Guns N' Roses' long-awaited return to Vancouver is cold and emotionless

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      At the Pacific Coliseum on Saturday, December 17

      By now, the world probably knows it takes no great effort to incite a riot in Vancouver. We’ve had four in the past 18 years—which is four times as many appearances as Guns N’ Roses has made in Vancouver in the same time.

      There was, of course, June’s Stanley Cup riot that saw all sorts of shit set on fire, mirroring the 1994 Stanley Cup riot—except with more looting and explosions. There was the Black Bloc protesters' mini-riot during the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

      But more importantly, there was the 2002 Guns N’ Roses riot when the band cancelled their show minutes before Axl Rose and those other guys in the group were meant to take stage to kick off the Chinese Democracy tour.

      Nine years later, GNR is still touring the much-slagged album, and, for a good while on Saturday at the Pacific Coliseum, it looked like Rose was going to inflame the masses by pulling another no-show. With ex-Guns bassist Duff McKagan’s band, Loaded, delivering an extended opening set, we feared the Seattle-based unit was stalling for the notoriously temperamental frontman.

      A unified sigh of relief came from the half-empty hockey rink when Guns N’ Roses finally took stage just after 11 p.m., a little more than 30 minutes past the band’s expected set time. Newly re-elected Mayor Gregor Robertson was probably thanking his lucky stars that Rose deigned to make an appearance this time around.

      Without a word to the audience, the band kicked off its set with “Chinese Democracy”, the title track to the album that took 13 years and over $10 million to make. A swift transition into “Welcome to the Jungle” had old fans quickly engaged, with the entire audience on its feet (not its kn-kn-kn-kn-kn-knees) and belting out the lyrics along with Rose, GNR’s only remaining original member.

      Although the tune was seamless from start to finish—with Rose’s voice in considerably better shape than he is—the delivery was cold and emotionless. Chugging through one hit after another, band members Dizzy Reed (keyboards), Tommy Stinson (bass), Richard Fortus (guitar), Chris Pitman (keyboards), Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (guitar), Frank Ferrer (drums), and DJ Ashba (guitar), along with their employer, burned through “It’s So Easy”, “Mr. Brownstone”, “Shackler’s Revenge” and “Sorry” without getting any warmer.

      Speaking of sorry, perhaps it’s an all-too-Canadian custom to be overly apologetic, but the crowd that showed up for the delayed-by-nearly-a-decade Guns N’ Roses show deserved at least one “I’m sorry” from the band that stood us up like an ill-mannered date in 2002.

      But Axl and his crew of seven guys who aren’t Slash couldn’t seem to have cared less about Vancouver, with Rose only managing to squeak out a pithy “It’s nice to see you guys” mid-set.

      Yes, it was nice of you to finally show up, too.

      Aside from the amusingly unnecessary pyrotechnics, the audience got quite a little show when a lascivious crowd member and her “I’ll be your Rocket Queen” banner were pulled onstage during “Rocket Queen”. The lusty GNR lover wrapped her arms around an unreceptive Rose, knocking an oversized hat off his head, and then returned to the crowd. We couldn’t tell if the frontman was embarrassed or annoyed as he momentarily left the stage to fix his chapeau.

      Second to that diversion on the entertainment front was the singer’s zeal for kicking out a particularly rowdy audience member, ordering security to rip a South Asian fellow from the half-full crowd on the floor.

      “Goodbye, Kumar!” Rose laughed as the man was escorted out by about six security guards, this followed by a “Wow! You guys are crazy motherfuckers!”

      No, Axl. It’s you who is the crazy—and racist—motherfucker.

      Following that, nearly each band member got to show off their chops in instrumental jam-outs, this including James Bond and Pink Panther theme songs, as well as Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall”, all of this giving Rose time to retighten his bandana and flaunt a new hat between each song.

      The singer’s voice began to wear sometime between “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “November Rain”, but Guns N’ Roses and the crowd stuck it out to the end, the two-and-a-half-hour set capped with the band’s famous Bob Dylan cover, “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”. The band went out with a bang with “Night Train”.

