Monday, August 22, 2016

Guns n’ Roses, August 22, 2016 at Qualcomm Stadium

It was inevitable that Guns N’ Roses would get back together. No matter what anyone says, or how much anywhere swears it’s not going to happen, as long as the band is still alive, there is a chance that they will reunite -- and even then it’s usually only just the front-man they need. Pixies (though mostly Frank Black) swore up and down they wouldn’t reform, then when they did they wouldn’t go away; if Morrissey and Marr can stay alive, the Smiths will eventually get back together (even if, or especially if, it's just those two). It was Axl who caused the most problems for GnR, and the one who swore a reunion would never happen, and he was also the one who had the most to gain from a reunion, artistically if not financially (since he was the one who connived to own the band as a company in the first place). He wasn’t hampered by not having the actual band, and he even reformed GnR for himself, and they were as solid as they could be but they weren’t the originals and that still makes a difference to some fans (casual ones since they don’t know the difference, and die-hards since they do). So eventually they got the old band back together, even if the big deal was only three of the five total (though it would have been more of a reward to get Izzy over what Steven would contribute). Anyone might think those two members would be the deciding factor, even if everything else was what Axl already had in place by that point. And even being the fan I am -- including seeing the latter Slash-&-Duff-less version -- I wasn’t moved to go, especially paying stadium prices for what would be poor seats. I’d already been there (actually literally, since it was also at what became Qualcomm): I saw the originals (well, most of them, at that point when they were just about done squandering any cred they had left after going as massive as anyone could (and also when Izzy and Steven weren't with them)) then the new version in a show that was just fine, and couldn’t tell the difference between them if you closed your eyes. And it was hard to get excited about how any new stuff would have to be grudgingly played by the old guys, and that new stuff being Chinese Democracy (by this point 8 years old). Carla wouldn’t have been an encouraging factor to go (my time with GnR in younger days was her time with bands that aged better), but it was a night out with Tom & Tati, and it’s not like they’re going to go to a club show for anything but a mass-market band. But it didn’t take twisting my arm to pony up for this show, if we were going out together, and I’m fan enough to let myself be obligated to contribute something to their effort to get the old magic back (even if they were already choking on cash). And it was pricey, and the seats weren’t great (though better in my memory than the first time, and we were on the floor back then), and it was as good a show as could be expected. They brought more energy and tunes and arm-pit sweat than anyone would have thought they had left in them, and, in a two-hour show, gave as much value to the ticket price as the band could. The others made a big deal about how the show was even better than they expected, with Carla becoming a fan for one night only, and going on about how much Slash wailed on guitar, but I knew the truth: it was the same show that Axl had been playing outside of the reunion. The only difference came down to two guys on stage, not the sound, and the fact that they could pack a stadium instead of the House of Blues. Even the set-list was the same, skipping a few of their big songs (“Don’t Cry”) to try to retain some artistic pickiness, then the Godfather theme that Finck played when he was Slash, and the same Who cover (but getting major points for airing of “Coma” and “Double-Takin’ Jive,” which could have been a concession to Slash playing, and the overlooked moment when he truly shined). This was literally business as usual for Axl, except with the popular members he could proclaim a return to greatness even if it was the same as he’d been running it for a while. The truth made it a bit queasy, that this was still a company owned by and lorded over by Mr. Rose -- Axl Rose Inc. dba Guns N’ Roses -- and the radio silence in the press for this run didn’t shed any light on what deal they all had to make to get just two of the guys to come back again (though clearly Izzy was having none of it, which would infer that it wasn’t a great deal to begin with). Slash and Duff couldn't be hurting for money, and they didn’t have anything to prove artistically, since post-OG GnR they'd kept working, unlike Axl, and it’s not likely they wanted to have to spend more time in any proximity to Axl, even on stage, but maybe one day we’ll get the story about how and why it came back together. But for that night the band was (kinda, mostly) back together, and that was good enough (and massive enough to keep us from getting inside in time to see openers The Cult, probably the only time I would have bothered to see them). They could keep flogging the same material for a while and making a big deal out of the shows and the fact that they were back together, treading familiar Pixies ground, but a fan-base that grows as the hits keeping living then get their kids into them can be a lucrative and enduring thing. Though it's clear a place is cluttered with shallow fans when they don't know the rules of concert-going enough to avoid wearing the band’s T-shirt to the band’s show. 

Guns N’ Roses set-list:
“It's So Easy“
“Mr. Brownstone“
“Chinese Democracy“
“Welcome to the Jungle“
“Double Talkin' Jive“
“Live and Let Die“ (Wings cover)
“Rocket Queen“
“You Could Be Mine“
“Attitude“ (Misfits cover; with "You Can't Put Your Arms Around a Memory" intro)
“This I Love“
“Civil War“ (with "Voodoo Child" outro)
“Speak Softly Love“ (Love Theme from The Godfather; Slash solo)
“Sweet Child O' Mine“
“Out Ta Get Me“
“Wish You Were Here“ (Pink Floyd cover; Slash & Richard Fortus guitar duet)
“November Rain“ ("Layla" piano exit intro with Axl Rose playing grand piano)
“Used to Love Her“
“Knockin' on Heaven's Door“ (Bob Dylan cover)

“There Was a Time“
“The Seeker“ (The Who cover)
“Paradise City“

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