The true purpose and culmination of our trip to Las Vegas last weekend was to see Guns and Roses perform live at the Hard Rock Cafe. Guns and Roses recently did a 14 show residency in Vegas, and our tickets were for the last night of the run (November 24, 2012). (It has been pointed out to me that I got a week’s worth of material out of less than 48 hours in Vegas. Viva la Blog!)
Ever single person I have mentioned the trip so far to has said, “which original members are still in the band?” so I will tell you: it’s Axl Rose. To me and everyone else who grew up listening to hard rock in the 80s, Guns and Roses was and always will be Axl, Slash, Izzy, Duff, and Adler — the original line up that appeared on the band’s debut album, Appetite for Destruction. Those were the guys that made up Guns and Roses in 1987. By the time 1991′s Use Your Illusions I and II were release, Adler had already been replaced by Matt Sorum and Dizzy Reed had been added to the lineup. Aside from a disc full of cover tunes released in 1993, the band’s next official release was Chinese Democracy in 2008, 21 years after Appetite first hit store shelves. By then, not only had Slash, Izzy, Duff and Sorum all quit the band, but several other musicians had come and gone, including Buckethead, Robin Finck, Paul Tobias, Bryan Mantia, and Josh Freese.
So, yes. The Guns and Roses I saw perform live in Vegas in 2012 was, other than Axl Rose, a completely different than the Guns of Roses from 1987, twenty-five years ago. You can take it or leave it. We took it.
The package deal we purchased included third row tickets to the show and VIP “Meet and Greet” passes that allowed us to meet the band* before the show began. (“The band” was defined as “various members of Guns and Roses”.)
We arrived at the venue right on time. In the entrance of the Hard Rock Casino was a display of Axl Rose’s personal items, including most of his iconic leather jackets he’s worn on stage and in music videos, and even one of his cars. That’s my friend Tim, standing in front of it.
After picking up our tickets at the will call booth, we picked up our VIP passes and proceeded to the VIP waiting room. The room had a cash bar and enough seating for 2/3 of the people. We stood. The people in room consisted of: rockin’ dudes, hot chicks, chicks that were hot in the 80s, and people who liked the band back in the 80s. Oh, and us. We saw a lot of spandex and a lot of skin and a lot of people who shouldn’t be dressing like that.
While waiting the four of us began discussing who we thought would be at the meet and greet. All the pictures from the meet and greet are posted online, and there are no pictures of Axl Rose there. That either meant that Axl doesn’t come to the meet and greet, or Axl doesn’t get his picture taken at the meet and greet. If we had to choose one, we were hoping for the latter. My friend Tim is a huge GN’R fan, and pretty much the reason his wife set up this entire weekend was so that Tim would have a chance of meeting Axl Rose.
Before we left, proper protocol was explained to us. No purses in the pictures. No drinks around the band (last week someone spilled one on a band member). No autographs. Walk up to the band, say hi, get your picture, and leave. Got it.
After a short wait we were ushered upstairs into a line. While waiting there, Susan and Dawn started making small talk with a security guard who, it turns out, had been stationed in Oklahoma for a period of time. Dawn put him through the wringer, asking him questions about Axl Rose. Was he down there in the meet and greet room? No. Does he come to the meet and greets? No. Where was he right now? “I have no idea.” Does he ever wander around the casino? “I have worked all 14 shows and the only time I have ever seen him is on stage.” Well, crap.
The line moved slowly. After fifteen or twenty minutes passed we were ushered into a room. At the far end of the room were three band members, none of whom were Axl Rose.
From left to right: Dizzy Reed (keyboards), my wife Susan, me, our friend Dawn, DJ Ashba (guitar), Bumblefoot (guitar), and our friend Tim.
During the few moments we had, I told Bumblefoot that I’d been listening to his solo album (“Abnormal”), and I told DJ Ashba that I loved the first Sixx:AM album and Motley Crue’s Saints of Los Angeles, both of which he co-wrote with the Crue’s Nikki Sixx. Both guys seemed very appreciative. Every one there was polite and friendly. I didn’t have much to say to Dizzy Reed, who seemed either shy or tired. Sorry, Dizzy.
(By the way, about Bumblefoot’s shirt. It didn’t say “UP”. It said “the F-word” “UP”. I photoshopped out the f-word so that we could share this picture with friends and family. Also, another trivia fact: I am the tallest person in this picture.)
After the meet and greet was over we made our way to our seats, which as I mentioned was on the third row. While we were waiting for the show to begin, Darryl from
Pawn Stars Storage Wars made his way down and sat directly in front of us. Because we were bored, I took half a dozen pictures of the back of his head.
Soon the show began. I have grabbed a few videos off of Youtube that I didn’t film, but were filmed at the same series of concerts, to give you an idea of what it was like.
On stage we had Axl, three guitarists, a bass player, a drummer, two keyboard players, four exotic dancers, and two pole dancers. The stage was wide, with ramps and platforms on both sides that allowed band members to come stand out and over the crowd.
Just when we thought things couldn’t get any better, Axl introduced original guitarist Izzy Stradlin, who joined the band for half a dozen or more songs throughout the night. Izzy seemed under utilized throughout the show — then again, that that point he was the fourth guitarist on stage. Dude’s still classy.
I really didn’t want to be one of *those* people who recorded the entire show on my phone, but I couldn’t help myself during the finale of the show, Paradise City. It’s not as good as some of the other footage out there on Youtube, but it’s one I recorded with my phone. It’s funny that the iPhone makes things look so much further away. We were much closer than this video makes it appear.
I saw Guns and Roses live in Oklahoma City back in 1992 literally during their heyday, and I saw the latest incarnation of the band last weekend in Vegas. Of course I enjoyed seeing the original lineup back in the early 90s, but sonically, I wonder if Axl doesn’t sound better now than he did then. Either way, for a fifty-year-old dude who sang for 3 1/2 hours, the guy’s still got it. People can say what they will about the current lineup, or how it’s not the *real* Guns and Roses (“Hired Guns and Poseurs”), but if you’re waiting for the original members to reconcile, you’re going to be waiting a long, long time. In the meanwhile, this is what we’ve got and I have to say, it was a pretty great experience.
01. Chinese Democracy
02. Welcome To The Jungle
03. It’s So Easy
04. Mr. Brownstone
06. Rocket Queen
07. Richard Fortus Guitar Solo (Blacklight Jesus of Transylvania)
08. Live and Let Die (Wings cover)
09. This I Love
11. Motivation (Tommy Stinson song)
12. Dizzy Reed Piano Solo (No Quarter by Led Zeppelin)
13. Catcher in the Rye
14. Street of Dreams
15. You Could Be Mine
16. 14 Years (with Izzy Stradlin)
17. DJ Ashba Guitar Solo (Ballad of Death)
18. Sweet Child O’ Mine
19. Another Brick in the Wall Part 2 (Pink Floyd cover) (with Axl on piano)
20. November Rain
21. Objectify (Bumblefoot on lead vocals)
22. Don’t Cry
23. Whole Lotta Rosie (AC/DC cover) (Happy Birthday to Axl’s sister Amy)
24. Civil War
25. Used to Love Her (with Izzy Stradlin)
26. Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan cover) (with Izzy Stradlin)
28. Nightrain (with Izzy Stradlin)
29. Don’t Let It Bring You Down (Neil Young cover)
30. The Seeker (The Who cover)
31. Jam (Waiting on a Friend by The Rolling Stones)
33. Jam (with Beta Lebeis on bass guitar)
34. Paradise City (with Izzy Stradlin)