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Review: Except for late start, Axl was in full bloom

By Vivek Kemp

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

When I signed on to review the Guns N' Roses concert, I admit I was gearing up for an hour of music from a tired rock band, making an embarrassing attempt at recapturing former glory.

I mean, GN'R without Slash could just as well be called "Wilted Rose," a 1980s cover band with a unreliable, shrill-voiced, front man. But Friday night at Germain arena, this version of GN'R proved it's fully loaded and Rose is in vibrant bloom.

The nearly sold-out show opened with sets by Sebastian Bach and Papa Roach.

Bach looked and sounded like a caricature of himself, with his trademark blond locks and leather V-cut vest. At one point he tried to give some flavor to the evening by shouting, "I don't usually play an Estereo except in my living room." The music was just as amusing.

Papa Roach, with their special blend of pop rock, had the crowd fist pumping and moshing to hits like "Last Resort."

And while both groups did their best to build hype, they were only sideshow distractions from the inevitable GN'R.

Gripping a cherry-red microphone, Rose started the show with a simple question, "Do you know where you are?"

The crowd answered in unison, like a proud legion hot with dengue fever. "You're in the jungle, baby. You're gonna die."

Flames crawled skyward, accompanied by cannon fire and strobe lights that flickered like mutant camera flashes. The infected crowd chanted along with the band's marquee song, "Welcome to the Jungle."

"And when you're high you never ever want to come down, so down, so down, so down."

The only vaccine Rose offered was nearly three hours of blistering rock and roll, with full-throttle vocals — a mother superior of rock.

The set list was plump with such classics as "Mr. Brownstone," "Sweet Child O' Mine," and the Wings cover, "Live and Let Die." The band also treated the audience to a few songs from the new album, "Chinese Democracy," including songs called "Better" and "IRS."

This was the third stop in a North American tour that includes dates in New York, Ottawa and San Diego. Rose has already developed a disturbing trend of making crowds wait until after 11 p.m. before taking the stage. The band didn't begin Friday's show until 11:02, an hour after they were scheduled.

But there is little room to begrudge GN'R. This band plays an astonishing set that's worth the wait.

Rose has put the same meticulous attention into assembling this cast of musicians as he has composing a stockpile of irrevocable music.

The eight-member group includes guitarists with the chops of Slash, leaving the wary delightfully satisfied. Robin Finck (formerly of Nine Inch Nails), Richard Fortus and Ron Thal attack the music like hell-hounds bent on mauling any doubters.

On keyboards there's Dizzy Reed. On bass, former Replacements member, Tommy Stinson. And on drums, Bryan Mantia, who's played with Primus, Tom Waits and Praxis.

Rose seems to know that if modern-day GN'R stands to thrive, he's going to have to make stars of his band members as well. Between classic GN'R tunes, Rose introduced solo performances from each member.

At one point Fortus and Thal played an Stevie Ray Vaughan-worthy rendition of Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful," the dueling guitars resonating like two electrified sirens.

Rose was mellow if not withdrawn, often leaving Finck and the other axmen to take center stage. And the front man didn't pepper you with the stereotypical "You guys ready to rock" comments that so many other bands depend on to rouse enthusiasm.

Instead, Rose let the music and the musicians shine and invigorate. And, yes, Mr. Rose, if you wondered, we were ready to rock. We've needed this fix for sometime.

GN'R gave the audience one last dose of fever-inducing rock, with an encore performance of "Paradise City."

As Rose left the stage, chucking his red mic into the crowd, you realized it was never his intention to provide any vaccine for his unique strain of dengue fever. No. He left us just as he wanted us. Infected, addicted, and needing more.

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  • 1 month later...

Fantastic review!!! I had the pleasure of seeing them twice on this tour. You are correct in saying that he left us wanting more. I was invited backstage to hang with Ron, Dizzy, Frank, and Chris after the show in Harbour Station. They are VERY nice to their fans and were more than welcome to have pictures taken and give out autographs. This IS Guns n Roses!!!

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