Guns N' Roses is yet another band I never thought I'd get to see perform. At least not in this lifetime. (See what I did there? The tour is called The Not in... You got it? Okay...)
I have very eclectic taste in music, however my iPod is missing lots of 80s rock. I just never got into hair metal; most of my 80s music is punk or new wave. Guns N' Roses made rock "dangerous" again in 1987, and I've been a casual fan since my teenage years. (My apologies to the hardcore fans.) I was excited to learn they were reuniting for a tour, and that they'd be playing at Dodger Stadium. When I found out the show was a Thursday night, I hesitated. That one sold out quickly, so they put together a follow-up show for Friday night, same venue. I knew I had to go to that one, so I picked up two tickets, one of which I ended up selling to a reasonably well-known 90s TV star, though I didn't know it at the time.
The opening act, The Cult, is a band I had heard of, but had never listened to their music. After having seen them live, I don't think I'm going to start. Don't get me wrong, they're not a bad band. They're just not my cup of tea. As I mentioned, I'm not really into 80s rock. If you are, you've probably already heard of them, so I don't need to help you change your mind.
They performed well; the energy was fairly high (for older guys) and they sufficiently pumped up the crowd for the main event. One thing I didn't really understand, though, was the lead singer playing the tambourine. In a stadium show, can you even hear it?
The Cult ended up speaking to the crowd more than the headliner would. The vocalist kept calling us "texters" and made a couple comments about gentrification. He said they're going to tear down the Whiskey-a-Go-Go and put up a hotel. I don't know if that's true, but if it is, that's a shame. For my readers who don't know, the Whiskey is the bar in Hollywood where The Doors got their start as the house band in the 1960s. I've visited it a few times, including for a Doors tribute band.
I neither loved nor hated The Cult, which makes them difficult to write about. I'd rather have hated them, then at least I could complain. Fire Woman was the highlight for me, and I've embedded a video for your enjoyment.
The Cult Setlist: Wild Flower | Rain | Lil' Devil | Rise | The Phoenix | Deeply Ordered Chaos | Sweet Soul Sister | Fire Woman | She Sells Sanctuary | Love Removal Machine
Sound: ★★★★ out of 5
Energy: ★★★½ out of 5
Live Performance: ★★★½ out of 5
Overall: ★★★ out of 5
After The Cult's set, the stadium starting filling in, including the seats next to me. I thought I could recognize the woman sitting two seats down, but I couldn't put my finger on it. When her husband left to grab some food and drinks, I got a better look and realized it was Yasmine Bleeth of Baywatch fame. I'm not the type of person to go nuts over celebrity sightings, but thought it was kind of cool that she bought my tickets.
Between songs, the sound system was playing NWA over the PA system. I was sitting in Dodger Stadium, listening to NWA next to a Baywatch babe, waiting for Guns N' Roses to come on stage to play. I remember thinking that this was the most LA thing I could possibly be doing at that moment.
Guns N' Roses
Guns N' Roses finally took the stage after the sun went down and after a Looney Tunes theme intro. A bizarre start, but memorable. By this time, the stadium was packed and everyone was on their feet. The energy was intense, and they were able to keep it high for the entire two and half hour set. I was very impressed. Axl sounded fantastic and Slash shredded his guitar on every song.
I only mentioned those two because it was basically the Axl Rose and Slash show. I tried to get photos of all the members on the big screens, but 80% of the screen time was devoted to Axl and Slash. It was a bit tricky to capture the rest, though I did get a couple shots of Duff McKagen when he took over vocals for the Iggy and the Stooges cover of Raw Power. (The crowd went nuts when the camera focused on his Prince sticker.) Slash, Axl, and Duff were the only original members to reunite, although Steven Adler did take over drum duties for two songs. (Sorry, Izzy fans.)
G n' R played basically all of their hit songs, so there were many, many highlights. The only song that I would have liked to hear that they did not play was I Used to Love Her. Welcome to the Jungle and Sweet Child of Mine probably received the biggest applause. The best performance though, in my opinion, was for the song Civil War. It was legitimately moving. The emotion in both Axl's voice and Slash's guitar were overwhelming, and the imagery on the screens was heartbreaking. Generally, the imagery was typically scummy LA stuff, like neon, girls, and buildings, but for this song it was war imagery. Cliche and expected, of course, but moving nonetheless when coupled with the song.
For the first half, there seemed to be some tension between Axl and the other members, and they didn't really interact with one another. It either faded away towards the middle of the show, or I was just imagining it based on what I know about their history. I don't think I was, because other reviewers have commented on it. Axl was the only one who really spoke to the audience, though he kept it short and sweet. One of my favorite moments of the show was when he made the band introductions. He saved Slash for the end, and then Slash immediately dove into a fantastic rendition of The Godfather theme. Little moments like these helped balance the grand scale of the rest of the show.
The end of the show was where Axl's talents really got to shine. The crew brought out a piano for him to play November Rain and Knockin' on Heavens Door. For all his antics, ridiculous hats, and bad behavior, he remains an exceptional musician.
Throughout the show, Yasmine Bleeth would constantly turn to her husband and comment that she wanted to hear Paradise City. They left early, so she didn't get to hear it. That song was the finale of the encore set. (That's why you don't leave until the end.) And what a finale! The show literally ended with a bang -- there were so many fireworks the stage became cloudy and you couldn't see the band anymore.
Guns N' Roses Setlist: Looney Tunes Theme (recording) | The Equalizer (Harry Gregson-Williams song; recording) | It's So Easy | Mr. Brownstone | Chinese Democracy | Welcome to the Jungle | Double Talkin' Jive | Estranged | Live and Let Die (Wings cover) | Rocket Queen | Better | You Could Be Mine | Raw Power (Iggy and The Stooges cover) (with "You Can't Put Your Arms… more ) | This I Love | Civil War (with "Voodoo Child" outro) | Coma (with band introductions) | Love Theme from The Godfather (Nino Rota cover) (Slash solo) | Sweet Child O' Mine | Out Ta Get Me (with Steven Adler) | My Michelle (with Steven Adler) | Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd cover) (Slash & Richard Fortus guitar duet) | November Rain ("Layla" piano exit intro with… more ) | Knockin' on Heaven's Door (Bob Dylan cover) | Nightrain
Encore: Sorry | Don't Cry | The Seeker (The Who cover) | Paradise City
This concert will definitely go down as one of my favorites of all time. I normally don't like stadium shows, since there's no intimacy. However, these guys have been performing for a long time and know just what they're doing. Bravo, guys.
Setlist: ★★★★½ out of 5
Sound: ★★★★★ out of 5
Energy: ★★★★ out of 5
Live Performance: ★★★★ out of 5
Overall: ★★★★½ out of 5