SATUR­DAY GUNS N’ ROSES, the most dan­ger­ous band in the world, take every­one else to school

Kerrang! (UK) - - Cover Story -

The show usu­ally starts around seven, Guns N’ Roses go ons­tage around 20-past. Early? Yeah. But they’re play­ing for how long?! The thick end of three and a half hours?! Who in their right mind would do such a thing? Ei­ther the very fool­ish, or a band with the songs, power, charisma, class, swag­ger and sur­feit of moth­er­fuck­ery to make such an epic set feel like a quick, loose jam. Tonight, and do not try to ar­gue with this, Guns N’ Roses are the best band play­ing on any stage any­where in the world.

The last time Axl Rose was here, in 2006, he was almost a car­toon of him­self, liv­ing up to ev­ery neg­a­tive and bad thing ever said about him. It was the nadir of Guns’ his­tory, a great gi­ant felled by its own weight. Here, now, though, he and his reunited gang are ab­so­lutely un­stop­pable. As Duff Mcka­gan walks ons­tage, all louche cool be­hind his shades, and ca­su­ally rolls up the in­tro to opener It’s So Easy, even the prospect of three-plus hours of this doesn’t seem like it’s go­ing to be enough. Axl marches up the ego-ramp with a stomp­ing stride that’s so cocky it should need a li­cence, and you feel like you’re watch­ing a hun­gry young band out to take over the world again. It’s a feeling that comes re­peat­edly and of­ten: watch­ing Slash tear through the greasy solo on Mr. Brown­stone, a Duf­fled ren­di­tion of the Misfits’ At­ti­tude, the 10-minute epic that is Coma. Then there’s the mo­ment dur­ing a truly wild Welcome To The Jun­gle where Axl, with the author­ity of a mil­i­tary gen­eral, screams, “Do you know where you are?” and it feels like the most ex­cit­ing, joy­ous thing ever said on this stage.

When they come, even the solo spots and jams that break up the set are killer. A run-through of a por­tion of Derek And The Domi­nos’ Layla – com­plete with Axl tick­ling the ivories, seated on a truly ghastly mo­tor­cy­cle-pi­ano stool thing – segues into a stun­ning Novem­ber Rain, just as a Slash­led muck­about with the theme from The God­fa­ther sud­denly turns into Sweet Child O’ Mine. They give Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here its sec­ond air­ing of the week­end with an in­stru­men­tal ver­sion backed by tens of thou­sands, and there’s even an ex­cel­lent ver­sion of Vel­vet Re­volver’s Slither.

As Nigh­train, Rocket Queen, You Could Be Mine, Civil War and a truly stag­ger­ing num­ber of other di­a­mond-plated gems are det­o­nated, you’d feel sorry for Neck Deep over on the Avalanche Stage, if it was pos­si­ble for your mind to be oc­cu­pied by any­thing that wasn’t Guns N’ Roses. Not just be­cause Wrex­ham’s finest are having to go up against such a colos­sus, but be­cause they’re miss­ing it. And when you re­alise that the field-wide party that is Paradise City marks the end, you won­der where the hell the night’s gone al­ready. Guns N’ Roses tonight are ab­so­lutely un­touch­able, and even if they played til Sun­day, it still wouldn’t feel like enough time in the com­pany of such ab­so­lute great­ness. NICK RUSKELL

Pre­dictably, Down­load is a sea of throb­bing heads come Sun­day morn­ing. The bril­liant, tex­tured rock of DREAM STATE (KKKK) makes it bear­able, though.”this is a safe space for you guys to let go of any neg­a­tive en­ergy you’re hanging on to,” an­nounces front­woman CJ Gilpin as ban­govers are ban­ished into In This Hell’s tu­mul­tuous, cathar­tic swell.

De­spite it be­ing only 11:45am, there’s a healthy crowd at the Zippo En­core Stage for GRETA VAN FLEET (KKKK), dis­pelling any no­tion that the Michi­gan quar­tet could be mis­taken for a ve­hi­cle hire com­pany. With helium-high vo­cals and heroic six-string raz­zle-daz­zle, the broth­ers Kiszka play riffy classic rock ut­terly wired with youth­ful en­ergy, eas­ing us into the day per­fectly. Talk­ing of lob­bing mas­sive riffs about, PUPPY (KKKK) bound around the Avalanche Stage, swerv­ing be­tween mel­low vibes and heav­ier, harder ma­te­rial. Their rep­u­ta­tion clearly pre­cedes them, as they pull a gi­gan­tic early crowd in and gen­tly melt their faces off.

DEAD CROSS (KKKK), you say? Bloody fu­ri­ous, more like. Mike Patton has made a lot of left-field sounds, but this hard­core su­per­group – also fea­tur­ing orig­i­nal Slayer drum­mer Dave Lom­bardo – is as straight­for­ward as he gets. That means ser­rated noise that goes for the jugu­lar with rel­a­tively min­i­mal twists, and a cover of Bauhaus’ Bela Lu­gosi’s Dead thrown in for good mea­sure.

“So, those dumb moth­er­fuck­ers let us through cus­toms again,” grins Ice-t as BODY COUNT (KKKK) pile ons­tage. Fea­tur­ing an open­ing cover of Slayer’s Raining Blood, bassist Vin­cent Price bleed­ing all over his in­stru­ment, and fea­tur­ing a cameo from Ice’s two-year-old daugh­ter Chanel (on Talk Shit, Get Shot, obvs) the rap-metal thugs are ut­terly lethal to­day. And scary.

