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November 28, 2006

Your GNR Report

Before it all fades back into a haze of memory and pot smoke, thoughts on the Guns N' Roses concert I went to Saturday night:

* First, it was really good. I had heard that the aborted 2002 series of concerts had been a big fat mess, but this time around, at least, the band was very sharp, very loud, and very tight. Axl Rose has apparently buffed out; indeed you might say he's beefy these days, compared to the scrawny, meth-thin thing he used to be. Beefy but fit, since he hopped around and ran about and did his now-somewhat-less-effective snake thing and never ran out of breath while he did it.

Now, to be clear, this Guns N' Roses is not the Guns N' Roses, since Axl was the only original member of the band left (Dizzy Reed, longtime keyboardist but not original member, is the only other link to the glory days). That said, this Guns N' Roses doesn't make one feel like it's just the Axl Rose traveling circus, either. Also, you know. The band features former members of Nine Inch Nails, the Replacements and the Psychedelic Furs. These guys don't suck. And now, having said that, I do think it's notable it takes three guitarists to handle Slash's guitar parts.

What's going to be interesting is how this version of GNR will sound like on record. It's one thing to be a tight and hot performance band when you're mostly rehashing tried and true tunes. I want to know what they sound like with the new stuff. The band played some new stuff at the concert, but honestly I couldn't tell if it was much good or not; it seemed fine. But hearing a song for the first time in an arena setting when you're wearing earplugs to keep your ears from ringing for a week is not an optimal first taste experience.

* And yes, I did need those earplugs. I left them out for the opener ("Welcome to the Jungle," naturally) because I wanted the full sonic blast; once I had that (and it was worth it!), I jammed those earplugs in, and a damn good thing, because shortly thereafter GNR let fly with some flashbang pyrotechnics that were so loud I can't imagine how the people up on stage can still actually hear themselves play with those going off every night. Even with the earplugs in, GNR was plenty loud, but since I came out of that concert without the cilia in my ears harmonizing their pain, I'm happy to say that I didn't have to sacrifice a little of my high-end hearing for the experience.

* What was really notable was that the audience for the concert skewed young; it was definitely mostly folks under 25, which means the vast majority of these folks were going to their very first GNR concert ever. Which meant, of course, that they were all insane and that the vibe for the show was one that was, very amenable to the band. GNR could have come out and totally blown the gig, and these people wouldn't have cared; being there was what mattered. So it was nice for them that the band didn't blow the gig, and indeed turned in one of the best shows I've seen in a while.

* Former Skid Row lead singer Sebastian Bach opened the show, and man, he was flabby, both in his personal appearance and in his performance. He jumped around as much as Axl Rose, but he didn't own the stage like his pal did. Now some of this is due to being the opening slot; people aren't there to see him. And it's pretty clear that Bach's backlog of tunage has not aged as well as GNRs. And then there was the actually sad spectacle of Bach pimping his YouTube video and his MySpace page, and then stopping and saying "Did I just say 'go visit my MySpace page?" like an old fart tickled that he's figured out that whole set of tubes called Teh Intarweebs. You go, Sebastian Bach! He's only a year older than I am, you know. Kill me now, man. Kill me now.

* Prior to Sebastian Bach's performance, the crowd as entertained by a burlesque show featuring members of Suicide Girls, the Web site which features tattooed and pierced women in various stages of undress. It was your basic semi-nekkid girls hopping around and being limber sort of thing. Interestingly, I was sitting next to what I figured was a 14-year-old boy and his dad (who looked none-too-pleased to be at the show, actually; must have been a birthday present for the kid), and you could see the dad and kid look at each other and sort of agree, in an unspoken sort of way, not to tell mom about this part of the show. Prior to the Suicide Girls, there was some other band, but who cares? I wasn't there for that.

