|7/7/2016 by Gil Kaufman
The packed crowd at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio, were already jacked to see the version of Guns N' Roses they'd been promised -- the reunited one featuring guitarist Slash, singer Axl Rose and alarmingly healthy looking bassist Duff McKagan. And through about their first hour or so on a muggy night in The Jungle (because that's what they call the Cincinnati Bengals football stadium, after all), those fans had no complaints. Axl and three-fifths of the members of the once baddest band in the world rocketed through an opening salvo that included "It's So Easy," "Mr. Brownstone," "Welcome to the Jungle," "Double Talkin' Jive" and an appropriately epic cover of Wings' "Live and Let Die."
Slash played some fiery solos, Axl changed inappropriate t-shirts a few times and ran all over the stage showing no signs of lingering pain from a broken foot he suffered just before the tour kicked off. Oh, and long-estranged drummer Steven Adler came out and jammed on two songs.
Did not see that coming. "On the drums, you might know this guy. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Steven Adler!" Axl announced to everyone's shock and awe just moments after the band finished the one-two of "Sweet Child O' Mine" and "Better." And there he was in all his glory, Adler's voluminous blonde hair spilling out onto the shoulders of some kind of army jacket covered in patches, his signature crooked grin lighting up the stage.
It was the sight GNR fans had been waiting for since Rose announced the original lineup was getting back together for the Not In This Lifetime tour and everyone asked "but where's Steven?" (and original rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin, but that gulf seems too wide to bridge.)
The energy in the crowd was electric as Adler bashed away on "Out Ta Get Me," the grin on his face reason enough for think that some detente had been reached and Guns might be (nearly) whole again for the first time since 1990. Rose continued working his way up and across and around the ramps on the stage flanked by two enormous video screens, wearing a black "The Bitch Is Back" t-shirt, his red, shoulder-length hair held back by a red bandana. "I guess we should do another one," Rose said, keeping touring drummer Frank Ferrer on ice for a few more minutes.
It was Adler's first appearance with the band since 1990, but you wouldn't have known it listening to "My Michelle," which hit a groove early and ended with Slash, sweat streaming off his arms and dripping from his signature curly black mop of hair hidden under a top hat, hopping up to the riser to give Adler a hug.
Adler gifted his sticks to an audience member and Rose seemed to almost smile as he said again, "ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Steven Adler." And just like that, the dream was over again as Slash and Stradlin's replacement, guitarist Richard Fortus, played a duet on Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here," which segued into Derek and the Dominos' "Layla" and then an overstuffed "November Rain."
The rest of the night went pretty much as it has on most dates of the original band's first tour together in 23 years -- Slash rocked a double-neck guitar for a cover of Bob Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," for which Axl donned a white cowboy hat over his red bandana and black snakeskin leather jacket. The cowbell-abusing "Nightrain" roared the set to a close after more than two hours and the encore kicked off with Slash and Fortus trading subtle riffs on an instrumental cover of the Rolling Stones' "Waiting on a Friend."
Axl came out whistling and wearing his umpteenth fresh t-shirt of the night (a black Stones Voodoo Lounge tour shirt) for "Patience," his two enormous diamond-encrusted crosses swinging back and forth during an amped cover of The Who's "The Seeker." And then, after some fireworks and a fierce "Paradise City," the dream was over.
Adler came out to take a bow with the rest of the gang, that always-present smile stretched maybe just a little wider for one night.