Friday, November 4, 2011
Axl's Got a Helluva Family Now
GUNS N' ROSES at Phillips Arena, Atlanta, Nov. 2nd.
Unless you passed away during this show, there isn't a chance in hell you couldn't have enjoyed the concert of Guns n' Roses here at Philips Arena in Atlanta this week. Wow!
Twenty-five years ago was the last time Axl Rose and company, performed here in Atlanta. Unfortunately that performance was short-lived as Axl Rose was arrested "during" the show. Then a later tour stop in Atlanta was cancelled due to sickness. So this weeks show was long overdue for Atlanta fans.
If the reviews of recent concerts I read were correct, Axl Rose was back in great form and performing strong shows on this tour. We decided to take our 15 year-old to see Axl finally perform for the first time in Atlanta, at least with a complete show - a history making event.
The opening band, Buck Cherry, played a strong hour-long set and is a good fit with this crowd. Their hits "Crazy Bitch," and "I Love the Cocaine" were definite crowd pleasers. They played for an hour and although a strong set, I still feel that they need a better flow with their music to connect with the crowd. Most bands are influenced and even use familiar riffs as Buck Cherry does, but it's not enough to lift and sustain the crowd through several songs. They have the "it" factor, the lead singer bopping about to and fro with the crowd, the rest of the band active and interacting with the audience, but they still need some work on finding a sustaining groove. Then left the stage at 10:05.
10:47 Guns n' Roses takes the stage. The excitement is palpable and the whole arena is on their feet.
Starting only 40 minutes after Buck Cherry, and I'm surprised based on the reviews of other shows. Some concert audiences wait up to 90 minutes after the opening act. Axl attacks the stage with energy and passion, taking each side of this long stage by running back and forth. After the first couple of songs, his voice takes on the strong delivery we're used to from his recordings. Yes, he's that good.
They performed "Welcome to the Jungle" early in the show, probably to get the most played GnR song out of the way and to also jazz the crowd. It worked! Everyone was on their feet again and he had the whole arena singing with him. Hell, we were rockin' those seats and it was an exciting moment. What I was seeing though was an artist who was performing with confidence and in charge, able to bring his full power pieces of rock to fruition live, and with passion. What Axl and the band was doing tonight was why I love music - the passion that I want from a band - it was here tonight!
"I'm off to a better start than the last time I was in Atlanta... I'm not in jail yet" Axl addressed the eager crowd. I wasn't at that show but I remember when it happened and people were upset that the show was stopped early... It literally has been twenty-four years since that incident and I found this story that I discovered at a GnR uber fan site ( http://ladydairhean.0catch.com/ )
Atlantaa, 1987: Axl was arrested in Atlanta for assaulting a security guard. The security guy had been beating up the band's friends in the audience. With Axl on parole for previous offenses the show was pulled by band manager Doug Goldstein. "I'm not willing to be a sitting duck for the police," claims Axl, "I'm familiar with that experience."
Axl gave all the band members solo moments to perform, while he took a break and made a custume change now and then. The keyboardist, Dizzy Reed, decked out in suit and tie, played "Baba O'Reilly" on a grand piano solo until Frank, the drummer, came in at the rockin' moment in the song. The bassist, Thomas Stinson, also did a rousing rendition of "My Generation" even throwing his bass across the stage at the end. My wife raised her eyebrows at that stint. I told her it was a "Who" moment.
It took me a while to appreciate Axl's version of "Live and Let Die" and it was even better in person. "You Could Be Mine" brought back the scenes from Terminator 2 that it was used in. Guitarists Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal and Dj Ashba performed an instrumental of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" which led into Axl coming out on piano to play "November Rain." A gorgeous moment during the show and a wonderful performance. I wasn't sure how long they were going to play, and if they would get to "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" but they did and Axl sung with the crowd. At this point Axl is still running around the stage after 2 plus hours and he's paced himself well.
During the encore Axl introduced each band member and how long they've been with him. Dizzy, 20 years; Bumblefoot, 10 years; Frank, 6 years, etc. and Axl mentioned "I'm still the immature one in the group." What is certain is that Axl has been with this version of Guns longer now than he was with the original lineup and he was introducing not only his band, but his pride, his "family." This family is tight and knows how to deliver. I'd say this group has matured in more ways than one.
The only thing that was unfortunate was how late the show ran. I didn't mind the length, so much as when it was over at 1:50 am. My son and his friend were yawning and exhausted, and my wife had to leave before the encore set, and she did not want to go. She has to be up for work, and they have to go to school early in the morn. During the weekend would have been fine, but at 1 am people were leaving in droves. I'd say about 30% of the audience had already left the stands by the time the show was over. Which is a shame because I'm sure the only reason they left was because it was so late. If the band would start at 9:30 or so that would be a lot more effective as players and listeners.
Overall the show is what rock n' roll is all about: passionate and rousing this was one of the best concerts I've seen in years. And for an ol' die-hard rock n' roll fan who's seen more than his fair share of shows, that's saying a lot. Do yourself a favor and catch this tour, and for that matter any future tour. Axl is back with a helluva band... his family.
Atlanta Photos courtesy of the Guns n' Roses Facebook page.
Guns n' Roses Official Website
Concert Updates and Photos at GnR Facebook Page