15th 2002
Guns n Roses concert


Fargo Concert Review #1

From "Dusty"

I walked into the FargoDome with nearly 10 years of pent-up frustration, excitement and expectation burning inside me. The last time I had seen this band was during the 1993 Skin & Bones tour (the mini-tour that followed the Illusion tour with Metallica). As an incredibly-obsessed GNR fan, it was hard to sit through the opening acts. But I managed somehow. I’ll cover them briefly.

CKY was a good band although I found myself wanting to hate them. Their lead guitarist was a drunken baffoon who liked the sound of his own voice way too much. Between every song, this guy grabbed the mike and made some stupid comment. He was like the drunken idiot at a party that you try to distance yourself from soothers won’t think you know him. Same thing here -every time he spoke, you cringed and didn’t want anyone to know that you liked this band. The problem was -- as soon as he stopped talking and the band played, you got into it again. The band was really good - punk metal, a lot of intensity and heart. It was an enjoyable set of tunes.

There was about a 45 minute break between CKY and MixMaster Mike. As a person who respects the Beasties, I was curious to see this guy and see how it all worked in an arena setting. After seeing it, I’m still not sure what to think. I can’t really say anything bad and there were some moments that were really cool, but it didn’t blow me away. Pretty vanilla stuff. His singing moment was mixing in “Intergalactic Planetary”. The crowd loved that part. I thought it would have been cool for  him to mix in a little GNRs somewhere just to show some appreciation for the gig, but it didn’t happen.

OK, so Mix Master finished up at 9:15. At this point I have no idea how long it will be until GNR comes on. The security guard at the building’s entrance had told us that Axl didn’t go on in Minneapolis the night before until 10:45 so I was prepared for a long wait. I quickly got a refill of beer and was back in my seat in the center stage front section by 9:30. At 10:00 on the nose, the lights went out. The place exploded. Iwas expecting the Exorcist intro to start up, but instead the familiar riffs of “Welcome to the Jungle" screeched out and I knew that all the waiting was finally over. A high-pitched wailing grew louder over the guitars and then the lights turned on to showcase the legendary recluse - W. Axl Rose. Sporting the local NDSU hockey team jersey and black running pants, he was, in one quick moment, back atop the rock scene. This guy has taken his fair share of  shots from skeptics, journalists and other bands, but no one can deny that he has a stage presence about him that cannot be matched - by anyone.  Even at age 40 and yes a little more bulky compared to the strung-out Brownstone days in his twenties, this guy is still running around the stage like a wild man. It was nice to see. The patented “hip sway” and “standing kick dance with the mic stand” was in perfect form. The guy, simply put, knows how to put on a rock show. Apparently some things don’t have to change.

The most surprising part of the show for me was the how intriguing the new guys are. As a GNR fan I didn't want see the original band break up, but I understood why it happened. I certainly raised my eyebrows when a man named Buckethead was brought into the lineup and learned that he performed a robot dance and twirledknum-chucks on stage. It seemed freakish to say the least and a far cry from a top-hated bluesy partier whose great loves were guitars, strip bars and JackDaniels.. But, like many GNR fans, I was loyal to Axl and was most definitely willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Even though I had heard several bootlegs and seen the MTV VMA’s, I still walked into the FargoDome worried that these new characters were going to seem out of place and like a sideshow. I was more than surprised at how well these guys fit in -- I was floored. Even though it is clear that Kurt Loder has an infatuation with Axl or some financial tie to their success, I would have to agree with his assessment - this is a great band! The dueling guitars of Finck and Buckethead are magical out there. Finck enjoys playing the old songs. You can see it as you watch him. Buckethead is simply brilliant and seems to have an increasingly growing fan base (especially with the young crowd). There were several fans sporting buckets in the crowd. While Buckethead is stoic in posture, he has a stage presence of his own that cannot be denied. He oddness is intriguing which makes you focus on him. Then while your focused on these absurdities, you realize quickly that he’s the most talented guitarist you have ever seen. I like Slash and won’t ever discredit what he did in the past, but the cold hard truth is --if he wanted to play in this band right now, he would be the third best player out there. Then there’s Fortus. Wow, he does bring energy. He's a nice compliment to Buckethead and Finck. Fortus brings you the raw, “rock show” demeanor that fans want to see. I have to say that Dizzy, Chris, Tommy and Brain are left in the shadows. I’m sure as videos are released and there is increased exposure, these guys will become more featured, but when lined up next to Axl, Buckethead , Finck and even Fortus, there is no choice but to put them in the backseat for awhile. You could also get the feeling quickly that these guys like playing the material and like playing together. That is good news for the future of GNR.

