Photograph by Katarina Benzova.
Almost 30 years after it first came out, Guns N Roses classic debut, Appetite For Destruction, still holds up remarkably well as a vital and urgent raw rock classic. I was 15 when the Los Angeles band’s debut came out and I can’t overestimate how central it was to my formative years. High school breaks or lunches were spent running to a friend’s place that lived close by to listen to Appetite at obnoxious levels. To this day, it is still one my favourite albums ever.
Appetite dropped in hair-metal’s heyday, but there was something edgy about the quintet – they were real. You knew hours weren’t spent in a make-up chair as they were more apt to paint their insides and bloodstreams. The music also sounded dangerous – heavy rock with a punk-rock slant and attitude to match. Naturally it was massive and the marked the birth of a legendary beast.
Shortly following the tour to support their 1991 sprawling double release, Use Your Illusion I and II, the band imploded although Axl would emerge later with a touring lineup and finally releasing the infamous Chinese Democracy in 2008.
So hell froze over for a second time as Axl finally reunited with guitarist Slash and bassist Duff McKagan and launched the Not In This Lifetime tour that touched down at a sold out Rogers Centre last night, something any rock fan figured would ever happen.
Greatly anticipated? Over 50,000 people snapped up ticked immediately when they went on sale and probably spent the time waiting for the actual night selecting outfits to bring them back in time when their rock and rock stars were not as predictable. It was my first time at the cavernous venue since it underwent a name change from SkyDome. It was also the largest headlining gig I’ve ever been to so I was uncharacteristically excited.
The energy in the room before the band hit the stage was palpable. Two massive screens flanking the stage featured buns reloading and shooting, sending a sonic boom that rattled the stadium every minute or so.
Having seen Guns about ten years ago at the Air Canada Centre, their 9:45 stated set time I took with a grain of salt, but was genuinely shocked when the lights went down only almost 15 minutes later and the band launched into Appetite’s first single, “It’s So Easy”.
The sound was only ok from my vantage point at the beginning with Axl’s voice buried in the mix. This would be rectified over the next song, “Mr. Brownstone”, but for such a massive venue, the sound was full and loud, and stadiums shouldn’t be expected to deliver pristine acoustics, although I’m not used to shows this size so it did bug me not to have clean and perfect sound.
The opening guitar notes and Axl finally addressing the eager crowd asking “You know where you are Toronto?!” we all knew we were in the jungle and 50,000 lost their collective minds for a blistering run through “Welcome To The Jungle”.
The stage was a massive expanse, complete with stairs on either side of a platform that ran behind the drum kit. The lighting was extensive, but not obnoxious, keeping the room lit up. Fireworks also helped with this as did the generous helping of pyro.
Seeing the trio of Axl, Slash and Duff brought the masses and the trio didn’t disappoint, nor did the rest of the band that ran like a well-oiled machine. Duff is remarkably ageless, not looking much different from the early years. He attacked his bass with impressive precision. Slash will always be Slash and his guitar work was furious. Together they sounded tight, defying their large absence like nothing happened. Axl, obviously can’t leap and run all over the stage like he used to but he sure did try. He looked much better this time and did his best to keep the energy lifted. The reunited version was far superior to the assembled version I saw previously with an unstated tension of anything could happen lingering in the air.
For almost 3 hours, the band covered all of their hits and some tracks off of Chinese Democracy, all of them delivered in the epic fashion they deserved and the crowd craved. The crowd themselves rose to the occasion, no doubt fueled by Saturday libations, roaring their approval, playing air-guitar and beer-soaked sing-alongs to the relative delight of Mr. Rose.
Appetite was well represented with 8 tracks delighting the crowd most notably for the aforementioned tracks and “Sweet Child O’ Mine”. Depending on your views of the Use Your Illusion set, you may have found parts of the set to lag where Appetite’s urgency was replaced with Illusion’s epic scope. I’m not fussy on the Illusion material myself, but it was delivered with enough bombast and drama making it visually and aurally delicious.
Finally closing out the night with a mercurial run through “Paradise City”, a delirious crowd and band gave it all for one last return to their youth. It was manic, exhausting and perfect. The band took a final bow for the spent crowd who knew they caught something special that might not happen again.
- It’s So Easy
- Mr. Brownstone
- Chinese Democracy
- Welcome to the Jungle
- Double Talkin’ Jive
- Live and Let Die
- Rocket Queen
- You Could Be Mine
- You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory/Attitude
- This I Love
- Civil War
- Band intros into Slash solo – Speak Softly Love (Love Theme From The Godfather)
- Sweet Child O’ Mine
- Out Ta Get Me
- Jam (Wish You Were Here/Layla)
- November Rain
- Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
- The Seeker
- Paradise City