|Yeah, they usually start late and their last album tanked, but it's Guns N' Roses!
By Ross Raihala
Guns N' Roses have never been the most reliable live act, with a reputation for starting shows late and, more than occasionally, canceling gigs altogether.
So why should someone go see GNR on Sunday when it's entirely possible the show won't even kick off until midnight?
"Fair enough," said keyboardist Dizzy Reed during a recent phone interview. "I know what it's like. I'm not getting any younger and I know what it's like to have kids back home. But we don't know when we're going to be back. This could be your only chance to see us, so just go to the damn show."
Of course, Guns N' Roses aren't just notorious for tardiness. In the late '80s and early '90s, they were one of the biggest bands on the planet, crafting infectious arena anthems influenced by punk, metal and glam rock. But after the group issued the two "Use Your Illusion" albums in 1991, things slowly started to fall apart, with founding members quitting (or getting fired) one by one, eventually leaving lead singer Axl Rose the last man standing.
Rose didn't let GNR die, however, and found new musicians to enter the fold, starting with Reed in 1990 and, later, former Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson and second keyboardist Chris Pitman. Starting in 1994, Rose began work on what would become "Chinese Democracy," a long-delayed comeback album that finally hit shelves in 2008. And by that time, Rose had completely transformed GNR's lineup into the triple-guitar monster it is today.
Now, Reed is the second-most senior member of the band, which will return to the Target Center on Sunday night.
Here's what he had to say about the state of GNR:
ON HOW REED ENDED UP JOINING THE LINEUP:
"My old band and (GNR) used to live next to each other. And when I saw them play live, I thought: 'I'm going to join that f--- band. They need me!' (I later learned) it was Axl's idea, his vision for the band to grow in that way. It was something (he had planned) before the band even got signed. He was eventually going to put a keyboard player in the band, and it was going to be me."
ON THE CONTROVERSY AT THE TIME OVER GNR HIRING - GASP! - A PIANIST:
"From what I remember - and trust me, it was a long time ago and many, many vodkas and beers ago - a lot of people had a hard time accepting I was in the band. They were gigantic when I joined. Some people thought I was just going to be a passing thing. Whether or not the other guys at the time were into it, I don't know. But now they're gone, and I'm still here."
ON HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH STINSON, WHO JOINED GUNS N' ROSES IN 1998:
"Tommy and I, we get along great. He's one of a kind, man. I tell you, the first time he walked into the studio, I said, 'Dude, that's the guy.' He hadn't even played a note, but I could just tell. He's everything you need to be a bass player in a rock band. I don't want to say he takes control, but he does sort of guide us through rehearsals and, to me, it's important to have someone in that position. He's inspirational and he brings so much to the table. It could be any band - if he's committed to them, he's going to make them a thousand times better."
ON HOW GNR MAKES USE OF NOT ONE, BUT TWO KEYBOARD PLAYERS:
"Chris (Pitman) has been in the band for a long time now. I have a lot of respect for what he does and vice versa. We figure out who's going to do what, you know? I think it's important for people to look at the big picture, to put your ego aside at the door and do what's best for the band. Chris and I both have that capability."
ON HOW SUNDAY NIGHT'S CONCERT WILL DIFFER FROM THE LAST TIME GNR WAS IN TOWN IN 2006:
"I'm trying to think of who was in the band then. (Laughs) We have a new guitar player, DJ Ashba, and he's amazing. We've got everything off 'Chinese Democracy' ready to go, and we've been re-addressing some older classics. I think the band is a little bit looser. Not playing-wise, it's just more of a party now."
ON HOW MANY UNHEARD NEW GNR SONGS ARE KICKING AROUND:
"A lot. (Dozens), easily. Hopefully, the future holds good things for all of them, but I don't know (about a new record). I never know about that. There are some great songs and it would a shame if they don't come out. But after the whole 'Chinese Democracy' thing, I don't want to make any predictions."
ON THE PERCEPTION THAT GUNS N' ROSES HAS MERELY BECOME AXL ROSE AND HIS HIRED HANDS:
"People are going to think what they want to think. Axl wants us to be a band, so we're a band. I love Axl. He's a great person. He gets bashed a lot in the press, but he's a great cat and he's amazingly talented. And he's really funny, that's something I don't think people realize. A lot of times he'll greet you with a joke, and it's a good joke, not something your grandpa would tell you."
Who: Guns N' Roses
When: 9 p.m. Sunday
Where: Target Center, 600 First Ave. N., Mpls.
Also: GNR bassist Tommy Stinson will play a solo club gig at 8 p.m. Monday at the Fine Line Music Cafe.