Guns N'Roses at CenturyLink Field, Seattle, on Friday (August 12)
When Guns N’Roses reunited (without original members guitarist Izzy Stradlin and drummer Steven Adler) earlier this year, the announcement came with some disbelief. The appropriately titled Not in This Lifetime tour was to follow and, surprisingly, has gone pretty well—except for singer Axl Rose breaking his ankle at the beginning of the tour and having to sit in Dave Grohl’s throne (which he used for the same reason a couple years ago).
Now three shows before the end of the unprecedented live performances, GNR were in top form, and Axl is able to do his trademark snake dance.
With no Vancouver date scheduled for this tour, carloads headed down to sister city Seattle to witness the show of a lifetime.
Though the GNR without Slash and Duff McKagan has been to Vancouver since, many will recall a 2002 riot after a show cancellation because Axl didn’t make it here in time. Angry fans wreaked havoc on the venue, and Vancouver police were not shy with their batons and attack dogs. Seattle’s CenturyLink vibe was much different, with 44,000 fans chanting “Sea-Hawks”—and, thankfully, Axl showed up ready to rock.
To say the fans were pumped would be an understatement. Overheard in the crowd were statements like, “I can’t believe this is actually happening!” and “I’ve waited 23 years for this show!”
The event started off with a bang, literally: a huge display of fireworks erupted as the band rifled into “It’s So Easy” from their infamous debut album, Appetite for Destruction. In fact, eight of the 12 songs from that album were played, including “Mr. Brownstone”, “Welcome to the Jungle”, “Rocket Queen”, “Sweet Child o’ Mine”, “Out ta Get Me”, and “Nightrain”.
The songs were played with such fervour that it seemed that even though publicly sick of each other, the band is not sick of the songs. Axl ran around the stage like a madman and sounded pretty good, hitting some of the notes for which he is so famous. Seven T-shirt changes—along with changes of the flannel shirts around his waist (very important)—and multiple forms of headgear, including a ridiculous cowboy hat, kept things fresh.
Seattle’s own McKagan was dead-on with his bass riffs and looked in fine form, wearing a Seattle Seahawks tank top. He and drummer Frank Ferrer were locked in and sounded great together. Newer guitar player Richard Fortus could have been mistaken for a young Izzy, though probably a bit more muscular and tattooed. Actually, it looked like most of GNR's members have been hitting the gym: they seemed to be in very good shape, considering their ages.
Many more tracks were played from Use Your Illusion I and II albums, with “You Could Be Mine” being a standout. It was performed with such venom and spit that one could swear one was watching a 1992 tour stop, with everyone on-stage giving it their all. Other classics like “Civil War”, “Don’t Cry”, “November Rain”, and “Estranged” were also masterfully played. At this point in their careers, these guys are true professionals, and it shows.
The band played a few songs from 2008’s Axl-only album, Chinese Democracy, with the title track and “Better” fitting in nicely, but a couple of others, like “Catcher in the Rye” were a bit out of place and the crowd looked confused. It was also strange to think about the fact that Slash and Duff did not play on that album and had to learn the songs, perhaps a condition set out by Axl for this tour. Though Chinese Democracy has some good songs, many would agree there are some pretty weird ones on there that don’t really sound like GNR as most people know them. Regardless, Slash, Duff, Dizzy, and the hired Guns played them with as much precision as the rest of their catalogue.
The fireworks were great and really got the crowd going, happening a few times during the set, along with fire blasts on-stage and giant video screens with pictures of both the band and related imagery. During the guitar solo in “November Rain”, Slash was playing with an ocean flowing behind him, which looked very cool. A couple of times, however, the fireworks seemed to malfunction, with a big bang followed with a giant puff of smoke coming from behind the stage. This seemed to resolve itself later.
A point of contention might have been the abundance of covers in the set. This included an instrumental “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd, “The Seeker” by the Who, “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory” by Johnny Thunders, “Attitude” by the Misfits, an instrumental Godfather theme by Slash (which was the highlight of these songs), “Knockin' on Heaven’s Door” by Bob Dylan, and “Live and Let Die” by Paul McCartney. Yes you heard right, there were that many covers, which probably took up about an hour of the total set. One fan said, “I came to see Guns N’Roses, not Guns N’Covers!”, which was appropriate. Considering the hype of this band and, especially, this tour, and with tickets costing as much as US$250, you would think they would play more of their own songs.
It was a great tipping of their hats to their influences, but many people would have rather heard songs like “Patience” or “Yesterdays” instead of songs by bands they didn’t pay to see. They did close the encore, though, with “Paradise City”, which must have sounded just like its music video, considering the reaction from the massive audience.
Covers aside, all in all this was a rock n’ roll spectacle in its grandest form. Not many rock bands can fill a stadium with 44,000 people nowadays, and, boy, can these guys still play. Let’s hope they can keep their differences aside and maybe, just maybe, Vancouver (minus the rioting) will get a show sometime in the future.
A monumental performance from one of the most celebrated bands in rock 'n’ roll history.