5 rea­sons Guns N’ Roses still a big show

The Korea Times - - CULTURE - By Chris Riemen­schnei­der

What I re­mem­ber most about see­ing Guns N’ Roses in 1988 is Axl Rose’s butt cheeks.

The GNR front­man wore a G-string un­der bare-back leather cow­boy chaps the day I saw them at the Texas Jam, his at­tire per­haps a nod to the fact that the con­cert was held at the home of the Dal­las Cow­boys. Ev­ery time he turned to run on stage — which he did a lot in those days — we were re­minded of his unique as­sets as a front­man. Which was bet­ter than all the re­minders in the years that fol­lowed of how big of an ass he can be, too.

See­ing the hey­day GNR lineup when they were rock’s big­gest new thing was a thrill, but it ac­tu­ally pales in com­par­i­son with the odd thrill of fi­nally see­ing the band again this year (no pun on “pale” in re­la­tion to Rose’s der­riere).

Granted, the band per­form­ing on its cur­rent tour is not ex­actly the hey­day GNR lineup. Just three of the five mem­bers from that era are aboard: the hur­ri­cane-voiced Rose, gui­tar god Slash and an­chor­ing bassist Duff McKa­gan. But that hasn’t less­ened the ex­cite­ment around the tour, which as of June was rock’s high­est-gross­ing tour of 2017, with over a mil­lion tickets sold to the tune of $151 mil­lion so far.

Here are five rea­son rock fans are psyched for this re­union:

1. It re­ally seemed like it wouldn’t hap­pen.

And when it did kick off last year, it seemed even less likely this re­union would last.

In the same vein (and van­ity) of Don Hen­ley’s when-hell-freezes-over com­ment, which named the Ea­gles’ first post-breakup tour, the GNR out­ing has been dubbed the Not in This Life­time Tour af­ter a quote Axl Rose gave just a few years ago about the prospects of putting the old band back to­gether. He prob­a­bly meant it at the time.

I would’ve put money on a Led Zep­pelin re­union hap­pen­ing be­fore GNR. Slash and Rose gen­uinely seemed to hate each other.

Not only that, but be­tween their strug­gles with ad­dic­tions and Rose’s years of Michael Jack­son-like seclu­sion, it seemed pos­si­ble one of the prin­ci­pal band mem­bers would wind up dead be­fore they wound up on stage to­gether. Also, Rose wasn’t re­ally hurt­ing for money. He had rights to the GNR name all to him­self and was still earn­ing good pay play­ing are­nas and fes­ti­vals with re­place­ment mem­bers since even be­fore 2008, the year he fi­nally re­leased the band’s long-de­layed “Chi­nese Democ­racy” al­bum.

Thus, in a back­handed way, it’s fair to say this tour isn’t all about the money for Rose.

2. They’re all sober and healthy now.

News flash: Rock stars are bet­ter per­form­ers when they’re not on drugs. The clas­sic GNR lineup added to its no­to­ri­ety and wrote a cou­ple of its best songs (“Mr. Brown­stone,” “Nigh­train”) off its mem­bers’ many vices, but it also put on some shoddy live shows and ul­ti­mately fell apart be­cause of their strug­gles with ad­dic­tions.

Slash, in par­tic­u­lar, went through some tough spots but came out the other end. The bushy-headed gui­tarist sounded strong in the mid-’00s play­ing with McKa­gan and late Stone Tem­ple Pilots singer Scott Wei­land in their all-star group Vel­vet Re­volver; and he ac­tu­ally sounded bet­ter than ever in re­cent years with his own band, Slash’s Snakepit.

Orig­i­nal GNR drum­mer Steven Adler, on the other hand, still looked very bad off in the 2011 sea­son of VH1’s “Celebrity Re­hab.” While he’s re­port­edly clean now, it seems it was too lit­tle too late to get him back in the band.

3. They had one of rock’s last sem­i­nal al­bums.

Ex­cept for Nir­vana’s “Nev­er­mind,” no other rock al­bum of the past 30 years crossed as many bar­ri­ers and rip­pled through the mu­sic in­dus­try with as much force as GNR’s 1987 de­but “Ap­petite for De­struc­tion.” Songs like the rous­ing opener “Wel­come to the Jun­gle,” “Sweet Child o’ Mine” and “Par­adise City” are ubiq­ui­tous in Amer­i­can cul­ture these days, but back then — when many other metal bands were busy primp­ing up their hair for MTV and pil­ing on the power bal­lads for ra­dio play — those songs set the hard-rock world ablaze with their re­turn to grimy, thun­der­ing gui­tar riffs and an over­all sense of dan­ger.

Big al­bums like that (and Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” AC/DC’s “Back in Black,” Prince’s “Pur­ple Rain,” Me­tal­lica’s “Black Al­bum,” etc.) never seem to lose their mag­netism, and the acts be­hind them never lose their draw­ing power.

4. The fill-in mem­bers aren’t en­tirely no­bod­ies.

More so than Adler, it’s dis­ap­point­ing that the band’s other clas­sic-era gui­tarist, Izzy Stradlin, wasn’t called back for the re­union.

He says it was for the ob­vi­ous rea­son: an un­will­ing­ness to split prof­its with him as a co-found­ing mem­ber in­stead of as a hired GNR gun. Still, Stradlin’s re­place­ment, Richard For­tus, not only showed off his tal­ent in the “Chi­nese Democ­racy”-era GNR but also helped fuel the Psy­che­delic Furs in re­cent decades — not ex­actly GNR-level gui­tar crank­ing, but still great stuff.

Drum­mer Frank Fer­rer is a Furs and GNR v. 2.0 alum who also played for a spell in an­other ’80s alt-rock band, The The. Key­boardist/pro­gram­mer Melissa Reese is the one true new­comer in the band, but she has done loads of work­ing for video-game sound­tracks, which might be as fa­mil­iar to to­day’s kids as the songs on “Ap­petite.”

While it’s of course vi­tal to have McKa­gan back, it’s too bad Minneapolis’ own Tommy Stin­son of the Re­place­ments couldn’t be in­volved in the re­union af­ter serv­ing 18 years off and on as the bassist in Rose’s re­made GNR. (Then again, we’d also rather have Stin­son singing his own songs, as he does mas­ter­fully on the elec­tri­fy­ing new al­bum by his band Bash & Pop.)

5. Just like in the late-’80s, GNR’s tim­ing is im­pec­ca­ble.

Main­stream metal is in a bit of funk these days, and I don’t mean that in a bass-slap­ping, Red Hot Chili Pep­pers sort of way.

A lot of the bands played on hard-rock ra­dio sta­tions are groups whose singers are dead, in­clud­ing Nir­vana, Stone Tem­ple Pilots, Alice in Chains, Sub­lime, and — sadly, as of re­cent months — Linkin Park and Soundgar­den.

Mean­while, many newer bands seem to have the same mopey, gruff-voiced singer of the Staind va­ri­ety, so they come up with gim­micks to dis­tin­guish them­selves, such as cov­er­ing a Simon & Gar­funkel song (see: Dis­turbed) or start­ing coun­try bands (see: Staind’s ac­tual singer, Aaron Lewis).

Los Angeles Times

Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses on stage at the Coachella Val­ley Mu­sic and Arts Fes­ti­val in In­dio, Calif., April 17, 2016.

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