Review: Guns n’Roses live in Las Vegas
The Joint, Hard Rock Hotel, October 31 2012
Words: Steve Mascord
Which is a bigger surprise? Guns N’Roses doing a Las Vegas residency or Axl Rose conducting interviews to promote it? Glass-half-full: the years have loosened up both Axl and his audience. Glass half empty: desperation.
Tonight was the opening evening of a 12-date residency for the reconstituted Gunners at the Hard Rock Hotel’s Joint, a venue of such financial pulling power that The Who will be there soon. In dubbing the show “Appetite For Democracy”, we were promised a “unique” setlist which brought together the best of the two disparate albums Appetite For Destruction and Chinese Democracy.
In honour of the two records, posters promoting the show around Vegas combined the cover art from each. And although the panties were airbrushed out of Appetite‘s famous ‘robot rapist’ painting, the picture caused controversy with the local council – right on cue for the first show.
Despite the promise of special cocktails and an unprecedented setlist, this three-hour marathon set is actually more like “Use Your Appetite For Democracy.” The highlights were, in my opinion, mostly from the 1991 simultaneous release of Use Your Illusion I and II.
Chinese Democracy, Welcome To The Jungle, It’s So Easy and Mr Brownstone shoot by, centrifugal force pulling fans who had chosen seats towards the GA floor area – where they are stopped smartly by security.
The highlight of the entire show is fifth, the lilting piano refrain of Estranged leaving fans staring into the distance and pondering some epic but doomed love affair Rose had two decades ago.
The best song on Democracy, Better, follows soon afterwards and is almost a tortured sequel, speaking as it does of a troubled heart and “the melody inside of me”. Later, You Could Be Mine is fearsome, while Rose isn’t giving up best live rendering of Civil War to the soaring Myles Kennedy without a fight.
This reviewer saw Guns on New Year’s at the same venue and there are precious few differences in either the set list or the staging – although the catwalks suspended from the ceiling are an eye-catching addition.
But here is where Rose can’t win. If he comes on late and plays a short show, punters feel gyped. If he comes on late and plays a long show, reviewers lampoon the flat spots. Tonight’s show goes for three hours. Guitarist Richard Fortus plays Blacklight Jesus Of Transylvania in the first solo spot of the night. Bassist Tommy Stinson later performs Motivation, guitarist Bumblefoot offers Glad To Be Here, keyboardist Dizzy Reed performs No Quarter and Rose warbles part of Another Brick In The Wall pt II.
Neil Young’s Don’t Bring Me Down is covered, with AC/DC’s Riff Raff an unfortunate omission before it’s restored for subsequent shows.
Rose, who has completely recovered from the previous week’s bout of strep throat, is a powerhouse who says very little between songs. But his determination to be more than a heritage act and love of spontaneity mean the momentum of Guns shows now ebb and flow – in sharp contrast to the machine-gun delivery of the likes of Slash.
GnR grab you by the throat, but release their grip long before you are gasping for breath. Rose gets a costume change into the bargain.
In shows since Halloween, I have read, Axl forgot the words to Sweet Child O’Mine and a lady in a mezanine area who repeatedly mimicked cutting his throat was thrown out. It’s So Easy to take the piss out of what Guns n’Roses have become, I guess.
After a three-song encore, Rose lobs an expensive microphone into the audience as he has for 15 years. It makes a horrible, wet thud as it hits something – I’m not sure what.
But if the most important question at the end of any rock concert is whether you had a good time, then I’d like to think the object in question was a glass that was way over half full.