|Thank God for Axl Rose. Say what you want about him – that he worked on “Chinese Democracy” for too long, that you don’t think his band should be called Guns N’ Roses, or that you think he goes onstage too late – but this is rock 'n' roll, and I like Axl even more for doing things HIS way. Whether it’s defending his entourage in an airport scuffle on the way to a tour date in Taiwan or reportedly exchanging a Twitter barb with a former bandmate over reunion rumors and the Haitian earthquake, right or wrong – it’s not my or anyone else's business to decide – Rose is one of the only rock stars that hasn’t lost what made me love them in the first place.
On Wednesday night, Guns N’ Roses performed what Rolling Stone magazine called a “marathon gig” in Winnepeg, Canada in support of their platinum selling 2008 release, “Chinese Democracy.” Although I loved Guns since I first saw them from the front row at Boston’s Paradise rock club in September ‘87, the current band lineup is as cool, talented, and interesting as any I’ve ever seen.
This supergroup has spent so much time rehearsing in Los Angeles, that they can knock out three-plus hours of new and old GN’R classics at a moment’s notice. Lead guitarist, Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal is like no other musician I’ve ever heard. You can literally detune every tuning peg on his Gibson Les Paul headstock, and he’ll instantaneously transpose his fingerings on the fretboard. Bassist Tommy Stinson is someone I admired since my high school band covered the Replacements’ version of KISS’ “Black Diamond,” and between keyboard players Dizzy Reed and Chris Pitman, guitarists Richard Fortus and DJ Ashba, and drummer Frank Ferrer, I’d be hard pressed to assemble a better band. Sure the classic lineup including Axl, Slash, Duff, and Izzy were, as Slash recently described it, “a real force together,” but that was in the past, and the new Guns members are more than qualified to keep the name Guns N’ Roses alive. In an open letter to the fans, Rose quoted Stinson as saying, “We're not lettin' what took so much blood and heart get turned to shit and dust.”
Guns’ “marathon” Winnepeg concert, their first North American date since the release of “Chinese Democracy,” contained over twenty songs in addition to extended solos and member spotlights. The mix of staples like “Sweet Child o’ Mine” and “Paradise City” with new “Chinese Democracy” cuts like “Shackler’s Revenge” and my personal favorite, “Better,” proved to satisfy even the most critical of fans.
After the KISS reunion in 1996, I hadn’t felt more excitement surrounding an artist until ten years later when Rose was rumored to be recording “Chinese Democracy” in New York City in the Spring of 2006 and Talking Metal began our series of “Guns N’ Roses Stakeout” podcasts. Who would have thought that the stakeouts would lead to a special thanks on “Chinese Democracy” for lending the band a Marshall amp and a Les Paul? Only in rock 'n' roll…