Support: The Kills / Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown
There are some bands that mean more than others. Both globally and personally. For me Guns were one of the most exciting bands on the planet. I saw them a number times in the early '90s when I first discovered there were bands other than Queen (my first and biggest love). Nothing has come close to the feeling of anticipation I felt back in the day when waiting for a GNR gig. They lived breathed rock n roll. They WERE rock n roll.
Times change of course. I won't retread old ground but suffice to say that Axl and Slash (with no small amount of help from Duff) have patched up their differences...or at least enough to get on the same stage. That there is no Steven Adler or Izzy Stradlin is a huge disappointment. A combination of not enough money offered (Stradlin) and an injured back (Adler) seem to have put paid to their participation...at least initially. Not exactly one for all and all for one. Then again should we expect any different? The ticket price would suggest there is one particular reason for the semi reunion; however it only works if it is worth the money. Bad reviews would kill a tour so they have to perform and perform they do.
Getting to the venue was a bit of a trek involving a bad decision (of mine) on transport (involving getting the bus...a very slow, hot bus). This didn't help my gig stress. From time to time I have serious gig panic if I think I'm going to be late. My two gig going friends today...not so much. Plenty of time they said. I also don't like queue skippers. My two gig going friends...not so much. At 7.41 we were in a queue outside with 2 long queues to come inside. At 7.44 we were in the gold circle. At 7.48 GNR were on stage. Perfect. Never in doubt. Stress over, band on stage. All was good.
Guns certainly don't hang around. It's So Easy, Mr Brownstone, Chinese Democracy, Jungle and Double Talkin' Jive (including Slash playing guitar with broken strings) open the show. The sound is outstanding. Axl's voice is very good with just a few strains here and there but overall possibly the best he has sung in many years.
The Gold Circle (the £165 including fees Gold Circle) we are in is full of people all ages. The crowd demographic is well mixed for a band 30 years in existence. Their music has passed the age and gender boundaries often found with a lot of their contemporaries. There are people here from 6 to 60 and all know every word...well except the two drunk fucks in front of us who seemed to want to shake everyone's hand every 5 minutes instead of looking at the stage...
Things slow down with Better and the massively underrated Estranged before Live and Let Die gets us moving again. Rocket Queen, You Could Be Mine...there really are no low points. Duff, the healthiest man in rock and the guy we probably have to thank for this reunion, is excellent on Attitude. This I Love is up next and is a bit of a mess in truth (so ok maybe this is the one low point). Things go back to normal straight away though as Civil War is another big, big highlight followed by an ok Yesterdays. Coma is an absolute dream...it (like Estranged earlier) is 10 minutes of musical class that showcases the band in full (including possibly the best drummer I have seen play with Guns. I love Matt Sorum and Steven Adler but Frank Ferrer...wow).
Sweet Child of Mine (a song requested at our wedding multiple times...unfortunately it wasn't Slash playing it) has the crowd jumping, yes you have heard it a million times but it is an absolute classic. My Michelle leads into Slash and Richard Fortus instrumental version of Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here, during which Axl's piano gets set up. Axl then sits down at it and plays the extended outro of Layla. Magnificent again. He's a talented guy that Mr Rose. Layla leads into November Rain which is still one of the best rock 'ballads' going. Then the crowd get to sing (shout) along with Heavens Door. Nightrain closes the main set and all I see are beaming smiles from every corner of the stadium...including on stage.
The encore would be good anyway but hearing Black Hole Sun is another reminder as to what Chris Cornell meant to the rock world. No one seems to have a bad word to say about him. A likeable, intelligent guy who happened to possess an amazing voice. The Guns version of the Soundgarden song is a like for like cover. A wonderful tribute to a man who is sadly, badly, very much missed.
Patience includes some impeccable whistling from Axl, he then sings an excellent version of the Who's Seeker. The crowd know what is coming...there is only one way to finish a Guns set. Paradise City. There is no getting away from it, that's the song (as is the same I suspect for many others here) that got me into Guns n Roses. The video of them playing in the stadium, the look the sound and THAT chorus..hey they mention pretty girls and green grass, what more could you want? It brings a feeling of utter joy to me and those around me. A sea of smiling faces including a lot of kids (not rock chicks) on shoulders.
There is a lot of love for this band. Axl on his own (in previous incarnations of GNR) didn't always get that. As we exit the stadium (my first time here and despite being a bit of a pain to get to is very good) I walked speedily past the merchandise stall, I have bills to pay afterall, and out into the night. Satisfied? Absolutely Yes. It will never be the same as it was back in the day and until Izzy and Adler are on board it won't be the full reunion. I fear that will never happen but if this is as close as we are going to get then that's ok as on this evidence Guns are very much back in business. Fabulous stuff.
Ticket Price: £150.00 (Gold Circle Ticket)