By Danny Rodda
Artist: Guns N' Roses
Date / Venue: Thursday February 2nd, 2017 - Westpac Stadium, Wellington
I'll admit it... I'm a fan of GnR, I have been ever since the first time I saw them, way back in 1988 as an over excited 15 year old, so the opportunity to see (almost) the classic line up one last time was not to be missed, and also it presented itself as a fantastic first concert to take my 9 year old son along to see.
Tickets had been arranged way back in September, but then, just 12 hours out from the show I got a call asking if I could write a review... suddenly my anticipation for the show changed to mild trepidation... what if they sucked? What if things went wrong? How could I face my 15 year old inner self, and what precedent would this set as my sons first concert? As the day progressed, my nerves got worse... the weather wasn't looking good, a rain front set in and decided to stay.
Things only got scarier as I arrived at the venue, the gates were late opening due to a 'technical issue' which in this instance was several thousand litres of water on the stage... as Scooby would say "Ruh Roh"
I've been a musician myself for 20+ years, in no small part inspired to get on stage by my early concert experience, seeing the Gunners all those years ago, and I've always had huge respect for the road and stage crew, who pulled a miracle out tonight, and managed to get the stage into working order, tip of the hat to those guys, Axl gave them a well earned shout out during the show too.
Wolfmother opened the show, and sadly had to suffer through some tech issues with the PA, resulting in less than stellar sound quality. They put in a great show as an opening act, but I can't help but feel more than mildly annoyed that there was no local kiwi act as a warm up, we've got some world class bands here who could easily have hyped the crowd up.
On to the main act, the reason we all came along tonight...
After a long wait (cue fears of the bad old days of excruciatingly late starts) the intro music kicked in, and the band hit the stage, roaring straight into a solid start with It's So Easy. The wet weather and dodgy PA seemed to slow the initial momentum and the crowd were slow to warm up, half heartedly joining in on Mr Brownstone, and Chinese Democracy (I love that album, and I'm so happy to hear songs from that being included in the current set), and then it all cut loose finally as Slash jammed his way into the familiar delay saturated intro of Welcome To The Jungle, finally the band, the audience, and the PA system we're all in sync, and things really got going... even the onset of torrential rain wasn't enough to dampen things down (Dad joke, no apologies).
I could go through and list every song from the extensive set list, but I won't... they clearly came to play, and play they did, rocking through nearly 3 hours of classics.
The highlights for me has to be Better, Estranged, and Sweet Child, the band just locked in to that old familiar groove, attained only through having fought their way, quite literally sometimes, from obscurity to the top of the world.
Slash barely seems to have aged, Duff is still as solid as ever, and despite my initial worries, Axl's voice is sounding great, still powerful and flexible... I've heard people bemoaning the fact he doesn't sound like he did in the 80's... who the hell does though?
As a singer, I know exactly how hard it is to get onstage and do it night after night, but Axl sounds fresh, and in form.
As much as I would've liked to have seen Steven Adler and Izzy on stage, I have to give it to the session players backing the band, they are tight, and a special mention to Richard Fortus, who really is a full member and fits in exceptionally well... I may be signing my death warrant by saying this, but I think his presence has even pushed Slash to stretch out and play more, the two seeming to push each other on at every opportunity.
The 3 core members seem genuinely at ease with each other, and revelled in the familiarity of old friends doing what they do best, having put aside past differences... I can imagine that as time goes on, unless egos get out of control, they'll relax even more and continue to put on vibrant and exciting shows.
I came along prepared to be mildly underwhelmed, but happily that was not the case... Guns N Roses are still a world class act, in great form. Yes, I'm a fan and tonight has reconfirmed that in every way. It was also amazing to see my son have what can only be called a 'life altering moment'... I may have created a monster... but I knew that would happen the first time I dragged him on stage with me, GnR have just set the future in stone for him. Another generation corrupted by the Most Dangerous Band In The World! Thank you Axl, Slash, and Duff.... now.... a new album maybe? Please?
Guns N' Roses play Western Springs in Auckland this Saturday night (February 4th). For more information visit Ticketmaster.