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Sunday, December 1, 2002

Guns a blazin

By James Reaney, Free Press Arts & Entertainment Columnist

A Rose by any other name would have simply been too late for his own party.

Fortunately for arrogant Axl Rose, his fans will wait just about forever for a taste of their Guns N' Roses hero

But the cheers from the standing crowd of about 9,000 fans at the John Labatt Centre last night showed rock star Axl Rose will always be right on time for his people.

When he emerged about 11 p.m. last night for the Guns N' Roses classic Welcome to the Jungle, it was welcome to Axl-land and the party was on.

Much of the show was too late for deadlines to be reviewed, but Axl showed his hockey smarts by sporting a Team Canada jersey. In Michigan, he'd worn a Red Wings jersey. In Toronto on Friday night, he was a Leaf.

London was lucky. It had the Axl for every fan.

Rose holds the rights to the Guns N' Roses name.

One star is emerging from the collection of Rose's new hires since he fell out with most of his old Gunmates. That would be the guitarist known as Buckethead. He earned that name as a masked man wearing a KFC bucket on his dome.

Vintage hits have trotted out all tour long, including Live and Let Die (the McCartney-Bond item), Knockin' on Heaven's Door (the Bob Dylan tune), Sweet Child o' Mine, You Could Be Mine, Mr. Brownstone, Patience and Paradise City.

November Rain has Rose playing a grand piano under a waterfall of fireworks.

Much has been said by critics along the tour about Rose's chops not aging well, but a shaky sound system made it difficult to know for sure.

It's the band's -- or, more correctly, the Axl-dominated band's -- first North American tour since 1993.

The only other former GNR member on the tour is keyboardist Dizzy Reed, who came on board for 1991's Use Your Illusion I and II.

The rest of the lineup is Brian (Brain) Mantia (formerly of Primus), bass player Tommy Stinson (from the Replacements), keyboardist Chris Pitman (Replicants) and three guitarists: Richard Fortus (Psychedelic Furs), Robin Finck (Nine Inch Nails) and Buckethead.

The hired hands have all been working with Rose and Reed on the long-awaited new GNR album, Chinese Democracy. Its release is set for 2003, as soon as February. The album has been delayed so many times that cynics have said there will be democracy in China before Axl finishes Chinese Democracy.

Meanwhile, GNR's former duelling guitarists Slash and Izzy Stradlin and two other former GNR members, Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum -- have been auditioning singers for a new band of their own.

"I wish them the best," Reed has told a U.S. rock

writer. "If they want to go out and hit the road, cool. No one can stop them. They're great players in their own right."

Last night, the centre had extra security. It's normal for an entertainment venue to have heavier security for a rock concert than a pop event, general manager Brian Ohl said.

Fans rioted in Vancouver after Rose's non-arrival cancelled a Nov. 7 concert meant to open the North American leg of GNR's world tour. Rose had missed his flight from Los Angeles. Police used pepper spray to end the hour-long melee outside GM Place.

At a concert 10 years ago tomorrow in Santiago, Chile, 10 people were hurt and 178 people arrested. The group's departure from the country was delayed about nine hours as authorities searched their private plane in vain for drugs.

In 1991, Rose precipitated a riot in Maryland Heights, Mo., a St. Louis suburb, by jumping off the stage and attacking a fan videotaping the concert. Sixty people were hurt and the concert building was wrecked. Rose was eventually put on probation for two years and ordered to donate $50,000 to five social service organizations.

GNR entered the music scene in 1985, earning fans with their punk-infused heavy metal sound. The band's heydays were between 1987 and 1992, when Welcome to the Jungle, Paradise City, Sweet Child o' Mine and November Rain dominated the airwaves.

The band has sold more than 80 million albums.

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