Axl Rose, fresh off his 50th birthday earlier this month, took his Guns N’ Roses act to New York City last week and pulled off a couple legendary performances. In fact Rose and his band, none of which were members of the original Guns N’ Roses lineup, have now gained a righteous reputation for rocking into the wee hours of the night.
On Wednesday, February 15, at Webster Hall in the East Village, NYC, the Rockland County Times was in attendance as Guns N’ Roses took the stage at 11:54 p.m. and didn’t leave until 3:15 a.m. That’s three hours and 21 minutes of non-stop Rock n’ Roll on a weekday, if you’re keeping count.
Never before had this humble writer seen a band kick the audience’s butt as Axl and GNR did that night. Every time the crowd thought the show was coming to a wrap, there was another five or six songs, performed with raw power and intensity. Perhaps Axl wanted to pull off a particularly impressive performance because there were professional camera crews filming his every move.
Whatever the case may be, his famously scratchy voice was as good as it’s been in recent years and his mood and energy was at amazingly high levels. The 50-year-old Axl was dancing like a 25-year-old for most of the night, and his enthusiasm and charisma was quite infectious. A joyful mood set in at times amongst audience, the type which could lead you to meet the love of your life or propose marriage to the one you’re with. No really, it was that good.
The show actually took a little while to pick up its energy, the connection with the audience for the first hour and 20 minutes was a bit flat with the exception of when the band played “Welcome to the Jungle” (the second song in the set). But when you are playing a three hour and 20 minute show, who remembers the first hour and 20 minutes? Looking back at it, that hour and 20 minutes was the pre-game.
Adding flavor to the funk throughout the night, several of the members of GNR had solo interludes where they played renditions of great classic rock songs.
The concert started to crescendo with two newer songs “This I Love” and “Street of Dreams” which were packaged around a tune by bandmember Tommy Stinson and a nice Dizzy Reed piano solo. Then the show took off into the stratosphere when the band performed the classic soundtrack hit “You Could Be Mine” followed by a guitar solo and then one of the greatest rock tunes ever made “Sweet Child O’ Mine.”
From there on out it seemed the band touched on every great song they ever wrote and every great moment in their career. They finally wrapped the show up with the ballad “Patience” and the hard rocking “Paradise City.”
Though Axl Rose is the only GNR member to be among the original 1985 lineup, several of the bandmates have been playing with Rose and GNR for a number of years. Keyboardist Dizzy Reed has been with the band since its glory days in 1990, while bass player Tommy Stinson and keyboardist Chris Pitman have been with the band since 1998.
The most crucial new member of the band is Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, a truly impressive lead guitarist, very much up to the task of filling former guitarist Slash’s shoes. Notably Bumblefoot joined the band in 2006, replacing another guitar impresario known as “Buckethead” who had his turn as Slash’s replacement.
Despite their odd names, they are both brilliant guitarists, as can be heard on Chinese Democracy, GNR’s much maligned but badly underrated 2008 studio release.
The band played several songs from Chinese Democracy at the February 15 show, as well as a well balanced selection from all their studio albums. All in all the show was a hit, as the band outlasted much of the audience. About 30 percent of the audience couldn’t make it to the end of the show, usually a sign of disrespect, but in this instance, just a measure of the fact that it was 3 a.m. Wednesday night/Thursday morning and this awesome band was still belting out tunes.
GNR’s current lineup in order of longevity with band is: Axl Rose, vocals; Dizzy Reed, keyboards; Tommy Stinson, bass; Chris Pitman, keyboards, other random instruments; Richard Fortus, rhythm guitar; Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, lead guitar; Frank Ferrer, drums; DJ Ashba, lead guitar.
GNR is to be inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame this year and it will likely mark the first time since the mid-90s all the members of the original lineup are appearing in public together. Whether they play a set at the event remains to be seen.