Posted 12 February 2017
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Well, to quote the tagline being used with this latest Guns N’ Roses tour, “THEY’RE BACK!”. Now that both Duff McKagan and Slash have made their triumphant, and very welcome, return to the fold, the Gunners juggernaut has returned to Australia, and this weekend marked the first time that Axl, Slash and Duff had appeared together onstage in Sydney since 1993. Just as they did on that tour, this time too they bought Aussie rockers Rose Tattoo along with them, which, despite originally being an influence on GNR, was a strange choice, given the progressive nature of the latest music released under the name “Guns N’ Roses” (i.e., 2008’s ‘Chinese Democracy’, which was essentially an Axl Rose solo album).

Although the smallish number of early rockin’ revelers seemed at least slightly enthused, it appeared overall that many there were mainly appreciating Rose Tattoo’s presence because it was providing a soundtrack for them to drink beer to. So too was the case with the second support, Wolfmother, who provided a good soundtrack for not just the beer swillers, but the pot smokers too. Soon enough there were numerous hazes of smoke hanging in the air provided by the university cigarettes that were doing the rounds in the crowd. It still seemed though that those milling about were only doing so to secure a good spot for the headliners, and sadly, not for to enjoy the music that was already being provided. It wasn’t until Wolfmother’s signature song ‘Woman’ that anyone seemed to give a shit. Then when Andrew Stockdale invited Slash onstage to perform ‘By The Sword’ (the song Stockdale sung on Slash’s 2010 solo album ‘Slash’), and Wolfmother followed this up with ‘Joker and the Thief’, people finally started to wake up, and those in the seated sections finally stopped sitting on their hands.Screen Shot 2017 02 16 at 1.04.09 am

After both bands definitely provided more than adequate support, the wait began in what always seems like an eternity in such situations. It was then I took a look around at my surroundings, and those making up the audience. Almost half were hipsters/posers, but the rest were the real deal. There were many clusters of those who seemed to be extras from ‘Wayne’s World’, as if they got to 1992 and just stayed there. All Gunners fans were united though, providing an atmosphere like nothing I had seen at any show in I don’t know how long, also creating anticipation like that of a teenager about to pop their cherry. Before we knew it though, Duff McKagan’s oh so beautiful bass line intro to ‘It’s So Easy’ cut through the air like a knife, as Guns N’ Roses took to the stage, guns a blazin’. The band was back alright, as Axl was not only still hitting the high notes, but Slash’s riffs were just as sweet as ever. After another ‘Appetite For Destruction’ classic ‘Mr Brownstone’, the band played the title track off ‘Chinese Democracy’, providing the first of a few almost surreal moments, seeing Slash and Duff performing something, never written with them in mind, so naturally. Slash’s signature opening riff to ‘Welcome To The Jungle’ got the crowd extremely pumped, and the killer solo he performed at the end of ‘Double Talking Jive’ had all applauding and cheering loudly. The ‘Chinese Democracy’ track ‘Better’ had the whole band firing on all cylinders, and most notably new keyboard player Melissa Reese, who provided the song with some outstanding backup vocals. 

The epic ‘Estranged’ was a distinct highlight, as was ‘Rocket Queen’, particularly for its extended jam, showing that Slash and guitarist Richard Fortus were a good fit. Axl ran out of puff during the last verse of ‘You Could Be Mine’, but hey, he’s not in his 20s anymore, plus it’s easy become breathless just speaking said verse. Just as he did on ‘The Spaghetti Incident?’ album, Duff took to lead vocals for ‘You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory’ and ‘New Rose’, before Axl invited Angry Anderson to join the band for the Rose Tattoo classic ‘Nice Boys Don’t Play Rock N’ Roll’. In stark contrast to this balls to the wall pub rock number, GNR then made the odd choice to play the ‘Chinese Democracy’ beautiful ballad ‘This I Love’, where both keyboardists Dizzy Reed and Melissa Reese well and truly earnt their keep. As did Slash, who just about had smoke shooting from his fingers afterwards. More ‘Use Your Illusion’ songs were to follow, in the form of ‘Civil War’, and the very unexpected treat ‘Coma’, which rarely gets played live. A familiar staple from old GNR sets was a solo from Slash, incorporating the theme from ‘The Godfather’. Slash also seamlessly blended this with the oh so sweet intro to ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’, much to the delight of the entire audience. Seemingly hell bent on upping the ante, Axl then bought out a second special guest to the stage. AC/DC guitarist Angus Young jammed with the band on the AC/DC classics ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’ and ‘Riff Raff’, putting Guns N’ Roses in an elite group of only three bands that Young has ever joined on stage since 1977. 
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Fortus and Slash both proved their own guitar chops again with an instrumental of Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’, before playing the outro to Eric Clapton’s ‘Layla’, while Axl joined on piano, leading into a stirring rendition of ‘November Rain’. A sign of the new millennium had people waving mobile phones through the song instead of lighters, something they continued to do during ‘Knocking On Heavens Door’ and up until ‘Nightrain’, at which most people stopped, as they were too busy losing their shit again and dancing like crazy. After a blink and you’ve missed it encore break, the band (minus Axl) did the Stones justice with an instrumental interpretation of ‘Wild Horses’, before Axl also returned for ‘Patience’. GNR then upped the tempo for The Who classic ‘The Seeker’, just before ending the night with the song synonymous as their last of any given night. ‘Paradise City’ provided a show stopping finale, complete with fireworks and confetti cannons. As well as the undeniably spectacular sound, a great spectacle was on display at all times. All the pyro, bells and whistles aside though, GNR still put on one hell of a show regardless. After all, it comes down primarily to the music. Granted, original guitarist Izzy Stradlin and drummer Steven Adler are not taking part in this reunion tour, but the musicianship of Richard Fortus and drummer Frank Ferrer do help make up for their absense. Yes indeed, Guns N’ Roses are back, and hopefully now all members are staying put.

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