When you go to a Guns N Roses concert, like I did on Thursday, January 28 at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, there are a couple of things you can count on. Seeing copious amounts of bandanas and tasselled leather, for one. The possibility of a riot breaking out any night. And whatever the incarnation, the near-ironclad guarantee that the band will take the stage later than anticipated.
Even knowing all this going in, I wasnt expecting what the guesstimated 15,000 or so fans at the ACC did when it became obvious that GNR werent going to start until 11:30 PM at least, something I cant say Ive EVER heard at a concert before.
They began booing. LOUDLY.
And Im talking vicious, Maple Leafs-winless-in-six-games catcalls. Not even quick shots the two video screens kept displaying of women flashing their bras and thongs were enough to keep the restless crowd entertained.
Once Axl Rose and his new friends emerged through the pyrotechnics accompanying opener “Chinese Democracy”, all seemed forgiven. It was fleeting, though, as fatigue had definitely set in. The familiar riff to Welcome to the Jungle that followed kept folks awake, but it was only for one more song.
I give Guns N Roses 2010 full marks for trying their darness to put on a good show despite everyone in the building going comatose all at once. They were very good, better than I thought theyd be. I KNOW I would have enjoyed them a heck of a lot more had they gone on an hour earlier!
What guitarists Richard Fortus, DJ Ashba, and Ron Bumblefoot Thal may be lacking in live recklessness compared to the original lineup is more than made up for in musical professionalism. (Late start time aside!)
Not only did they breathe new life into classics such as “You Could Be Mine” and even “Sweet Child o Mine”, each was given an opportunity to shine in the spotlight while Axl changed outfits more times than Beyoncé or Céline Dion combined!
Ashba, in particular, was on fire during his solo. (Seriously, there seemed to be some kind of smoke emitting off of him as he rocked out!)
I didnt even mind listening to most of the songs from Chinese Democracy, although nine out of a setlist of 25 songs was a little too much for my liking. A nice touch was when Axl dedicated “Catcher in the Rye” to the author he named the track after, J.D. Salinger, who had passed away earlier in the day at age 91.
Not to be outdone, Axl provided a serious highlight of the night (Or would that be morning?) by covering Elton Johns “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” on piano before segueing into “November Rain”, complete with oversized sparklers!
While certainly impressive at times, I couldnt help saying to myself repeatedly how this just wasnt worth staying up for. Sorry Axl; I know you probably dont care that my kids had school the next day, or that Id have to take a cab because the buses and subway in Toronto stop running at 1:30. Not many of us get to sleep in like you do, you know?
Mercifully, we DIDNT get a 3 hour performance, as the band has been doing with surprising frequency since embarking on this Canadian tour a few weeks ago — Making my way out as “Paradise City” sent us all home into the night just before 2 AM as confetti and streamers went off was MORE than enough for this old-time rocker, thank you very much!
I was really, really hoping that I would be convinced that Axl Roses new and improved version of GNR deserved my support. Ive been a fan since 1988, but Im not someone who continuously pines for the names of yore, the ones we all know and love — Slash Izzy Duff Adler Get over it folks; a reunion with Axl aint never gonna happen, and not for all the money in the world, apparently.
Maybe its my tiredness thats still talking, but the payoff just wasnt there for me. Thats not to say there isnt potential — Get your $#!% together, Axl, stop jerking us around, and start your shows at a decent time. You have a lot of fans whod be willing to give you one more chance, myself included.
Welcome to the Jungle
Its So Easy
Richard Fortus Guitar Solo (James Bond Theme)
Live and Let Die
If the World
Dizzy Reed Piano Solo
Street of Dreams
Catcher in the Rye
DJ Ashba Guitar Solo
Sweet Child o Mine
Axl Rose Piano Solo (Someone Saved My Life Tonight by Elton John)
Bumblefoot Guitar Solo (The Pink Panther Theme)
You Could Be Mine
Knockin on Heavens Door
This I Love