There were so many highlights. For me, “ChineseDemocracy” stole the show. I have heard this bootleg many times in the last few years and thought it was good but couldn’t get a good feel for what it would sound like in studio or in person. The bootlegs are nice to have, but losing quality, can sometimes hurt the evaluation of a song. This song is hard, aggressive and in your face from start to finish. I can't decide which was better - the actual song or the stage show. As soon as those first hard riffs blasted out of Finck’s guitar, streams of fire shot up about ten feet high from all corners of the stage. Standing15 rows back from the stage, I could feel the heat immediately. The band seemed to step it up a notch during this song also; almost like they had been saving themselves for this one. The stage flames continued throughout the song as Axl & Co. ripped through the new tune with confidence and a bit of nastiness that was so apparent back in the glory days. The crowd really liked this song. It is a song that better represents what GNR is - a rock band. While like Madagascar and the Blues, these are Axl songs that could have very well been on the Illusion albums. Good tunes but slow and emotional and they feel like early 90’s GNR. I get the feeling that the new album will be more like the title cut, at least I’m hoping so.

Some other highlights: Axl thanking the crowd for coming and saying he understands how we could have all been skeptical -- a nice touch of humility for a guy who gets labeled an egomaniac on a regular basis.  The stage show was very elaborate, much more than the old days. A shower of sparks fell from the stage top over Axl’s piano during November Rain which was really cool. There were lots of pyro explosions throughout but surprisingly the song “Out to Get Me” got some of the extra stage specialties. The song started with a video of a small town sheriff closing the cell door son someone and then saying “Enjoy your stay with us now”. Then they broke into the song. Near the end several explosions went off as well as a really intense light show. Paradise City was just as you thought it would be - breathtaking. The booming explosions and the confetti just like on the VMA’s. Here’s the set list with some details:·

Welcome to the Jungle - (Axl’s voice was, at times, overpowered by the band)
It’s So Easy
Mr. Brownstone
Live and Let Die (explosions throughout)
Think About You
Knocking on Heaven’s Door
You Could Be Mine
Sweet Child O’Mine
(Axl introduced Finck who then ripped out the intro)
Out to Get Me (opening sheriff video, lots of pyro and lights)
Buckethead solo (Funny intro by Axl. He said something to the effect of “Ladies and Gentlemen, a man who was left by aliens in a chicken coop, Mr.Buckethead”
November Rain (Axl does a goofy piano intro where he bangs on the keys and then turns and looks at the crowd egging on applause. He does this several times before breaking into the song).
Rocket Queen (Intro: Axl says “Give me some funk”)
Madagascar (I was waiting for the video images of the movie “Casualties of War” but it wasn’t there, just audio of Sean Penn and Michael J. Fox)
The Blues (Axl introduced Dizzy)
Chinese Democracy (highlight of the show, towers of flame, lots of lighting, great song)
My Michelle
(With the stage completely dark, Axl says “you didn’t think we were done yet did you? Then they break into the song)
Nighttrain (Buckethead actually got down a little bit in this one. He climbed the steps to the riser with Brain and jammed awhile. He was into it..)
Paradise City (Fink solo which was well received led into the finale. Pyro. Lights. Confetti. Awesome.) Left wanting more. Now just waiting for the single and the album

Related pages:
-Fargo concert page
-Fargo concert setlist

June 17, 2006 10:12:16 AM