Guns N' Roses returned to New York City for the first time in two years for a three show "residency," that coincided with the year's first Fashion Week. This latest GNR tour, which celebrates 25 years since the band's major label breakthrough (with Appetite for Destruction), has critics nationwide agreeing that it is the band's best outing since Slash left the band 16 years ago. It is also the band's best lineup since that time, as it seems that positive chemistry and fun is back in the band. Axl's current band is so good, in fact, they seem capable of producing a quality album if they commited to the project. And it is this lineup that will probably take the podium when the band is inducted into the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame this April.
On Friday February 10th, they rocked Roseland Ballroom with a three hour set.
On Sunday February 12th, they stepped up their game at Terminal 5.
And on Wednesday February 15th, they returned to Webster Hall for the first time in nearly 24 years (23 years, 10 months to be exact), when they took the Appetite for Destruction tour to the venue then known as The Ritz. The Webster Hall show lived up to its high ticket price as a once in a lifetime chance to see the band perform a four hour show, which added five songs to the Terminal 5 setlist, including You're Crazy, Civil War, and My Michelle.
I attended the second show, at Terminal 5 in Hell's Kitchen Below is the review I originally sent out to friends the next morning.
The concert was a bit surreal. We never thought we'd see Guns N Roses live (they virtually broke up in 1996, but Axl never let the band die). Only Dizzy Reed on piano has stayed with Axl since the glory days. I do have to say, the rest of the band is immensely talented. They have four 6 string guitarists replacing the original two (three power guitarists and a backup/tech backstage who got credit), and the solos were Rock God quality, I think. Slash's late replacement, DJ Ashba (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DJ_Ashba ) worshiped Motley Crue as a teenager and his distorted Les Paul guitar seemed to fill in for Slash perfectly.
Axl is not fat. He's still fit. But his face is bigger and shows signs of botox work. His blue eyes are electric. And he has become quite a good piano player. Twenty years ago, he would lay down some riffs in a ballad. Now he can play jazz and blues on the keys. We were impressed. And yes, he played on a baldwin baby grand.
We had to freeze outside of Terminal 5 on West 56th Street from about 9pm to 9:40. Once inside, we took our places on the main floor as the balconies had filled up. But the floor was the place to be. The show was sold out with a crowd of 3,000.
A sub par hard rock band called the Chelsea Smiles opened the show shortly after 10pm. Now that I think about it, a more appropriate band would have been Powerman 5000 (led by Rob Zombie's brother), or the Dutch 1960s style band, The Hives. But we take what we're given. And the uninspired 6 songs served by the Chelsea Smiles were forgettable.
Guns N Roses took the stage at 11:40, and played pretty much straight with minor breaks until at least 2:30. Yes, a three hour epic. Did I mention we were impressed? Here is the set list:
00 - Intro [Recorded music: Dexter]
01 - Chinese Democracy (they opened with Jungle two nights prior, and we were puzzled by this selection)
02 - Welcome to the Jungle (it was 1988 all over again)
03 - It's So Easy
04 - Mr Brownstone (highlight of the show's first half)
05 - Sorry (At this point, the computer generated video behind the band was replaced by Karaoke style live action videos, featuring suicidal teenagers, Sunset Strip pole dancers, and Formula One footage from the early 2000s (for You Could Be Mine). So....cheesy? Rush invests six figures into their graphics, man! "That's not Tom Sawyer, that's Huckleberry Finn, stupid!!"
06 - Rocket Queen
07 - Estranged
08 - Richard Fortus guitar solo (who resembles Adrian Brody a bit) - James Bond Theme (which was spectacular)
09 - Live and Let Die
10 - Instrumental Jam - A reprise of ZZ Top's La Grange
11 - This I Love
12 - What's Your Motivation (led and sung by bassist Tommy Stinson, who resembles a young Rod Stewart, who can play bass very well, but unfortunately can't sing)
13 - Dizzy Reed piano solo - The Who's Baba O'Riely, possibly the first hard rock hit single in 1971, the crowd should have sung every line, but most were too young to know the lyrics, or too stoned to care
14 - Street of Dreams
15 - You Could Be Mine (which they did not play Friday night, one of the reasons this show was so long)
16 - DJ Ashba guitar solo - The Ballad of Death
17 - Sweet Child O' Mine (THE highlight of the show - Axl briefly swaying his hips to "Where do we go now")
18 - Moving the baby grand to the stage, the band plays Pink Floyd's Another Brick in the Wall, and Axl sings the chorus once he is able to sit at the piano, which led to the most abrupt transition of the night -
19 - Axl Rose piano solo - a bluesy medley of Gran Torino and Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
20 - November Rain (of course)
21 - Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal guitar solo - The Pink Panther Theme (yes, and it was very 60s psychedelic and loud - good, unorthodox choice)
22 - Knockin' on Heaven's Door (great, even as Axl's wireless microphones began to fail him)
23 - Night Train
24 - Instrumental jam
25 - Madagascar
26 - Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal guitar intro / Don't Cry
27 - Better
28 - Whole Lotta Rosie
29 - Instrumental jam
30 - Patience
31 - Instrumental jam
32 - Paradise City
33 - Outro [Recorded music: My Way]
Got home at 03:30. What a concert. Did that just happen?