Guns N’ Roses/ Alice In Chains
Soldier Field, Chicago
Friday, July 1, 2016
It actually happened. Against greater odds than Chinese Democracy ever seeing the light of day, Guns N’ Roses reunited for “Not In This Lifetime,” hands down the most aptly named tour since hell froze over for the Eagles. These days the group consists of front man Axl Rose, guitarist Slash and bassist Duff McKagan (the original nucleus together for the first time since the mid-1990s), alongside longtime keyboard player Dizzy Reed, plus post millennial additions Richard Fortus (rhythm guitar), Frank Ferrer (drums) and Melissa Reese (keyboard).
And every single one of them showed up exactly like they were supposed to, not only on time, but even a little bit early to ensure all two hours and forty minutes worth of music fit it in before curfew! No, GNR doesn’t have any new music to unveil, but just the fact the classic line-up is back together after two decades apart is enough of an undertaking to warrant this trip down memory lane that turned out to be loaded with vitality.
Rose may look a bit more weathered than he did back in the day, but the now fully mobile man (with more clothing and accessory changes than Madonna) sounded like he literally stepped out of the Use Your Illusion period, while Slash and his signature top hat may as well have been cryogenically frozen both musically and visually. (If only someone could encourage McKagan not to tie his bandana like a Chippendale, all would be well, though at least his current chops were just as fiery as the others).
Together, the troupe barreled through hard rock heavyweights “It’s So Easy,” “Mr. Brownstone” and “Welcome To The Jungle,” all but erasing the years and filling up the sold out Soldier Field with flames and fireworks. GNR amped up the action all the more come “Rocket Queen,” accented by Slash’s talk box wizardry, and also dusted off The Damned’s somewhat surprising “New Rose,” the sole shout out from *The Spaghetti Incident?*
Throughout more than two dozen tunes, the band played no less than seven covers, which outside of essentials “Live And Let Die” (Wings) and “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” (Bob Dylan), became a bit overkill as extraordinary as they all sounded. The one other head scratching decision was including three tunes from Chinese Democracy when Slash and McKagan had absolutely nothing to do with the project (yet the huge hit “Patience” from G N’ R Lies and a couple key Appetite For Destruction cuts were forgotten).
Nonetheless, the group more than gave fans their money’s worth, from the monstrous riff rocker “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” to the piano-centered introspection of “November Rain” and the whistle-blowing rumbler “Nighttrain.” As the clock neared midnight, the crowd began trickling out (probably to catch literal trains), though GNR didn’t seem the least bit tired for the encore, particularly Rose who proudly displayed a “Bitch Is Back” shirt.
In fact, the band further raged through “Don’t Cry,” showcased yet another influence during a metallically-tinted version of The Who’s “The Seeker” and completely exploded with “Paradise City” as if everyone had stepped on stage completely fresh a few seconds ago. Indeed, “Not In This Lifetime” brought GNR faithful to the promised land (where they return again July 3 at Solider Field) and blew the door wide open for future prospects of tours, new tunes and simply making up for so much lost time.
Openers Alice In Chains added bonus appeal to a tour that sold itself, though it was real shame more concertgoers didn’t arrive in time to hear a cross section of newer tunes and some of the grunge era’s most defining material. Whether it was “Hollow,” “Man In A Box,” “Down In A Hole,” “Would?” or “Rooster,” William DuVall came across like an exact embodiment of the late Layne Staley, while guitar great Jerry Cantrell and the rest of the guys roared like they still had something to prove, even though they’re usually the ones topping the bill.
-Review by Andy Argyrakis; Photos by Curt Baran
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