To be fully transparent, I had not planned to write another blog post on the planet’s greatest Rock&Roll band, my beloved Guns N’ Roses. But after four hours of exquisite musical masterpiece Wednesday night November 29, 2017, in the final performance of the 2017 Not In This Lifetime tour, by the “full on” committed talent of these exceptionally gifted rockers now in their 50’s, following multiple decades of excess and strife hard to fathom, I couldn’t possibly maintain integrity of my musical brand, if I were to write nothing.
Since my Signature VIP experience the opening night April 8, 2016 at the T Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, and spanning 2 years, 6 states, 11 electrifying performances, backstage tours, on stage photos, lots of swag and iconic limited edition apparel purchases, more VIP lanyards, a “jumbotron” capture, and an official GN’R Tweet Like and “Retweet”, my eyes and ears were wide open, no ear plugs please, as Guns N’ Roses rightly brought down the house Wednesday night at iconic music venue The Forum in Los Angeles, California, to close out year two of a once “never imaginable” #NotInThisLifetime tour!
I hope this post captures the essence of my awe and admiration. In the last three years, I have learned a lot about what it takes to create music to fill one’s soul. If you’re lucky, you write countless songs, over many years, with many collaborators and perhaps one or two will become a hit. Then of course you have the select few, in your genre of choice, that you can count on one hand, a group of musicians that somehow find each other and legends are sprung! Guns N’ Roses is that band!
Shortly after 8pm Wednesday night November 29, 2017, the seven band members of Guns N’ Roses, six men and one woman, three of which built this iconic act from the ground up, stormed onto the stage of the venerable and refurbished Forum in downtown Los Angeles. They would exit the stage about 4 hours later after playing a record 37 timeless classics that had fans on their feet swaying to and fro, arms in the air, singing along with passionate might, and some with tears flowing. From the early days in the late 1980’s and their meteoric rise to fame on the best selling debut album in U.S. history, “Appetite for Destruction”, to the Grammy Nominated Use Your Illusion I & II albums, to the 2008 release of Chinese Democracy, the collective talent, dedication, and relentless pursuit of excellence in this band, has arguably ignited one of the greatest resurgences in Rock&Roll history. Fans from across the U.S. and the world ascended upon L.A., as they similarly did in Vegas in April 2016, to bear witness to the majesty of Rock royalty incarnate, with the powerful & eloquent four octave vocal range of Axl Rose on Lead Vocals, Saul Hudson AKA Slash, Chief Shredder on the Electric Guitar, the commanding cool of Duff McKagan on Bass, the fierce and electric Richard Fortus on Rhythm Guitar, Dizzy Reed spinning exquisite lyrical yarns on the Keyboard, the mighty Frank Ferrer on Drums, and Guns N’ Roses first female band member, the very talented Melissa Reese on Keyboards and Backup Vocals.
They powered through timeless classics including “Welcome To The Jungle”, “Mr. Brownstone”, “Out Ta Get Me” and “Used to Love Her” that speak to the reckless abandon that first defined them. Axl Rose playfully offered up “You Could Be Mine” as a “touchy feely” love ballad. Awesome! We love engaging with our legendary frontman! The absolutely riveting and anthemic “Rocket Queen”, infused with epic guitar riffs that only Slash could craft and deliver, did indeed lead the charge for passionate love ballads, to which only a band like Guns N’ Roses could do justice, including “This I Love” from Chinese Democracy, and classics “Sweet Child O’ Mine”, “Don’t Cry”, and number # 1 hit “November Rain”, with devoted fans erupting in heart felt emotion when Axl Rose’s Grand Piano arose from below the stage.
The intelligent and in your face “activist” persona of Guns N’ Roses certainly ignited a powerful response Wednesday night with thunderous applause and energy for the very timely classic “Civil War”. Title cut “Chinese Democracy” kicked things off early in the set list, and recent addition “Madagascar”, also from the Chinese Democracy album, burst into the mix in the encore. Income inequality and hate are powerful forces in our country that demand thoughtful action. I just love the integrity and commitment of this band to raise important thought provoking issues. Of course, a live Guns N’ Roses set would certainly not be complete without the driving instrumentals and scorching vocals in “My Michelle” and “Nightrain”.
The global Rock&Roll community has been devastated this past year with the passing of Chris Cornell from Soundgarden and Malcolm Young of AC/DC, among others. In tribute to these extraordinary musicians, Guns N’ Roses added Soundgarden cover “Black Hole Sun” to the set list on May 27 at Sloane Castle in Ireland. On this particular Wednesday night, epic GN’R classic and Bob Dylan cover “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” followed. A fan favorite with audience participation, this ballad has evolved since the early days at venues like The Ritz in New York City. The exquisite combination of Slash on the double neck guitar, “Mr. Richard Fortus” as introduced by Axl, on rhythm guitar, Dizzy Reed and Melissa Reese on the Keyboards will certainly bring you to your knees as you approach Heaven’s door. Perfectly placed following “Patience”, the band launched into AC/DC cover “Whole Lotta Rosie” to pay tribute to Malcolm Young, who was laid to rest days earlier in his hometown Australia. Both artists also hold the composition copyright to these two classics, which means their estates will receive performance royalties for each live GN’R performance.
The band added three songs the final evening, “There Was a Time” and “Catcher In the Rye” from Chinese Democracy, and “Yesterdays” from Use Your Illusion II, which I should note, includes Guns N’ Roses’ very popular Road Manager Del James on the composition copyright, which means he will receive a performance royalty check as well.
Hailing to the very beginning, epic anthem “Paradise City” continued to take the anchor position in leading us out for the night. You can’t argue with success! The energy in the room was still at a fever pitch and a very humble and quite chatty Axl Rose was beaming from ear to ear. Slash, who spends much of the night flying through the air in a tuck position some are lucky to capture on film, continues to evolve his brand with a trademark handstand on stage, this after 4 hours of intense sweat dripping shredding. Bravo! Duff McKagan, who strategically struts around the stage strumming that Bass Guitar like no other, delights his fans by spraying guitar pics from each section of the stage. Richard Fortus, whose skill on the rhythm guitar is beyond measure, commands your attention with a simple quiet strength. The presence of Keyboardists Dizzy Reed and Melissa Reese, tucked away in their mighty musical setups, are lost on no one. The incredible precision and strength of Drummer Frank Ferrer, with a kick a** smile to light up the world, rounds out this incredible ensemble we have come to know and love quite well over the past 20 months.
They return one final time for a bow. Tears are starting to well …. To lead us out, perhaps we should return to the beginning. Welcome To The Jungle baby!
Thank you for the gift of passionate A** Kicking Rock&Roll that fills my soul! I hope you all have a joyous and peace filled Holiday Season!