“To­day’s our fifth birth­day as a band, and this is an ex­cel­lent way to spend it!” yells Milk Teeth (KKK) front­woman Becky Blom­field. Gui­tarist Billy Hut­ton cel­e­brates the oc­ca­sion by clam­ber­ing up the light­ing rig, be­fore the Stroud punks give their spe­cial set a send-off with a huge ren­di­tion of Owning Your Okay­ness. Next up, Black Foxxes (KKK) pack a hefty punch, with songs that smoul­der slowly be­fore ex­plod­ing. Manic In Me is par­tic­u­larly colos­sal, with front­man Mark Hol­ley bel­low­ing through a mega­phone in full ‘rock­star fan­tasy’ mode.

When it comes to deal­ing with sound prob­lems, BLACK VEIL BRIDES (KKK) have the per­fect so­lu­tion: sim­ply bake ev­ery­thing in a bom­bard­ment of pyro, play your best eight songs and leg it. We can barely hear front­man Andy Bier­sack for the first few min­utes, so he takes mat­ters into his own hands, jump­ing off­stage and shar­ing vo­cal du­ties with the crowd dur­ing Wake Up. And then, sud­denly, the band – and sound – ap­pear to kick into a dif­fer­ent gear. Fallen An­gels is ju­bi­lant, with that hefty hook sung loudly by the ini­tially hes­i­tant au­di­ence, be­fore In The End con­cludes a set that sees BVB on fighty form.

By com­par­i­son, Cal­i­for­nian post-hard­core leg­ends THRICE (KKK) lack bal­last. There’s no doubt­ing the mu­sic’s qual­ity, of course, with front­man Dustin Ken­srue emo­tion­ally launch­ing him­self into songs like The Artist In The Am­bu­lance and The Earth Will Shake. Sadly, though, they wilt in the glar­ing sun.

MYRKUR (KKKK) were al­ways the band least likely to start a mas­sive pit. But power comes in many forms, and Amalie Bruun and her hooded co­horts start not with a bang but an at­mo­spheric ca­ress. There are still in­jec­tions of metal­lic ag­gres­sion, but this is de­fined by its ethe­real fin­ery and the power of the singer’s de­liv­ery, cool­ing us off with its glacial beauty.

The dead walk amongst us! Or, at least, a band that re­fuses to stay dead. Alex­ison­fire (KKKK) are back again. Vast pits are thrown open as vo­cal­ist Ge­orge Pet­tit jok­ingly grades the crowd’s en­ergy from “Fuck­ing

weak!” to “Bull­shit!” When gui­tarist Dal­las Green un­leashes his can­non of a voice, you won­der if it might flat­ten the field, even with­out thou­sands of fans roar­ing along to bangers like This Could Be Any­where In The World. Hit after hit send chills down the spine to make this a truly spe­cial re­turn.

Back on the Main Stage, SHINE­DOWN (KKKK) are busy prov­ing that, while their mu­sic may be lack­ing in danger, they never fail to im­press live. Brent Smith shows once again that he’s a front­man in the truest sense, as well as a gen­uinely phe­nom­e­nal singer, and the enormous crowd watch­ing clearly agree. “We’re not go­ing to talk,” an­nounces ZEAL

& ARDOR (KKKK) main­man Manuel Gag­neux in a mo­ment of open­ing calm for the black­metal ex­per­i­men­tal­ists. The mar­riage of frost­bit­ten sav­agery with the haunt­ing warmth of gospel and chain-gang soul speaks loudly for it­self. In­deed, the spec­tac­u­lar Don’t You Dare tugs up the goose­bumps far harder in this swel­ter­ing tent than on record.

“It’s ut­ter day­light; the op­po­site of our lives,” drawls MAR­I­LYN

MAN­SON (KKKK) on the Main Stage. It’s good to have the cheer­ful old sod back on form fol­low­ing last Sep­tem­ber’s horrific leg frac­ture. That said, he looks dis­tinctly un­com­fort­able, and there’s a few un­in­ten­tion­ally funny mo­ments – such as dur­ing The Dope Show, when he dons an out­fit that makes him look weirdly like a turkey. Thank­fully, there’s still plenty of men­ace in the sickening, sub­ver­sive An­tichrist Su­per­star and The Beau­ti­ful Peo­ple to chill sun­burnt skin.

“Days like th­ese are fuck­ing amaz­ing!” grins Rise Against (KKKK) front­man Tim Mcil­rath as the sun hangs low over the Zippo En­core Stage. He may be throw­ing out some sober­ing re­al­ity checks about racism, ho­mo­pho­bia and sex­ism be­tween songs, but he also can’t help but break into a smile as he belts out Sav­ior and Ready To Fall. There is a truly som­bre mo­ment when Sur­vive is ded­i­cated to the late Ch­ester Ben­ning­ton and Chris Cor­nell, but it only serves to add more in­ten­sity to an al­ready pow­er­ful and of­ten poignant set.

There are times tonight when BARONESS (KKKK) front­man John Bai­z­ley looks almost over­whelmed. When spon­ta­neous clap­ping breaks out to Chlo­rine & Wine, or rap­tur­ous screams greet Shock Me, he throws back his head and laughs with pure joy. And why not? Baroness have lived through enough tribu­la­tion for any band, in­clud­ing a bus smash that nearly killed them. When John tells us how happy he is “to still be here” to close the Dog­tooth Stage it’s no throwaway sen­ti­ment, and the band’s sublime mix of sub­tlety, power and roof-rending songs pro­vide the per­fect closer not by Ozzy…

An­other Satur­day night be­ing a leg­end. Sigh…

“If any­one has my shirt, I’d very much like it back…”

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