It would appear that Axl Rose thrives under pressure; last year he took on the difficult role of filling in for Brian Johnson on the last part of the AC/DC world tour which he did superbly and now he is attempting to produce more of the same with the reformed Guns N’ Roses line-up, the first time they have played together in 24 years.
The anticipation for this was extremely high. There seemed to be an almost nervous energy in the air. On the one hand, we have one of the greatest rock and roll bands of their generation, with a back catalogue that would make any band jealous… yet on the other a temperamental singer who (if put bluntly) has taken his fame, his fans and his position for granted over the years, with no shows, late shows, hired hands painting the hits by numbers. And this is even before we mention those dreadlocks; and in particular, the UK seemed to have received the brunt of this disregard.
The Atmosphere: Pre-gig, with beautiful sunshine, beer gardens overflowing and the open expansiveness of the Olympic Park setting, excitement was running pretty high. For some, this had been a lifetime in happening. So, it was a surprise to me and most people there when at 7.40pm an announcement was made that Gun N’ Roses were going to take to the stage in 5 minutes (Yes, such was the surprise it warranted its own announcement).
What an opening it was as well – “It’s So Easy”, “Mr Brownstone”, “Chinese Democracy” and “Welcome to the Jungle”. If you watched the small video clip of the crowd interaction we posted on Facebook on Saturday you will know that excitement carried through. There was a genuine party atmosphere down in the standing area as these classics were knocked out and this goodwill and great feeling carried throughout the gig.
There is no doubt whatsoever, that this was a gig everyone had been waiting for and there was no disappointment from Gun N’ Roses in terms of impact and song delivery, though I think when it comes to individual performances that’s more open to debate. They killed it at this gig. The singalong on tracks like “November Rain” versus the general all round excitement of hearing the guitar solos kick in on tracks like “Welcome to the Jungle” was testament to this.
Set List: This is always going to be another debate for people. Did they play your favourite song? For me they got it just about right, perhaps too many ballads but then they made their name on them as much as anything else. Whatever your thoughts, one aspect that is not debatable is that they tried to fit your favourite song in with a set that lasted 3 hours 15 minutes.
For me, anything from “Appetite for Destruction” was going to make my gig and they did not disappoint blasting it out with the energy with which it was written. A pet peeve of mine is when bands change to a softer sound as they develop and then play all the songs in their set in that new style – no such complaints here. I was also impressed with their choice of covers with the best being Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun”, greeted with a massive cheer and proving to be a fitting tribute.
Performance: As a full band delivery, you could not fault them. Did they triumph at the Olympic Stadium? Yes, they did, they proved all they ever had to do was turn up (on time) and play their hearts out and most fans would love them forever and this is what they did in London.
The focus, as you would expect though, was always going to fall directly onto Slash and Axl themselves. Did they live up to the expectations? I have heard one of two people mention they did not feel that Slash performed to his best but for me he did the job he needed to do. The expectation for him in this role was always going to be beyond the reality.
And Axl, love him or hate him, he is a performer. What a voice and vocal range he has. He never stopped in these three hours and obviously reveled in the audience singing back. The only comment I would make – and I am not sure if this was because I was not as close to the front as I was at Manchester (because of the Gold Circle Area which for me is just a way to get people to spend even more money and forces the pit and everyone else further back into the stadium) – but his crowd interaction was almost non-existent. I think he may have spoken once in the entire gig. He also was not as relaxed and friendly with the other band members as last year with AC/DC. This could just be down to feeling that pressure and wanting to perform and cement the GNR legacy. If they had fallen at this reunion I feel the negative reputation may outlive the true legacy of the songs.
So, Guns N’ Roses are back. They were everything you could have ever wanted them to be and they played their hearts out. The atmosphere created from the positivity of the crowd was precipitated by effort and performance. I think that legacy is safe (for now).
- It’s So Easy
- Mr. Brownstone
- Chinese Democracy
- Welcome to the Jungle
- Double Talkin’ Jive
- Live and Let Die (Wings cover)
- Rocket Queen
- You Could Be Mine
- Attitude (Misfits cover)
- This I Love
- Civil War
- Speak Softly Love (Nino Rota cover)
- Sweet Child O’ Mine
- My Michelle
- Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd cover)
- November Rain
- Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan cover)
- Black Hole Sun (Soundgarden cover)
- The Seeker (The Who cover)
- Paradise City