* The most amusing tidbit of the night: The Palace at Auburn Hills apparently makes everyone in general admission sign a "Mosh Pit Waiver" in which the signatory indemnifies the Palace against all claims if, say, someone bashes in their eye socket with an elbow or what have you. I think when future archeologists look to find the moment our society truly began its irreversible slide into the cesspool of history, it will be the moment that someone thought to require a legal document in order to join a mosh pit. In Detroit, for God's sake. Or Auburn Hills, which is close enough.

Posted by john at November 28, 2006 09:41 AM

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Comments

John H | November 28, 2006 09:51 AM

Oh great - the company firewall says I can't visit the Suicide Girls site. What a gyp!

Eric | November 28, 2006 10:13 AM

That said, this Guns N' Roses doesn't make one feel like it's just the Axl Rose traveling circus, either. Also, you know. The band features former members of Nine Inch Nails, the Replacements and the Psychedelic Furs. These guys don't suck.

I don't know if this was the same G'n'R lineup that played on an MTV awards show about five years ago, but I remember thinking, "Man, this band would be really good if they lost that lead singer." Which was sad, for obvious reasons.

But if Axl's got it back, well Hell, that's just good. Glad it was a good show.

As one of the (seemingly) few who think G'n'R lost 70% of their songwriting chops when Izzy left, I'm not expecting much from the latests incarnation, myself, but I've been wrong before. (Everyone loves to give Axl and Slash all the credit for that band, but I'm telling you: go through the credits on Appetite and the Illusion records, and you're going to see Stradlin' has a credit on nearly all of the band's best material.)

Anyway, again: glad it was a good show.

John Scalzi | November 28, 2006 10:25 AM

Eric:

"I'm telling you: go through the credits on Appetite and the Illusion records, and you're going to see Stradlin' has a credit on nearly all of the band's best material."

Don't have to tell me; I've been a fan of Izzy from way back. "Shuffle it All" off his Izzy Stradlin and the JuJu Hounds album is one of my favorite songs of that era.

Dana | November 28, 2006 11:08 AM

As an "original" GnR fan from way back-in-the-day, I made the decision NOT to purchase tickets for the Toronto GnR show for the sole reason that I wasn't quite ready to lose my remaining bit of love for Axl. I had heard some of the new stuff online in various places - obviously unfinished work - and it made me ache in a bad, bad way, for the old Gunners. No no, couldn't do it!

But.. oh. OH! There is hope!

I'm going to go and change into my skin-tight black jeans, tease up my bangs and find some black eyeliner and red lipstick in anticipation of what might actually be a good album. ROCK ON!

Michael Ackblom | November 28, 2006 11:17 AM

Jeez. Tommy Stinson's still in the band? What happened to his commitment to Soul Asylum? TS always was a whore for big-time rock and roll. And Richard Fortus is the former PsyFurs member? Please, GNR, if you're going to sell us that billing at least recruit John Ashton.

andrew | November 28, 2006 11:36 AM

I’m glad you enjoyed the show John and let me say first that I did like GnR back-in-the-day, but I have always been a little mystified by their allure. I have this ongoing argument with a friend of mine (who’s in his mid 20s) about how he feels “Appetite for Destruction” was the “best rock album of the 80s!” and one of the best rock albums of all time. Okay. It IS a good album. But, I remember thinking at the time (I’m in my mid…okay…late 30s now) that GnR was good, but really just another hair band. I still can’t think of “Appetite” as a better album than “Master of Puppets” from ’86 or even Jane’s “Nothing’s Shocking” from ’88. I think “Nothing’s Shocking” actually holds up better than most rock from the ‘80s. And I can’t make it through another GnR album other than “Lies”. Is this completely sacrilegious?

Dan | November 28, 2006 11:59 AM

Smart thing you had your earplugs. As for your question as to how the band members can survive the sound of the concussive pyrotechnics, most bands these days use an in-ear monitor set-up. I used them in a performance a couple of years ago, and those things are magic.