      The encore number “Paradise City” wrapped Guns N’ Roses’ long-awaited return to Vancouver, but judging by Saturday night’s riot-free, not to mention completing uninspiring performance, we could stand to wait another 18 years before having Guns N’ Roses back.



      Sara Moore

      Dec 18, 2011 at 9:32am

      I'm not sure what show you attended, but the one my friends and I saw last night was completely (check your typo) INSPIRING!! Axl's voice was incredible, and if delivering a high-intensity, high-quality and high-volume show that lasted until after 2 a.m. is something most performers you've seen can do without a bit of vocal roughness, congratulations to you. I loved the show and I was blown away by the skill and passion of Axl and everyone else in the current Guns n Roses band. Everyone's perspective is different, but for me and my group, we were so surprised by this performance of a lifetime, and we will be telling everyone that Axl rocked it for us. Thanks!

      Sara Moore

      Dec 18, 2011 at 9:35am

      Just two other points - Axl is in awesome physical shape for someone that is almost 50 years old, and he did apologize extensively to the crowd at the end of that last song for the no-show 8 years ago in Vancouver. Perhaps you didn't stay until the end - understandable, since the show went on for so long. We have never been to a concert that the headliner played until 2 a.m. It was a fantastic experience.

      A. MacInnis

      Dec 18, 2011 at 9:46am

      Tommy Stinson? Shit, I didn't know that.

      Your Disappointed Mother

      Dec 18, 2011 at 9:52am

      That is one of the worst reviews I've ever read.. what show were you at? Everyone there had a blast.. Guns N Roses sounded amazing! HIs band was fantastic.. and by the way Slash wasn't the only other member in Guns.. don't know if you missed Duff McKagan on stage last night for "You could be mine" and "CIvil War"! This was a wicked show. Also Axl did give a shout out about the last show if you were paying any attention to what was actually happening.. which obviously you weren't.. too bad that you get to paste your garbage on the internet for all to read...
      Your Review = Cold
      Guns N Roses = Awesome

      sharon carter

      Dec 18, 2011 at 10:04am

      UMMM i dont know how you can say show lasted till 2 am and make people think it was a 7 hour show when it was supposed to start at 8 jesus if you want to saunter on stage at 11 start the friggin show at 11 ....dont make it seem like you were at a awesome night when it sucked balls that he cannot respect his ticket buyers to show up on time


      Dec 18, 2011 at 10:43am

      Amazing man! The best concert we have been to in a long long time and I loved how the group interacted with the audience, well awaited and flawless - not sure what concert you were at!!

      Ronnie Moas

      Dec 18, 2011 at 10:47am

      This woman should be fired ... I have been to more than 200 concerts in my life ... the show in Miami may have been the best I have ever seen ... it was so amazing I just picked up a ticket to see the show in Vegas on New Year's Eve. With all of the unemployed people, that someone like this has a job is mind boggling ... I guess this comment won't meet her approval either and it will be deleted ... she obviously has a chip on her shoulder ... probably hasn't had sex in a long time!


      Dec 18, 2011 at 10:50am

      Wow, this is unfairly harsh. We had a great time and thought Axl and everyone else was better than expected, we were well aware it wasn't the original members and thought they were surprisingly good.. Not sure how you missed the apology for being late last night and about last time... If they come again I really hope people aren't dissuaded by this review.


      Dec 18, 2011 at 11:08am

      The show was amazing! This review is completely inaccurate. The band was great and Axl's vocals were solid througout the whols 3 hr set!

      Kristi Alexandra

      Dec 18, 2011 at 11:14am

      Sara Moore, I must not have caught that profuse apology. I'll stand corrected on that one.

      But great physical shape? Rose was making some pretty stiff dance moves and huffing and puffing while running across the stage, but his voice hit every note perfectly until about 3/4 down the setlist.

      Having Duff onstage for a couple songs was sweet, yes, but it was short-lived and didn't capture the emotion some of us wished it had.