On what just might have been one of the hottest days of the year so far, hoards of fans turned out in droves to see Guns n’ Roses return to the region for the first time since 2006. Once hailed as the “Most Dangerous Band in the World”, Guns n’ Roses have courted controversy across the globe with reported tales of bust ups, tantrums and riots following in their wake, however at the packed Metro Arena, Guns n’ Roses simply let the music do the talking.
Adding Thin Lizzy to the bill as special guests was an absolute masterstroke and a real treat for the fans. With a rejuvenated line-up featuring Ricky Warwick taking the much missed Phil Lynott’s place on vocals, and guitarist Damon Johnson from Alice Cooper’s band joining original drummer Brian Downey and long-time Lizzy members Scott Gorham and Darren Wharton, Thin Lizzy delivered a set crammed full of crowd pleasing favourites. With the likes of “Jailbreak”, “Are You Ready”, Don`t Believe A Word” and “Black Rose” they could not fail. Thin Lizzy were simply magnificent and when they closed the set with “The Boys Are Back in Town” there wasn`t a single person left in their seats. Be sure to catch them in Middlesbrough in December when they return to the region for their own headlining shows.
Arriving on stage at the unearthly hour of 10:40 pm was not the best of starts for Guns n’ Roses and it was clear that a fair few people had abandoned ship opting instead to catch the last bus home. However, those who waited patiently for the show to start were in for a treat.
Kicking off with a riotous “Chinese Democracy” before heading straight into gold plated classics “Welcome To The Jungle” and “It`s So Easy” certainly started things off with a bang. Axl Rose, bedecked in leather complete with cowboy hat, still looks like the Sunset Strip Rock `n` Roll rebel that he was almost 25 years after first exploding onto the Rock scene.
For the best part of three hours, Guns n’ Roses played material from their incendiary multi-platinum debut album, Appetite for Destruction; their twin chart topping Use Your Illusion I and II albums as well as choice cuts from their 17 year in the making Chinese Democracy opus. What was clear was the diversity of the material in their repertoire from the heads down sleaze ball Rockers “Rocket Queen” and the Terminator approved “You Could Be Mine” to the soul searching ballads “Don`t Cry and “Street of Dreams” to the big, overblown epics of which “November Rain”, “Estranged” and the bombastic “Civil War” really hit the mark. Arguably the biggest cheers were reserved for the platinum coated classics “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and the barnstorming pyro fuelled set closer “Paradise City” which literally brought the house down.
He may be the sole surviving member of the original band but Axl didn`t hog the show. Bassist Tommy Stinson had a shot at the limelight on lead vocals on “Motivation” while all three guitarists Bumblefoot, Richard Fortus, a real dead ringer for Johnny Thunders, and DJ Ashba all got their chance to shine. Even long serving keyboardist Dizzy Reed got a go slipping in a hint of The Who`s “Baba O`Reilly” during his spot.
Longstanding fans may find it hard to accept a band without Slash, Duff, Izzy and all, however the current line-up, which has been together for nigh on a decade, bar the recent addition of DJ Ashba, can certainly hold their own with Chinese Democracy being a testament to the creativity still flowing through the band and certainly the likes of “Madagascar”, the dramatic “Better” and the Queen inspired “This I Love” can stand proudly beside their early classics. Hopefully the follow up won`t take quite so long to produce.
Evidenced by his failure to show up for the recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Axl clearly doesn`t need the approval of the industry when his loyal fan base still turns out in such large numbers. They may have been a long time coming but judging by the exhausted crowd at the end of the night, Guns `n` Roses undoubtedly delivered an exhilarating Rock `n’ Roll rollercoaster of a ride.