Tash Anestos December 31st 2001 Las Vegas concert review

Guns N’ Roses
Concert Review:New Years Eve 2001
Location & Time:
Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
Las Vegas, Nevada, 12-31-01
The Joint 11:00 pm – 1:15 am

It was New Years Eve, 2001, and amidst the party-going tourists of Las Vegas, Nevada, stood a different sort of crowd. An assemblage that seemed to know something others did not. A populace that appeared to hold a key that would unlock something very special in the years to come. As if the New Year had already come and gone, this multitude mused at the passerby’s that came in search of a different party, a bigger fad, another high that they inwardly hoped would be the jackpot to fill a self-conscious void. Late afternoon formed this small s-shaped line of collaborators in the front of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. The serpentine line slowly protracted around the cemented perimeter of the hotel as the sun dipped below the horizon. An almost-full moon peeked out from the palm trees and rested its beam upon a lighted billboard that exhibited a Chinese scripted logo of the last great rock and roll band; Guns N’ Roses.

As the logo suggested, the band had changed. But, as all great things that morph into something greater, the change was inevitably a predestined evolution. For the fans, it came as a fork in the road. Axl Rose, now the only remaining band-member from the Appetite for Destruction lineup that successfully sold more than 20 million copies, seemed to be directing the traffic. If only the masses could hear that inner voice. If only they would yield briefly to try to understand his 2000 intentions, his vision, his coup de maitre…Chinese Democracy, the forthcoming and long-awaited follow-up to Use Your Illusion I & II, seven years in the making. Resultantly, those tied to the grain of GN’R’s past tended to desperately criticize that which they did not understand. Like most great thinkers throughout history, Rose was misunderstood, now by even those who once faithfully followed him as heralds of societal change. Just as the followers of Thomas Edison localized themselves by believing that nothing greater could exist beyond the power of DC electricity, those without a Slash-less vision were left standing, bewildered at that fork in the road. Some could be seen within the crowd that awaited an open door into the New Year’s celebration, uncertainty in their eyes. Alternatively, like those who acknowledged the possibilities cradled within Nikola Tesla’s unconformity, watching stage side as he weaved dreams of transporting electricity across the miles through AC current, there were those who sensed the vision of Rose, and effortlessly followed his footsteps to the right. This new band, this monstrous magnetic convergence of fate, heralding underground ingenious artists such as Buckethead, Robin Finck, and Tommy Stinson possibly holds the ingredients to not only repeat history, but to glue it together as an artistic abstract that could easily be the foundation for a new musical genre. This is the new Guns N’ Roses. They are:

The Band
Axl Rose – lead vocals, piano, composer, visionary
Buckethead – lead guitars, emotionalist, enigmatic
Paul Tobias – rhythm guitars, melodist, contrapuntist
Robin Finck – lead guitars, oneirocritic, utopist
Tommy Stinson – bass guitars, reparteeist
Dizzy Reed – keyboards, synthesizers, digital fractalist
Chris Pitman – keyboards, synthesizers, SFX, phantasmagorist
Brain – drums, percussion, nucleus, da capo

And the doors opened. And the fans closed in. The venue was alive, Guns N’ Roses; the heartbeat behind the curtain. Hours in waiting paced onward as Robert John prepped his photography equipment, stopping momentarily to chat with a few of us about his photography website, www.fusedarts.com. After a concept-veined introduction that leaned toward the direction of monopolistic conspiracy that only a few fans really understood, the more than 50 monitors briefly ceased. A voice pitched high “Do you know where the fuck you are???” and the lights blazed. It was a voice that had shifted from times past, a more powerful, cleaner, yet an ever-so familiar, unchallengeable voice. And the show began.

As Welcome to the Jungle marched on, intertwined in the screams emitting from the crazed crowd, the rhythm section carried a tempo more solid and alive than the GN’R of times past. The percussion breakdown digressed and Robin Finck, dressed in a red jumpsuit, leaned up against the mike stand, sliding his guitar back and forth across it, intently listening for the chaotic harmonics of slide-improvisation. It was brilliant. It was not Slash. Axl Rose, clad in white leather and a Kansas City Chief’s sports jersey, delivered, hitting notes that a young Rose would have only hoped he could have pulled off without a gruff rasp controlling the range. With a rumor-stomping attitude, Axl bellowed the final chorus, abdomen tightly clenched, rippled with muscle. By the time the song had ended, the majority of the crowd was able to interpret the energy, the feeling, the improvisation alive with ingenuity, for what it was intended to be; an evolution from the old band…not a comparison, but a vision showing signs of life.

