Guns 'N' Roses
House of Blues Sunset
March 12, 2012
Axl Rose's version of Guns 'N' Roses (he was the only original member of the band onstage last night) should've given me up and down and inside out goosebumps at the House of Blues on Sunset last night. The band played all the songs I've loved since I bought Appetite For Destruction on tape with my own money: “Mr. Brownstone,” “You're Crazy,” “Welcome to the Jungle.” He played in a sold-out venue that housed 1300, max. Clad in a leather jacket and black, studded hat, Axl slid and snaked up and down the stage like he did as a young 'un, and he growl-whined and hit all the high notes properly. Despite all this, the show failed to grab me by the gut.
The show, which started shortly after midnight, lasted almost three hours. (Yes, at 2:15 a.m., GNR were still going strong). And for the most part, it was an experience not to be missed. Axl Rose was back on Sunset Strip–his old stomping grounds. It should've been legendary. But it was mostly, it was like watching a movie remake of a favorite TV show (cough, 21 Jump Street, cough). There were vestiges of the real thing, and it's made to look and sound like the real thing, but it wasn't the real thing. (One of my favorite metaphysical moments of the night was the guitarist donned a hat and an unlit cigarette, ala Slash, to perform “Sweet Child O' Mine. Did that really happen? Yes, it did.)
The biggest reason for my disappointment was, obviously, because it wasn't really Guns 'N'
Roses onstage–Rose is accompanied by a group of very accomplished
musicians, and there were technically no low moments. There was GNR keyboardist Dizzy Reed, guitarists DJ Ashba, Richard Fortus and Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, bassist Tommy Stinson, drummer Frank Ferrer and keyboardist Chris Pitman. But whatever illusion there was of GNR being a real band dissipated whenever Axl left the stage, leaving the rest of his bandmates the spotlight. They soloed magnificently, but they were solos built around famous rock & roll songs, such as “Teenage Wasteland” and “The Wall.” It made it seemed like GNR's new members were part of the biggest cover band in the world. While all that instrumental fodder was going on, Axl left the stage to change his outfits (new leather jacket, new hats) or go to the bathroom.
The second biggest reason it was disappointing? Axl just doesn't seem badass enough anymore. Even when they brought Sebastian Bach onstage, it just…didn't stoke the fire. When Guns 'N' Roses were the biggest band in the world, he was the perfect frontman. Aggressive, entitled, mysterious and dangerous. Now, with bandmates who look half his age, who kind of look like his former (more famous) bandmates, and an audience more prone to checking in on their babysitters than ripping their shirts off and crowdsurfing, it seems the edge is gone. And this version of GNR seems more than ever like a parody of itself.
Critic's Bias: Appetite for Destruction was the first tape I ever bought with my own money.
The Crowd: Older, sedate, sleepy, boozy.
Overheard in the crowd: (From a guy wearing a GNR shirt–yes, at the show!) “I've had this shirt since 1987. This is a classic!”
Random notebook dump: I was positive I was standing beside Luke Wilson at the show until he got yelled at by the merch guy for touching the display. So maybe it wasn't him. Lana Del Rey was also at the show.