Before it all fades back into a haze of memory and pot smoke, thoughts on the Guns N’ Roses concert I went to Saturday night:
* First, it was really good. I had heard that the aborted 2002 series of concerts had been a big fat mess, but this time around, at least, the band was very sharp, very loud, and very tight. Axl Rose has apparently buffed out; indeed you might say he’s beefy these days, compared to the scrawny, meth-thin thing he used to be. Beefy but fit, since he hopped around and ran about and did his now-somewhat-less-effective snake thing and never ran out of breath while he did it.
Now, to be clear, this Guns N’ Roses is not the Guns N’ Roses, since Axl was the only original member of the band left (Dizzy Reed, longtime keyboardist but not original member, is the only other link to the glory days). That said, this Guns N’ Roses doesn’t make one feel like it’s just the Axl Rose traveling circus, either. Also, you know. The band features former members of Nine Inch Nails, the Replacements and the Psychedelic Furs. These guys don’t suck. And now, having said that, I do think it’s notable it takes three guitarists to handle Slash’s guitar parts.
What’s going to be interesting is how this version of GNR will sound like on record. It’s one thing to be a tight and hot performance band when you’re mostly rehashing tried and true tunes. I want to know what they sound like with the new stuff. The band played some new stuff at the concert, but honestly I couldn’t tell if it was much good or not; it seemed fine. But hearing a song for the first time in an arena setting when you’re wearing earplugs to keep your ears from ringing for a week is not an optimal first taste experience.
* And yes, I did need those earplugs. I left them out for the opener (“Welcome to the Jungle,” naturally) because I wanted the full sonic blast; once I had that (and it was worth it!), I jammed those earplugs in, and a damn good thing, because shortly thereafter GNR let fly with some flashbang pyrotechnics that were so loud I can’t imagine how the people up on stage can still actually hear themselves play with those going off every night. Even with the earplugs in, GNR was plenty loud, but since I came out of that concert without the cilia in my ears harmonizing their pain, I’m happy to say that I didn’t have to sacrifice a little of my high-end hearing for the experience.
* What was really notable was that the audience for the concert skewed young; it was definitely mostly folks under 25, which means the vast majority of these folks were going to their very first GNR concert ever. Which meant, of course, that they were all insane and that the vibe for the show was one that was, very amenable to the band. GNR could have come out and totally blown the gig, and these people wouldn’t have cared; being there was what mattered. So it was nice for them that the band didn’t blow the gig, and indeed turned in one of the best shows I’ve seen in a while.
* Former Skid Row lead singer Sebastian Bach opened the show, and man, he was flabby, both in his personal appearance and in his performance. He jumped around as much as Axl Rose, but he didn’t own the stage like his pal did. Now some of this is due to being the opening slot; people aren’t there to see him. And it’s pretty clear that Bach’s backlog of tunage has not aged as well as GNRs. And then there was the actually sad spectacle of Bach pimping his YouTube video and his MySpace page, and then stopping and saying “Did I just say ‘go visit my MySpace page?” like an old fart tickled that he’s figured out that whole set of tubes called Teh Intarweebs. You go, Sebastian Bach! He’s only a year older than I am, you know. Kill me now, man. Kill me now.
* Prior to Sebastian Bach’s performance, the crowd as entertained by a burlesque show featuring members of Suicide Girls, the Web site which features tattooed and pierced women in various stages of undress. It was your basic semi-nekkid girls hopping around and being limber sort of thing. Interestingly, I was sitting next to what I figured was a 14-year-old boy and his dad (who looked none-too-pleased to be at the show, actually; must have been a birthday present for the kid), and you could see the dad and kid look at each other and sort of agree, in an unspoken sort of way, not to tell mom about this part of the show. Prior to the Suicide Girls, there was some other band, but who cares? I wasn’t there for that.
* The most amusing tidbit of the night: The Palace at Auburn Hills apparently makes everyone in general admission sign a “Mosh Pit Waiver” in which the signatory indemnifies the Palace against all claims if, say, someone bashes in their eye socket with an elbow or what have you. I think when future archeologists look to find the moment our society truly began its irreversible slide into the cesspool of history, it will be the moment that someone thought to require a legal document in order to join a mosh pit. In Detroit, for God’s sake. Or Auburn Hills, which is close enough.