One-hundred minutes. That’s how long it took Axl Rose and his current incarnation of Guns N’ Roses to take the stage at the Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on October 31st AFTER the 9:00pm start time actually listed on the damn ticket. While a local opening band called 333 did their best to placate the crowd with their brand of NICKELBACK-lite alt metal (and came back and played an additional 20 minutes AFTER “Thank you, good night!”), the groans from within the crowd grew louder with each passing minute. Was that bastard going to screw his audience AGAIN, even on the first night of a lengthy residency in Vegas? Would the headlines about Axl’s erratic behavior once again take center stage over the guy’s unbelievable talents? Would this guy flat-out suck? Anyone who has witnessed the train wreck that occurred at the band’s recent Bridge School Benefit gig surely couldn’t know what in the world to expect as the lights finally dimmed on the Joint’s stage. Would this much-hyped string of shows be the final nail in the coffin for one of Rock’s most incendiary acts?
Not a chance. When Guns N’ Roses hit the stage, Axl’s tardiness simply didn’t matter. With the opening surge of 'Chinese Democracy', it became instantly obvious that the show was going to deliver. The seven-piece backing band was flawless, while Axl’s agile stage moves and shockingly-strong voice provided an instant reminder of why this band (even in its radically re-configured current form) was still worthy of a fuck being given about them by the world-at-large in 2012. By the time the band reached the one-hour point, they were simply the greatest band on the planet. When Axl let out his explosive wail during 'Live And Let Die', you could hear the collective gasp of thousands who were now fully aware that the guy still has it. Highlights included a fiery 'It’s So Easy', 'Mr. Brownstone' and 'You Could Be Mine'.
While the current Guns N’ Roses is undeniably the Axl Rose Show, the other players each received their own moment to shine, ranging from a punky solo number from former REPLACEMENTS bassist Tommy Stinson to Richard Fortus’ shitkicking, country-flavored run at the spotlight. Every second of these skillful solo excursions made it clear why these players got their gig in GNR. Unlike the old days, you can’t be a fuckup and be a member of Guns N’ Roses.
Of course, the show had its flaws. The needlessly complex light show was matched only by the seemingly random video presentations (something about dolphins and ballerinas… I think) that attempted – and failed – to steal attention from the action coming from the band itself. (Besides, who needs all this shit when your frontman is Axl Rose?) While Vegas is Vegas, it would have been great if the band stripped away some of this glitz in favor of the grime that made the original band so intriguing. (It also would have been great if at least one member fucked up a bunch of notes and then passed out drunk, but I digress.) AND it would have been great if a fair portion of the crowd (this writer included) didn’t have to split two-thirds into the show due to the late start.
But waiting so long is a small price to pay in order to experience one of America’s truly extraordinary rock performers. It’s been two decades since Guns N’ Roses ruled the world, but Axl Rose proved on Halloween that this band has nothing to do with nostalgia. Guns N’ Roses lives in the here and now, and anyone who loves true Rock N’ Roll is better for it.
Now, if only that guy could improve his time management skills...
Check out more photos from the gig courtesy of the Hard Rock Hotel And Casino Las Vegas here.
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The two and a half hour Guns N' Roses setlist featured the following:
'Welcome To The Jungle'
'It's So Easy'
Richard Fortus Guitar Solo
'Live and Let Die'
'This I Love'
'Motivation' (Tommy Stinson song)
Dizzy Reed Piano Solo
'Street of Dreams'
'You Could Be Mine'
DJ Ashba Guitar Solo (Ballad of Death)
'Sweet Child O' Mine'
'Another Brick in the Wall Part 2' (with Axl on piano)
'Glad to Be Here' (Bumblefoot cover)
'Don't Let It Bring You Down'
'Knockin' on Heaven's Door'
Check out fan-filmed footage below: