grind" was delivered in double-time, and followed by "Big Guns" and "Here I Am," proved more than capable in engaging the packed house. A handful of new tracks fit nicely with the more recognizable material; "Stuck Inside" and "American Metalhead" (think Judas Priest crashing head-on with Accept) embraced his band's heavy metal mindset, while new ballad "By Your Side" fit better alongside "I Remember You," which proved his strongest vocal showing.
Has it been mentioned that Guns N' Roses went onstage on time, to the minute? Don't bet on that becoming an everyday occurrence, but take this much to the bank: Judging from Los Angeles' response to "Chinese Democracy," another era of Guns N' Roses domination is imminent.
All hail, the triumphant return of Axl Rose.
1. "Welcome to the Jungle"
2. "It's So Easy"
3. "Mr. Brownstone"
4. "Live and Let Die"
6. Guitar Solo (Robin Finck)
7. "Sweet Child of Mine"
8. "You Could Be Mine"
9. Piano Solo (Dizzy Reed)
10. "The Blues"
11. "Knockin' on Heaven's Door"
12. Guitar Solo (Richard Fortis)
13. "Outta Get Me"
14. "November Rain"
16. "My Michelle" (with Sebastian Bach)
17. "Think About You" (with Izzy Stradlin)
18. "I Used to Love Her" (with Izzy Stradlin)
19. "Patience" (with Izzy Stradlin)
20. "Nightrain" (with Izzy Stradlin)
21. "Chinese Democracy"
23. "Paradise City" (with Izzy Stradlin)