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The Las Vegas Weekly
  Date: December 30, 2001   |  Local time: 6:56AM   |  Weather
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The grand return of G N' R--again

The new n' improved Axl doesn't suck as much as you might think

By Richard Fenkel

We can see it already, crowds pack into the warehouse-like Joint, bumping and pushing one another, waiting grumpily in the booze line for a half-hour, just trying to find a spot to wedge themselves in to watch the concert event of the new year.

About two or three hours into this song and dance, out steps the notorious Axl Rose--lead singer for G N' R. And also the social hermit who's infamous for his chronic lateness.

Hey, Vegas, welcome to the Joint, time for n' games.

If you're still looking for something to do on New Year's Eve, you could possibly still catch one of the hardest rock bands to come out of the '80s. The legendary Sunset Strippers--equal parts heavy and hair metal--Guns N' Roses are gonna be back in Vegas.

Last New Year's Eve, Guns N' Roses put on, for one night only at the House of Blues, probably the most talked-about comeback of 2001--a comeback who's hype fizzled out by mid-January, and by summer we didn't even care any more.

First and foremost, please remove any preconceived notions that Axl's new band sucks. The new group elicits thoughts of pure, unadulterated talent. It won't be difficult sitting through any of the two upcoming shows. It's an opportunity to listen and watch a former recluse and precarious frontman reclaim--or attempt to reclaim--his previous rock 'n' roll glory.

Axl is a new man. I'm not referring to him as being "born again" in a biblical sense, thank God. Simply put, I'm referring to his demeanor and interaction with fans. In the past, Axl was infamous for his tumultuous outbursts--hey, if someone threw a bottle at you, you'd be pissed off, too. Needless to say, he's older and wiser now. The days of throwing temper tantrums are over. Walking off stage isn't an option in Axl's play book anymore. He needs all the help he can get just re-launching his G N' R affair.

At the same time, Axl hasn't lost his edge. He's still got that voice. He's sounding better than ever in his role as frontman of this always controversial and so-called dangerous band. His stage presence complements the chemistry of his new super group.

If last year's show was any indication, he'll re-hash much of the original G N' R's material. Axl and Co. will likely perform many songs from Appetite For Destruction, such as "Night Train," "Mr. Brownstone" and "Rocket Queen," while throwing in a bunch of stuff from Use Your Illusion I and II.

Audiences may miss Slash, Izzy, Duff and Steven, but the lineup change is positive and adds a creative edge. In fact, when Izzy Stradlin and Steven Adler parted ways, they were replaced by two talented guys, Gilby Clarke and Matt Sorum. The only original member joining Axl on stage this time will be keyboardist Dizzy Reed. The lineup from the last year's show
also included Robin Finck, Kentucky Friend Chicken's favorite spokesperson, Buckethead, Paul Tobias, former Replacement Tommy Stinson and Brian "Brain" Mantia.

These guys are extraordinarily animated, much like past members, so it won't be a bore. Sure, fans might miss Slash with his black tophat, sunglasses and a cigarette dangling out of his mouth. But Buckethead sports a mask over his face and a KFC bucket over his head. You gotta love that. But recent rumors suggest that Buckethead's presence is questionable due to past medical problems, so we'll see.

The G N' R look is obviously different from those who did their tour of duty from '87 to '93--especially noticeable is Axl's beefed-up frame. Like an inmate biding his time, he must've been hitting the weights. One thing is for sure, this new group of musicians should be ready to perform after sitting on their asses for practically a year.

And that's nothing compared to the time it's taken to make the album. Axl has been working on this "new" album for supposedly about five years. The working title is Chinese Democracy, and it features new songs called "The Blues," "Silk Worm," and "Madagascar," which are also possible fodder for the upcoming shows.

So, another New Year's, another G N' R show. But, while the world may know exactly where Axl is for one night, the question remains--will he still be able to rock? Or will he disappear back into oblivion?

Come on, boys, get in the ring.

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