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Guns N' Roses Rocks Palace With Old Hits


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DATE: Nov. 26, 2006

SOURCE: The Detroit News

Guns N' Roses rocks Palace with old hits

Adam Graham / Detroit News Pop Music Writer

Few entertainers can get away with the kind of on-stage tardiness that Guns N' Roses frontman Axl Rose has made his calling card. In fact, so lacking in punctual graces is Rose that when he took the stage at 11:35 p.m. Saturday at the Palace of Auburn Hills, the more than 7,500 fans gathered at the arena had a good reason to feel lucky: By Rose's standards, he was early.

"Do you know where the (bleep) you are?" Rose squealed when he suddenly appeared at center stage, in a haze of smoke and lights. And there was only one answer: In the strangely fascinating world of Axl Rose, the world's most mysterious, enigmatic rock star.

Or, as Rose better puts it, in the jungle, baby. It's gonna bring you down.

Saturday marked Guns N' Roses' first local appearance since 2002, and both concerts have supposedly been in support of "Chinese Democracy," the band's long-gestating epic that may or may not ever be released. But the focus of the show was mainly on the past: The band tore through two-thirds of "Appetite for Destruction," GNR's 1987 hard rock masterpiece, while "Chinese Democracy" and 1991's double album, "Use Your Illusion," warranted five songs apiece.

It's no secret that Guns N' Roses is no longer Guns N' Roses; Rose is the sole holdover from the band's heyday. But Rose has assembled perhaps the world's strongest karaoke band behind him: The 7-piece outfit -- which includes three guitarists -- was superb, providing formidable muscle and rendering airtight renditions of GNR classics such as "Mr. Brownstone," "It's So Easy" and "Sweet Child O' Mine." No one in the current band has the stage presence or charisma of Slash or even Buckethead, the bizarro guitarist who handled weirdo duties on the band's last outing, but then that's the point: This is Rose's show, just as Rose has always wanted it.

Rose, by the way, remains utterly transfixing, and he dominated Saturday's show front to finish -- even when he was off-stage, which was a good deal of the time. Rose darted off stage whenever his vocal duties weren't immediately required, whether during brief or horribly elongated solos.

When on-stage, though, he was a monster. Though his voice wavers in and out even in the course of single notes -- arguably, Rose's squawk is about 60 percent shot -- he stone-cold nailed a number of songs, offering urgent, essential renditions of "Out Ta Get Me" and "Nightrain." He hit all his signature stage moves -- arms outstretched, shuffling across stage, propelling himself with one leg while balancing with the other; dashing across the stage at full speed and suddenly screeching to a halt, before hitting notes so hard it seemed he was going to burst a blood vessel in his forehead -- and he did so with purpose. Unlike on 2002's sometimes cartoonish jaunt, this Guns N' Roses looks trained and ready to get in the ring.

Rose, meantime, performed with vitality and vigor, as if his worth, legacy and future were all on the line. All were in strong standing at the close of the show.

Not that there aren't wrinkles that need to be ironed out. The 19-song, 130-minute show suffered from deadly pacing problems; each of the three guitarists was granted his own extraneous, momentum-killing guitar solo, and Dizzy Reed was given his own piano solo. And '80s relic (and opening act) Sebastian Bach joined Rose for a duet on "My Michelle," which would have been better served by Rose himself.

Rose seemed in good spirits Saturday, early on addressing "the good people of Auburn Hills" and later attempting to explain his late arrival time. "For me, this is morning," Rose said at just after 12:15 a.m., "so consider me your Captain Kangaroo."

What's next for the Captain? The Big Questions about the band still remain, and "Chinese Democracy" was never mentioned by name Saturday. But as Guns N' Roses took a well-deserved bow at the end of the evening, minds were elsewhere.

"I think it's been a good night, don't you think?" Rose said near the close of the show. It was, and for now that's enough.

You can reach Adam Graham at (313) 222-2284, or at agraham@detnews.com.


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