John Labatt Centre

30th 2002
Guns n Roses concert review


London Concert Review #4

By John McIsaac


CKY was about as good as we expected: Not at all. Pretty standard stuff: A bunch of young guys that have the "we don't buy into conventional music" mentality, go out and thrash the shit out of their instruments and ultimately sound completely indistinguishable from thousands of other crappy bands. Therefore, ironically, negating the very individuality they're trying so hard to attain. There was nothing memorable about this band other than the moment they walked off stage. I remember that being pretty sweet.

MixMaster Mike :

I missed some of Mike's show as I used this time to seek out a beer and the john. After suffering through the always-pleasant experience of hanging out in a urine-infested shitter with eighteen other guys, all drunk and loud, each smelling worse than the last, I finally found my way back to my seat. One minute after I sat down, I was having fond memories of the crapper.

MixMaster Mike must be seen to be believed. And by "believed", I mean, "I can't believe this asshole's opening for Guns N' Roses." An eternity of some fool in a square box spinning albums on a turntable and yelling things like "It's time to transform!" and "Time to go back!" into a microphone, each sentence ending in "y'all!"

He'd occasionally throw a good album on (like classic Beastie Boys or Metallica) and let it play for a few seconds, but ultimately he always found a way to fuck things up. The crowd would roar when a good song came on and Mike would mistakenly think it was him they were cheering for. This only added to his ambitions of shitiness and, unfortunately, my misery. I can't imagine myself sober at this point and not having the urge to kill myself. Eventually Mike wound things up and all was right with the world. By my watch the entire concert was a little over 4.5 hours and yet Mike managed to play for a week.


There was a good long wait between MixMaster Mike and GN'R. Luckily there were an extraordinary number of young women that couldn't rip their tops off fast enough just to get on the big screen. Two cameras prowled the arena (house lights were up) looking for hot chicks, focused in on them, and then let nature take its course. It was fairly entertaining stuff, too, but knowing GN'R was backstage getting ready was far more distracting than a set of jigglies. After almost an hour of this it began to feel like a massive date-rape, or at least the pretext to one, so I wasn't disappointed when the house lights suddenly dimmed.


Nobody can hear the opening notes of Welcome To The Jungle without getting a little chill. However, when those notes are played live, nobody can hear them without screaming like a wounded gorilla and hugging a total stranger like he was Axl himself. The band did a funky little opening where they'd start the intro, stop. Start again, stop. And then the song really began. The stage lights went up, the fireworks went off, and 10,000 fans roared their approval as Axl Rose streaked to the front of the stage in a red Team Canada hockey jersey. Doubts about Axl's voice disappeared about 4 seconds into Jungle as he picked up right where he left off 10 years ago. The band sounded fantastic and immediately made you forgive them for not being the original band.

Axl spent much of the concert doing what he does best: tearing around the stage and blasting out the vocals. The stage wasn't as big as what we've seen in previous concerts and with all the band members up there it looked a little crowded at times. Three guitarists, a bass player, two guys on keyboards and a drummer, plus Axl himself. However, a welcome omission from previous concerts was the absence of a horn section, backup singers or cheese-eating harmonica players. I never felt these things added a whole lot to the show and they weren't missed last night.

Take one part "great", combine with equal parts "weird" and "what the fuck?", garnish with KFC and serve loud. That's the recipe for this version of GN'R. Even the biggest Guns fan had to take a moment at some point in the show and try to get a visual handle on what in hell they were looking at. Some guy in a t-shirt...another in plaid pants....a freakshow in white bodysuit with tie....and Buckethead.

Many a night I've left the house wearing a death-mask and chicken bucket on my head, but I've never pulled it off like Buckethead does. Axl (in Leaf jersey) told a story about aliens and chicken coops and some other stuff that was hard to understand for the volume level (too loud) during his introduction of Buckethead. At this point Bucket put down the guitar, picked up nunchuks and gave a brief demonstration before doing an even briefer robot dance. It was kinda neat but it seemed really short compared to what I've heard about other concerts (and he disappointed by not tossing the nunchuks into the crowd). His guitar solo immediately following was great, displaying a style of play much different than Slash but no less skilled. The theme from Star Wars went over well, as did his finale of It's A Small World. This song looped on a recording as Bucket took up a bag of toys and handed them out to fans in the front rows (they appeared to be action figures in their original packaging). For all the weirdness, though, the guy can play. REALLY play. And, he was wearing a cape. You can never go wrong with a cape.

The set list was heavily dependent on Appetite with a few Illusion standards thrown in. Off the top of my head I remember Jungle, It's So Easy, Live and Let Die, Out Ta Get Me, Knockin' On Heaven's Door, Mr. Brownstone, Sweet Child, November Rain, You Could Be Mine, Patience, My Michelle, Rocket Queen, Nightrain and Paradise City (the encore). Every song sounded great, with little variations from the old versions here and there but for the most part very true to the original songs. I did see a few negatives (trust me, these were MINOR compared to the positives). There was no crowd involvement during Knockin' On Heaven's Door, which seemed somewhat subdued, and November Rain felt rushed and rough, like they were playing it because the fans expected them to. Axl plunked around on the piano for a bit prior to the song, but appeared to be having too good a time. Nobody enjoys seeing Axl in a good mood more than I do, but for a song like November Rain you want Axl to buy into his rock-god reputation, take himself far too seriously and set a dramatic mood. These songs still kicked-ass, I just thought they could have kicked more ass.

The new songs that Axl threw into the mix sounded really good and give hope for the future. Madagascar sounded fantastic, as did Chinese Democracy. Dizzy Reed came down to play the center-stage grand piano during the awesome Silkworms, highlighted by Axl singing while standing on the piano. Dizzy looks like he's lost about 40 pounds since we last saw him and was sporting out-of-control long hair that was kinda girly-looking. I've always thought Dizzy was a few goofy grins away from being a member of Barenaked Ladies, but last night he looked more like Dizzy Spice.

Axl threw on a London Knights jersey (local Ontario Hockey League team) for the final few songs of the show, guaranteeing himself another huge ovation from the sold-out and VERY pro-GNíR crowd. His voice never faltered and sounded outstanding all night in every song. He's put together a band that can really, really play the shit out of the old material and it will be interesting to see what they come out with in the future.

The John Labatt Centre was a great place to watch the concert. It was big enough to make you feel like it was a true arena show, yet small enough that even the worst seats were given a clear view. There was a long wait between Mike and GN'R, but if I wanted Axl-on-demand I'd throw in a concert video and stay home. I would have liked to have seen a number of songs that weren't played (Estranged, for starters) but they can't play them all. I had hoped for a good, loud concert that did justice to the old band, and I wasn't disappointed. Although this version of GN'R doesn't have the same close-knit feeling to it that the old band did, they do have the talent to make the old material sound fantastic and allow Axl to write some exciting new songs.

Axl Rose? Hasn't lost a step or a note. This concert was amazing and we only have him to thank. See you at the next one.

Related page:
-London concert page

June 19, 2006 08:51:24 AM