Chicago Sun-Times
Tuning in with Thomas Conner

Guns N' Roses wanted to rock and roll all night

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Guns N' Roses 1.jpg

Axl Rose and guitarist D.J. Ashba (right) illustrate their appetite for destruction Tuesday night at the Allstate Arena. (Jon Gitchoff/For the Sun-Times)

Axl Rose and his hired guns -- still parading around under the name Guns N' Roses, even though the creative core of that band dissolved two decades ago -- are now more famous for their delays than their music. Not only did it take 17 years to produce the band's so-so latest album, 2008's "Chinese Democracy," Rose and his crew are notoriously late arriving on stage for concerts. Tuesday night's start time at the Allstate Arena was 9 p.m., but the Guns didn't fire until 11:10 p.m. By 2 a.m., the final confetti was just starting to fall.

"You want 8 o'clock shows, go find F-R-I-E-N-D-S or hit a cinema somewhere," read a recent Axl-ish post from Guns N' Roses on the band's Facebook page. "This is Rock N' Roll! ... This is Guns N' Roses and when the time is right the stage will ignite."

Given the unnerving professionalism and tightly regimented scheduling that now rules most pop concerts, at least give Rose credit for thumbing his nose at your day job and shaking us nearly all night long. I'd almost forgotten the anticipation, anger and at least some momentary sense of long-forgotten mystery (each a vital ingredient for rock and roll) generated by a simple late start.

The trick is, when you finally show up, to give the crowd something worth waiting for.

This reconstituted GNR, touring for the first time since the release of "Chinese Democracy," hit the stage and largely acquitted themselves as perhaps something just barely more than a wicked GNR cover band. Last month, Billy Corgan and the latest roster of Smashing Pumpkins blew through town and pounded the Riviera Theatre; likewise, Axl & Friends were happy to have a mostly full arena of fans who came for his klaxon wail and kicking shimmy rather than to grouse about absent top hats and buckets.

This GNR doesn't just cover GNR, either -- they covered everybody. Each of the three, count 'em three, guitarists enjoyed a showcase solo, with the nimble Richard Fortus torturing the James Bond theme (as an entry point for the pyro-filled "Live and Let Die," of course), newest member D.J. Ashba knitting "Mi Amor" and top-knotted Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal tiptoeing through the Pink Panther theme. After former Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson (read our interview here) sang the Who's "My Generation," pianist Dizzy Reed followed with a Yanni-worthy instrumental of "Baba O'Riley."

The band was most alive during the two, count 'em two, AC/DC covers -- first "Riff Raff," with Fortus beating the holy hell out of his guitar, and "Whole Lotta Rosie," a blast of musical pyro that Rose sang with a perfectly blissful, slightly evil grin. Most of Tuesday night, we saw a happy, boyish Rose, now 49 and paunchy, joshing with bandmates and tossing mike stands around the stage with joyful abandon. By 1 a.m., this infectious energy did more to keep the crowd awake and engaged than the occasional cannon blasts.

The set was heavy on new songs -- yet another defiant Rose gesture -- though the hits were sprinkled throughout the night, from "Welcome to the Jungle" and "Sweet Child o' Mine" to encores of "Patience" and "Paradise City," as well as some fiery album cuts, including slashing takes on "Better" and "Rocket Queen." Axl sat at the piano for "November Rain," after noodling a bit with Elton John's "Someone Saved My Life Tonight"; there were several such ballady moments, but they served more as breathers than padding. Guns N' Roses are best when they kick hard and keep moving, and amazingly that's what they did for three long hours Tuesday night. And Wednesday morning.

Guns N' Roses Tuesday night set list:

"Chinese Democracy"
"Welcome to the Jungle"
"It's So Easy"
"Mr. Brownstone"
"Riff Raff" (AC/DC)
Solo, Richard Fortus: "James Bond Theme"
"Live and Let Die" (Wings)
"This I Love"
"Rocket Queen"
"My Generation" (The Who)
Solo, Dizzy Reed: "Baba O'Riley"
"Street of Dreams"
"You Could Be Mine"
Solo, D.J. Ashba: "Mi Amor"
"Sweet Child o' Mine"
"Another Brick In The Wall Pt. 2" (Pink Floyd)
"November Rain"
Solo, Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal: "Pink Panther Theme"
"Don't Cry"
"Whole Lotta Rosie" (AC/DC)
"Knockin' on Heaven's Door" (Bob Dylan)
"Shackler's Revenge"
"Paradise City"