The drums were on a high-rise which sported Brain who was drumming tighter and more solid than in his previous debut. It was more than a small leap. Brain was elevated for a reason. During those 2 hours he was a god of percussion, playing with a clock-work precision and feeling rarely seen meshed into one drummer. To his right, long time GN’R devotee from the UYI era, Dizzy Reed, sat behind a mass of keys and digital equipment. To his left positioned behind another set of keys wearing a gold Mardi Gras tragedy mask, sat Dizzy’s counterpart, Chris Pitman, formerly known as the keyboardist/special effects collaborator for Tool. Stepping down on to the lower plat, Tommy Stinson, long-time bass player for the Replacements, pounded the bass strings hard and heavy, grinning all-the-while. To his right stood the silent melody-maker that many claim kept Axl afloat within the music industry, Mr. Paul Tobias. Eerily reminiscent of Izzy Stradlin, Paul played strong, tight…conservative. He may easily hold the low-key secret ingredients that will help motor GN’R to the top of the charts once again. We will see. Stage left, Robin Finck of Nine Inch Nails animated himself as the epitome of showmanship, stopping for only brief moments throughout the show, once to hand me his glass of beer. Feelings clearly dictating his movements, Finck earned more eyes than anyone would have ever guessed. His playing style was symbolic of a razorblade in dramatic search of depression. Stage right, an enigmatic, underground genius could be found hidden behind a melodramatic white Michael Myers mask and beneath a KFC bucket with the word “Funeral” taped across it, symbolic of much more than just an old GN’R. They call him Buckethead. His prototypical playing style, layered with emotion, was indisputable. To play with an inner-child like feeling and imperfect exploration, while still maintaining a technical precision is a paradox indeed. Tears welled in my eyes as I watched him in awe as he played a masterful electrically dark harmony, later followed by a version of Eruption whereupon he used a bloody prop hand that his butler promptly delivered to him upon request. Lastly, he played a beautiful acoustic intro to Patience that makes one think how truly great Chinese Democracy will be if that feeling is allowed to be unleashed within the confines of the studio. Last, but not least, Axl Rose was center stage. He freely embraced emotion, becoming one with each vocal effort, his voice clean, crisp and more powerful than even the very earliest of days. He changed outfits on a number of occasions to represent the feeling of particular moments, bending down during Rocket Queen to place on his head my red Guns N’ Roses hat that I had thrown onstage just 15 minutes earlier. After one of the costume changes, he even modeled a representation of what appeared to be the World Trade Center bombing painted on his stomach. This was exemplary of many symbolic forms flashed throughout the show across the wall of monitors. Axl looked great, trim and muscular with a thick head of hair that had numerous braids throughout. He looked young and vibrant. His face glowed with presence of a man born to be in the public eye, the leader of a band, re-born to be in the public eye. With so many brilliant individuals, the only thing that GN’R fans can really hope for is that the bonding of these misfits can be sustained over time.

The concert continued in flawless fashion as follows:

Welcome To the Jungle
It's So Easy
Mr. Brownstone
Live and Let Die
Oh My God
Think About You
You Could Be Mine
Sweet Child O' Mine
Knockin' On Heaven's Door

(New Year’s Celebration)
November Rain
Out Ta Get Me
(Buckethead Solo, electric)
Rocket Queen
Chinese Democracy
(Buckethead Solo, acoustic)
The Blues
My Michelle


Paradise City

GN’R pounded through the oldies and re-introduced 5 new songs, the first of which was Oh My God, a gift to the soundtrack for the movie End of Days. Madagascar was another, a dark, coasting march lead by an electric organ sound that included a bridge of sampled voices climaxed by the late Martin Luther King’s eternal words, “Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, free at last!” Just minutes after the sounding of this legendary speech, the New Year rang in with a rain of confetti and balloons, and a simple, ideal pyrotechnic display. The confetti boomed from cannons along the stage and poured out of the ceiling vents. It was a celebration to beat all celebrations. But the crowd had soon forgotten the New Year as screams of want bellowed forth. From beneath the stage a baby grand was rolled out. Axl took the seat. A flourishing intro emitted from beneath Rose’s fingers, played for the first time live. Just as the word “timeless” flashed across my mind, Rose struck the first key of November Rain. Everything, right down to the drums surpassed all previous performances of this song. Axl even toyed with Brain, complimenting him on his percussive performance. Another of the new songs played was The Blues, a piano based song about Axl’s former love Stephanie Seymour. Out slipped one of the most painful facial expressions I have ever seen as the last note of the song came to a close. Chinese Democracy, the title track, presented itself with intense aggression that sported a strong punk influence. The crowd hearing this on only 3 previous occasions chanted the chorus heavily, almost surpassing Axl’s voice. This song will forever remain a classic. Silk Worms was the last of the new songs, heavily influenced by electronica, and written by Dizzy Reed and Chris Pitman. This song may just well be the roadmap toward a future GN’R direction. After 2 solid hours of sweat and screams the concert came to a finale with Nightrain. The band weaved through this last song as if it were one single organism, beating with same pulse. Shortly after the stage had darkened, the familiar melody of Paradise City began, and the band emerged to perform a single encore. The crowd went ballistic. The band played with incomparable intensity. As the song closed and the band bowed out, Robin Finck jumped head first into the crowd on my right. I missed him briefly, but the sea of arms slowly brought him back to the rail, stage side, where I was fortunate enough to assist him over so that he could join his band-mates in exiting. And so the concert closed and Axl submerged back into a shroud of mystery taking his new-found friends with him.

The concert as a whole was nothing less than epic. If this new band plays its cards right, if they somehow manage to remain intact, if they someway contrive to release this mystery of an album, Chinese Democracy, and the public is unable to connect with those living ahead of their time, it will be a grave misfortune. Regardless, there will come a day when the scope of Mr. Rose’s vision will be understood, be it this century or next. For those in-tune with the new Guns N’ Roses, there is no question, there is only the wait. And when one waits on something that they know to be history in the making, the wait is a long one indeed. Do you know where the fuck you are?

Tash Anestos < axlrose-subscribe@onelist.com >


To consult the writer of the article:

Tash Anestos


Register for concert updates