Eric | November 28, 2006 12:00 PM

andrew, I don't know if I'd call Appetite the best album of the 80's (over The Joshua Tree, Surfer Rosa, The River, Fables Of The Reconstruction, Speaking In Tongues, Purple Rain, Meat Is Murder, Ghost In The Machine... oh hell, I could go on and I don't even know which one I'd pick...)

Like I was saying before I entered my 80's reverie, I don't know if I'd call Appetite the best album of the 80s or where it would fall in a "top-___ of the 80s" list, but I will say it's a record that ages amazingly well. My car CD player can play MP3s, so I'll cram 13 or 14 albums onto a disc; whenever Appetite happens to come up in a mix, it still sounds pretty damn vital 20 years on. I wouldn't say the same for Nothing's Shocking, but then again I wasn't totally blown away by the record when it first came out--I may be overdue for giving it another chance.

John Scalzi | November 28, 2006 12:01 PM

Andrew:

"Is this completely sacrilegious?"

No. Use your Illusion in particular is one really excellent album spread over two albums with another album of filler injected in; the problem there, of course is people argue about what tracks in particular constitute the excellent album, and which are the filler.

And I would agree that someone could make excellent arguments for Master of Puppets and Nothing's Shocking being better albums, although in each case it would probably eventually all just end in bloodshed. I'd just put them all up on the top shelf of the era, myself, and have done with it.

Eric | November 28, 2006 12:03 PM

Ack--sorry about the HTML tag mistakes in my last post. Hope it's still readable. I'd just been on a site that used [] instead of >. Shoulda previewed. :(

John Scalzi | November 28, 2006 12:13 PM

I fixed it, Eric. But, really. Never do that again. Or else I will send my minions to deal with you. Harshly.

Paul | November 28, 2006 12:19 PM

Sweet Child O' Mine was really the only song I liked off the Appetite For Destruction album. I'm much more partial to Use Your Illusion (although I do tend to make liberal use of the {{skip}} button for any G'N'R album).

andrew | November 28, 2006 12:38 PM

Eric: I should say, my buddy makes the (always controversial) distinction between “Rock” and “Pop” in saying that “Appetite” was the best Rock album of the ‘80s. At this point I usually counter that it was all downhill after “London Calling” in 1979, and John is right, we generally come to blows or engage in some kind of physical contest. (By the way: “Sufer Rosa” I could add to the shelf easily and happily, but anything by the staggeringly overrated REM might not make it except “Automatic for the People”, which owes its quality largely to John Paul Jones.)

Eric | November 28, 2006 01:34 PM

Andrew, the best thing about these kinds of discussions isn't whether anyone's right, but the excuse it provides for digging up some of those old records again. (BTW, Automatic is a very good album, but IMHO it's a spike in a decline for R.E.M. that began sometime around the time of Document or Green--you might want to give their first four albums another whirl. Or not.)

I suspect we agree that "pop"/"rock" distinctions are dubious. I mean, you could even counter your buddy by saying rock's been dead since Elvis stole it from blues musicians or that it's been downhill since the Brits stole it from Elvis. But what would the point be, y'know? Heck, talking about The Clash as a great "rock" band doesn't do justice to the fact that this was because they were also a good reggae band and a solid pop band--not to mention that punk thing they dabbled in (I'm sure you'd agree). Labels fail.

John, thanks for fixing those tags: you're overly kind. You had every right to let me look even stupider than usual for the rest of internet history....

Steve Buchheit | November 28, 2006 02:03 PM

Minions? Yikes!
Knock knock knock.
"Wees here ta discuss a post ya made on dat Whatever."

Chang, who gets nothing done without caffeine | November 28, 2006 02:38 PM

Sorry, but...

I hate GnR. Always have and always will. Sometime I will dig up my techno-industrial wanky cover of Welcome to the Jungle and post it here for all to laugh at.

GnR to me were pretty much all about excess and mediocre rock. Axl is a petulant child man in a field full of petulant child men. His meat is well past its due date.