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Rose is a selfish prick and always has been who doesn’t care about his fans at all hence the 11 p.m. and later starts for a cover band rock show, It’s for this reason I’ve attended more than 20 GnR shows but have never seen one in its entirety and getting up for work or class the next morning had little to do with it. The late starts go back to the mid 1980s. It was dew filled hours in the morning and sweaty clubs where every band started at midnight and later with GnR perhaps stuffed in between Jane’s Addiction and the Red Hot Chili Peppers in a basement of the Grand Hotel on 9th street in downtown L.A. But as the band became more popular and played more and more shows ranging from small historic theaters, arenas, and an opening stint with the Rolling Stones in 1989 or 1990 at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum, it was more apparent that Axl was a prima donna who didn’t care about anyone but himself. While I went to all these shows, mostly out of boredom and to bird dog skirts or take a skirt, I always left early. The finale being the a-hole sauntering on stage in 2001 at the House of Blues in Las Vegas at 3:30 a.m. after people had been standing, literally sardined and standing around for four plus hours.

Thanks for reminding me never to go to an Axl production again.

what a horrible review. Way to follow the masses and only complain about start times and getting home late.

This show was incredible and it wasnt "heavy" on new songs - they played for 3 HOURS. About 20 min of that was new stuff. And BTW - if you actually sit down and listen to Chinese Democracy you would actually find it is a really good CD.

Im doubting Thomas Connor was even at the show and is probably in bed way before GNR finished Paradise City.

GnR Haters move on and get over yourselves. GnR is one of the last great rock bands touring right now.

Go back to your Glee and go to bed by 9.

Sprinkled the set list with hits? Are you kidding? That set list is awesome. "Mr. Brownstone," "It's so easy," and "Rocket Queen" are GNR standards. I almost regret having not attended. It sounds like Axl and replacements rocked.

Nice write-up about the concert. So did you feel it was worth the 2 hour + wait? I'm guessing Axl and crew didn't deliver? Was their performance as bad as Rock N Rio 2011?

When I saw Axl n crew in 2006 we knew we'd be waiting 2 hours before he hit the stage but at least they delivered really good shows. Seems like this time around Axl is doing the same BS but not delivering performance wise. He is definitely singing for 2 hours + but from what I'm reading from this review and others it isn't satisfying. Just volume.

Thanks JD




I was in front row at the Kansas City show last weekend and I can assure you New GnR is still in top form. Rock in Rio was a fluke, all the shows have been very good since then. Axl is in a great mood and they actually showed up only an hour late, which I consider to be on time, and delay hasn't been much longer than an hour at any point on their US dates.

The crew delivers. DJ Ashba impressed the shit out of me, I wasn't too keen on him before I saw him, but he is great at working a crowd and putting some fun back into the show. Richard Fortus also stood out. He's their new rhythm guitarist, who I always just saw as being a decent Izzy replacement. But Fortus plays so well that he almost seems wasted on rhythm. Bumblefoot is a virtuoso and it's amazing how much fun he seems to be having when he's actually still in severe chronic pain from a car accident. That's devotion.

And altogether, the latest GnR lineup seems like a BAND, something the 2002-2006 versions really did not. They ineract on stage, mess with each other, look like they're having a great time. The Guns N' Roses name is held sacred, so they'll never be called better than the originals, but if Axl had chosen to tour as the band Chinese Democracy or something, they'd be getting rave reviews.

All in all, it's a worthy show, something I'd be happy to pay for to go see again. Don't trust just any review you find online, as many are written with an anti-Axl and anti-GnR bias in mind beforehand. Also, don't put too much stock into Youtube videos - you're not going to hear the same sound as if you're there. When you're at the shows, the triple-guitar sound is monstrous, the bass is loud, and Axl's voice sounds much more full - that high-pitched Mickey Mouse-sounding voice you hear in a lot of videos is because they don't capture the lower pitched sounds, same reason the guitars sound subdued and the bass muted.

Go and have your milk thomas.This is a real frontman and great band.Grow some balls and stop whining

Come on people please this bafoon was just so so in his hay day .20 years and 50 lbs later this cry baby must really be a sight to behold!!!...Do ya think we should start calling him tri axel rose from the pics i think it fits

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This page contains a single entry by Thomas Conner published on November 16, 2011 9:53 AM.

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