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.