But I'm glad you had fun. No doubt when Ultravox reunites I will be slagged for liking pretentious synth rock. To each their own.

Chang, who gets nothing done without caffeine | November 28, 2006 02:39 PM

But can I still play in the sandbox even if I disagree?

Shae | November 28, 2006 02:44 PM

Man, I'm just jealous you got to see an entire GnR concert.

I went to see them here in Dayton back in the day (when Axl and I were both thinner and rocking that snake move much better) and about 30 minutes into the show Axl threw the mike stand. It broke, he picked it up and sliced his hand open. He tried to keep going but it was bleeding a lot. He left the stage, Slash rocked the guitar for a bit, and then they announced that Axl needed medical attention and the concert was over. And no refund. It sucked.

I think MTV reported the next day that they flew Axl out to a specific surgeon for plastic surgery so it must have been a fairly bad wound. Of course if he wasn't being an idiot and throwing mike stands we could have had a full night of rocking out while the drunk guy next to me baptized me in Bud.

Djscman | November 29, 2006 01:28 AM

Was Axl hitting the high notes? I remember one of his GnR revamps on some MTV awards show (right after Buckethead joined up), and he was like a castrato who'd gotten reattached. That is, he kept reaching for them, but it wasn't pretty.

mythago | November 29, 2006 01:55 AM

it will be the moment that someone thought to require a legal document in order to join a mosh pit

That likely would have been the moment right after somebody thought to file a lawsuit over getting hurt in a mosh pit.

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little | November 29, 2006 01:59 AM

Chang, if Ultravox reunites, ping me.

So glad to hear the new GnR has made the fans happy. I'm always nervous about these latter day reinventions of old classics. Of which speaking--did anyone else catch the New Cars (with Blondie!) Road Rage tour? What did y'all think?

Brandon | November 29, 2006 07:44 AM

Did they advertise Sebastian Bach as "star of the CW hit Gilmore Girls"? That would have been funny.

grhm | November 29, 2006 07:49 AM

If this story is to be believed then the original opening act Eagles of Death Metal flew the coup before you got to see them.

John Popa | November 29, 2006 02:02 PM

The most important question is did they play 'Rocket Queen?'

John Popa | November 29, 2006 02:02 PM

The most important question is did they play 'Rocket Queen?'

John Popa | November 29, 2006 02:02 PM

The most important question is did they play 'Rocket Queen?'

John Scalzi | November 29, 2006 02:11 PM

It's so important you have to ask three times?

Bill Schafer | November 29, 2006 02:17 PM

Alas, no Rocket Queen, which would have been, like, so cool. As the one who went with Scalzi, let me tell you, he knows how to throw the horns. But he's a weenie when it comes to the pyro.

John Scalzi | November 29, 2006 02:19 PM

It's true. I totally jumped each time they went off.

Anonymous | November 29, 2006 02:23 PM

Alas, no Rocket Queen, which would have been, like, so cool. As the one who went with Scalzi, let me tell you, he knows how to throw the horns. But he's a weenie when it comes to the pyro.

dune | November 30, 2006 03:25 AM

does this mean we can expect chinese democracy sometime in the next decade?

the first time i visited this page was a link from fark when you taped bacon to your cat. i was thouroughly amused, mind you, but still curious as to what manner of person would do such a thing. i did not realize until now that you also reside in the "winter-water wonderland". now i understand completely.

dune | November 30, 2006 03:29 AM

check that, i decided to read your bio and realized i am somewhat of an arse. oh well, you still live close enough

epicROKR | March 10, 2007 06:21 PM

I love the UYI ALBUMS and hate appetite. it's just another pointless party album except for the epic sweet child of mine. however, the uyi albums are serious and can go from bluesy hard rock to a social observation played acoustically in the same song! lies is bluesy and still decently serious @ some points.(p.s. i like the mysticism zepp, not black dog, maiden, sabbath, pre-80s aerosmith, {hate priest} rush, metallica, etc.)

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