|Axl Rose, Feb. 23, 2012|
If anyone is saying exactly what I’m saying, it’s Axl Rose. He’s now moved onto his own Angelina Jolie phase and adopted a motley crue of hired guns who – dare I say! - are technically far more proficient than Jennifer Anist- eh, Slash, Duff, Izzy, Steven, and Matt.
The band just completed a sold-out arena tour of America. Outside America, they still sell out massive soccer stadiums. Call it a disappointment without probably ever hearing a note of it, but Chinese Democracy sold more than a million copies in America and scores more elsewhere. However, if you’re still fixated sometime between 1987 and 1993, then Guns & Roses circa 2012 is probably not for you anyway. Go perm what’s left of your hair and listen to the old stuff…dude.
(Paradise City at The Fillmore, February 23, 2012)
Currently on a brief club tour, the band recently played The Fillmore in Silver Spring, MD, and proved that everything you’ve heard about them is true. The tickets said that doors open at 9 p.m. and showtime was 10 p.m. After an underwhelming 35-minute set by Electric Sun – a band conflicted between their indie-rock pretensions (how indie – a chick keyboard player!), CC DeVille guitar licks, and a Johnny Thunders wannabe lead singer with a Joey Ramone coif – the faithful audience and crew waited and waited and waited for an hour and a half before Axl & Co. finally took to the stage at midnight.
I finally understand why Axl tests the patience (Ha! Get it?) of his fans nightly. Once he does take to the stage, he puts on an epic show and exceeds all your unrealistic expectations. At age 50, the now Ed Hardy-wearing, multiple hat-sporting, Mickey Rourke lookalike still delivers all the maniacal banshee wails and Axl-isms a la 1988. Opening with Chinese Democracy and segueing right into Welcome To The Jungle and It’s So Easy, the pace was set for the rest of the night (technically, morning) with all the songs you wanted to hear from Appetite For Destruction, the epics from Use Your Illusions I and II, and the highlights from Chinese Democracy.
As if to prove that G&R is still a band, each member of the band had his own solo spotlight. Whereas most bands’ solo sections are usually meandering noodle-fests, the solos here were actually concise instrumentals highlighting a particular member with the entire band backing him up. Izzy Stradlin/Johnny Thunders doppelganger, guitarist Richard Fortus jammed to the James Bond Theme; ex-Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson sang Motivation; keyboardist Dizzy Reed performed Baba O’Reilly; Sixx A.M moonlighter DJ Ashba played an original, Mi Amor; the entire band jammed to Another Brick In The Wall, Part 2; guitarist Bumblefoot rocked The Pink Panther Theme; and even Axl soloed with Goodbye Yellow Brick Road/Someone Saved My Life Tonight.
In classic cavalier fashion, Axl played by no one’s expectations or rules. He showed up when he wanted to, played whatever he wanted to, and for however long he wanted to. Case in point: The band ended its official set at 2 a.m. – Silver Spring’s curfew – with back-to-back epics, Civil War and Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, and Night Train….and then as his mood would dictate, the band played a 75-minute encore of a funk jam, Madagascar, Better, two acoustic jams bookending Patience, before finally ending the night with Paradise City and a red-confetti blizzard.
If you managed to tell your babysitter, kids, wife, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, boss that you would get home when you damn well felt like it, and stayed to the end of the show, then at 3:15 a.m. you walked out of the Fillmore with the satisfaction and reward of having just witnessed a band at the top of their game. Sentimentality be damned, Guns & Roses circa 2012 is a better band than the original, wasted and highly erratic legends of 1988.
All that said, I am salivating at the rumor and prospect of the original lineup of Guns & Roses getting up onstage in Cleveland – even if only to pick up their trophies, and not play a single note – in April at the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame induction ceremony. No matter the outcome, it will be high rock & roll drama, indeed.