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MP3 Live: Axl & the Roses

By Jim Welte - MP3.com

September 21, 2006 at 06:00:00 PM

Axl Rose and the latest incarnation of Guns N Roses romp through a hit-filled set at the Warfield in San Francisco.

"Patience, mmm ... yeah ... yeah/Need a little patience, yeah/Just a little patience, yeah ... some more patience ... yeah ..."

Axl Rose co-wrote the song that has summed up the past decade-plus for his legions of fans, testing their patience to a degree that would lose most--and indeed he's surely lost plenty of fans over the years.

Axl Rose

Axl Rose

But this is Guns N Roses, and for two-plus hours last night at The Warfield in San Francisco, those fans got what they've been waiting on for more than a decade from Rose and his ever-changing cast of replacements for GNR's original members.

No, not the ridiculously long-overdue Chinese Democracy, GNR's first album of original material in 15 years that Rose has spent more than $13 million and countless band members in making. That's coming this year, he says. Let the breath-holding begin.

But the new material--the band played four new songs in all--was a mere blip on this night. It was all about the band's hard rock hits that dominated the charts in the late 80s and early 90s--and there are a lot of them.

Before the night could begin, though, Rose tested everyone's patience yet again, beginning his set at 11:15 pm despite the "doors 7pm, show 8pm" indication on the tickets. Sure, Sebastian Bach played an energetic, hour-long set before GNR, but since his name wasn't on the tickets or the marquee in the days leading up the show, it's unlikely that anyone was there to see the former Skid Row frontman roll through hits like "Youth Gone Wild" and "I Remember You."

But once Axl and the boys strode onstage to those daunting opening guitar licks of "Welcome to the Jungle," all was easily forgotten.

Axl Rose

Axl Rose

Looking trimmer than he has in recent years but still sporting cornrows and a goatee, Rose was a walking adrenaline rush on the mic, screeching out the song's lyrics and bounding about the stage like a madman. Pyrotechnics were in full force despite the relatively small, 3,000-capacity venue, with loud blasts and balls of fire erupting from the stage to punctuate the chorus.

Because the band includes none of the original members and only one who played with the band during its hey day (keyboardist Dizzy Reed), it's easy to discount But they proved plenty adequate on this night, with guitarists Robin Finck (formerly of Nine Inch Nails), Richard Fortus (formerly of Psychedelic Furs), and Ron Thal trading fierce guitar lick throughout the night.

Rose seemed to tire quickly from the pace of "Jungle," as he darted off stage during the track's guitar solos, a move he would repeat throughout the night, retreating to a small, curtain-covered dressing room-type area at the side of the stage nearly two dozen times throughout the night, occasionally emerging with a new shirt.

Rose's voice sounded good at times and extremely faint and weak at others, although it really didn't matter. A chorus of 3,000 people singing along to your every word can be quite a safety net.

The band maintained a savage pace for the first 40 minutes of the show, storming through solid versions of songs like "It's So Easy," "Mr. Brownstone," the Paul McCartney cover "Live and Let Die," and "Sweet Child O' Mine." The latter was a reminder of just how big this band was at one point, with the song's signature, bluesy guitar licks, a bouncy rhythm, and Rose's heartfelt lyrics all adding up to rock 'n roll at its most infectious.

Axl Rose

Axl Rose

After a quick turn to new material with "Better," during which Rose's faint voice didn't have the luxury of that safety net, the band segued into the opening notes of "Knockin' On Heaven's Door," the Bob Dylan song that GNR made its own 1991'as Use Your Illusion II. Rose applied his trademark vocal stylings to the chorus, belting out, "Feels like I'm knockin' on heaven's daw-aw."

The night featured several long solos by all three guitarists and one by Reed at a baby grand piano. Although the solos were impressive, the energy in the building plummeted during each. The lone exception came from Rose himself at the baby grand in between a fantastic rendition of "I Used to Love Her" and the anthemic "November Rain."

After an entertaining duet between Rose and Bach on "My Michelle," Rose whistled the opener to "Patience," the simple yet crafty track that almost came across as a plea from the enigmatic frontman. The set closed out with a lightning-fast version of "Night Train."

Having passed the two-hour mark on the set and delivered every other big GNR hit, the encore was time for "Paradise City," yet another of the band's songs that is seared into the memory of nearly every 30-something in the country. Confetti fell from the ceiling, and it was indeed a celebration.

Axl Rose may be one of the most frustrating artists of the past few decades, but there's a reason why people care. He's got the charisma, stage presence, and back catalog to rival anyone in rock 'n roll, but the big question is: Will he release new music and accept his fans' judgment or is he ready to forever milk that back catalog at the young age of 44?

Edited by November_rain
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