Guns & Roses - live in Denver, CO Aug 2017
I’ll try not to make this too long. Odds are, that won't happen. Come on it, have a seat. Let's chat a bit. I have literally been waiting 30 years to see this band. No exaggeration. I was listening to Guns since before Appetite. That’s right, crackers. I don’t get the credit, Tim Ashton does. He had their live EP cassette ‘live like a f***ng suicide’ By the time Appetite came around, we were on board. I think Appetite is one of the most perfect records ever made. In fact, I can not argue against it being the best. It would be a tie with Dylan’s ‘Blood on the Tracks’. See, Dylan’s lp has stronger content… but Dylans’ LP also has a lot of filler. Appetite has no filler.
Never got to see them live, for two reasons.
Ø on the Appetite and subsequent tours, Axl canceled most or all of every Arizona show. By the time they finally did show up for a gig, at PIR on 'use your illusion', I was too annoyed to even try getting a seat. Plus, I don't think that album is good at all. Some would say you could cut 'Use your Illusion' down from 2 records to 1. I think you could cut it down to a really really good EP. Generally, the shows we could be canceled night of… people literally could not find him, or he would not leave his room. this happened, a lot
Ø refused to see the subsequent bands post Slash (but without Slash). I would not, and will not, see ‘Guns & Roses’ without Slash. You know, the guy who wrote all the songs?
Focus man – the show was terrific! I knew almost exactly what to expect, I have followed this band very closely for 30 years. I knew the show would be good. It was far better than I expected. One thing, When Axl finally emerged from his 15 year hiatus a few years ago, his singing was terrible. He looked terrible. The whole thing was a disgusting mess. At this Guns show, Axl sounded great, and he looked great. I saw him smile. Axl has never smiled. Not once. Don’t know if he is actually happy, because I don’t care. He is a horrible person. He did, though, put in everything and gave us a great show.
Axl’s voice – that was the big concern. Could he still hit those highs? Yes. Could he still do that shrill scream that shattered your sense of well being and fair play… kinda. One of my favorite aspects of Axl’s singing was his range and control. Only one song perfectly displays this range – You’re Crazy, from ‘Lies’. You need to listen to this version, the studio acoustic version, from the Lies album to see why he was the greatest rock singer and front man of all time… for about 2 years. He doesn’t have that kind of control and range anymore… but he isn’t supposed to. He is, I assume, early 50s.
I have a lot of issues with Axl. Axl is Terrell Davis. For a couple years… he was the greatest in history. BUT… doesn’t have the body of work. It’s a crime we didn’t get 10 years of either of them at their peak. At least Terrell has an excuse. I have written a TON about him, and little if any is nice. I hate Axl, and here is why. 1) he was the greatest in the game, and at his peak… I put him toe to toe with the greatest front men of all time. Better than David Lee Roth or Mick Jagger… because he can sing. His only peer in rock greatness is Robert Plant. And he threw it all way… kinda took 15 years off. 2) he was a about it the whole fucking time. He called Slash a cancer. In all these years, Slash never took a shot. And, he took the damn name hostage. For a guy who wrote maybe 10% of the songs… he shouldn’t own the name.
But I wouldn’t hate him so much if he hadn’t been so great.
for that song above, make sure you get to the second half. It perfectly demonstrates not just his amazing range... but his amazing control. How he can go from the guttural growl that only Charlie Manson would be jealous of... to his screeching highs.
Axlually (see what I did there? That is why I make the big bucks), there was something wonderfully odd about his range. Male singers almost always lose their higher upper singing range… the falsetto end of thing. This is commonplace, and has nothing to do with drugs or drinking or hard living. Those last three things, though, tend to accelerate the problem. Axl’s upper range was fine. It was that he had no low range. You normally get 1 or 2 with Axl… the shrieking banshee falsetto (‘You Could be Mine’, or Welcome to the Jungle’), or the lower guttural voice which was the first half of every G&R song. That part is gone. Everything was sung in his creepy falsetto, instead. Problem with this is, when he did go to break the ceiling with that iconic scream… it was tough to appreciate… since he was stuck singing in that range anyway.
Again, the lack of singing range isn’t Axl’s fault. That is just time. What is Axl’ fault, though, is taking 16 years off of prime singing time. Axl walked away and off the Earth while he was still one of the great all time rock singers. He didn’t come back until that voice was gone. Odd, and sad. I guess if I had to pick which Axl voice to hear (of the low guttural, or the high wail)… I would choose the high wail. His singing, I want to emphasize again, was very good. As you may imagine, it got better and better through the evening as he warmed up.
Slash – Slash is a god. We were all there to see Slash. The band is not even Guns & Roses. You can just call it ‘Slash and like 6 other dudes’. He did not disappoint. I love Slash. In my basement studio that is wall to wall guitars and PA and gear, there only hangs one picture. It isn’t Hendrix nor SRV nor Clapton… or even Jerry Garcia. For inspiration, there is only Slash.
Where was I in the stadium? – really close. We were on the field, as so close that I could feel the air being pushed by the speaker system as it made noise. That has only happened a few times, Iron Maiden being the last, and it’s always a rush. I was also able to weasel up really close for a couple of songs. I am quite good at that, and am surprisingly adept a attending and moving through stadium shows. Here is a pic I took with my phone during Rocket Queen. Let’s be honest, though; like most of the audience, I was more watching the jumbotron than the stage. At least I had the option of seeing clearly everything going on up there on stage. Here are a couple photos I took.
This is during Rocket Queen. This is them, mind you... not them on the jumbotron
This is a cool shot I took. Obviously, that is a shot of the jumbotron. However, look at the bottom in the center. There is the man himself. Yeah, we just jumped dimensions to make this pic happen
Who’s missing from the classic lineup? Drummer Steven Adler, and rhythm guy Izzy Stradlin.
Steven Adler > No one expects Adler there. Sadly, he is SO far gone from drugs and alcohol he can barely function. I am not using hyperbole, here… the guy is a bit above a vegetable toast from several drug OD related strokes. I’ve seen interviews with him, and he is just a peck of Gary Busey on the alertness scale. I believe he has to live with his mom full time as a care giver. It is terribly, terribly sad. The band has been nice enough to let him sit in now and then, as well. He was fired from Guns pretty early on because of these problems. However, I would bet they realize they are all kind of responsible for basically letting the guy kill himself. I mean… are they? This is heavy stuff, and blame goes all the way around. I think everything is on decent terms here, and I have no beef with his absence.
Izzy > Izzy is alive and well and being cut out for reasons of profit. Izzy should be there. Izzy wants to be there. Axl said about it, like a year ago “we invited Izzy, he won’t call back”… to which Izzy quickly and awesomely fired back
Izzy should have been there, no question about it. I blame all this on Axl, because I fucking hate Axl. Plus, we know Axl holds the keys and owns the name of the band. More realistically, they all agreed they would make a few extra million cutting him out.
This happens far more often than you would think. Like, every reunion in history. Shit, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant didn’t invite John Paul Jones on their reunion tour. An even bigger dick move than that was when they named the reunion tour after a John Paul Jones song – No Quarter. I guess they just lost Izzy’s phone number.
All this being said… if I were to rank the importance of members of the band, and you told me I could only have 3 for the reunion… I absolutely would have picked the three that were there on stage. They knew what they were doing. This isn’t rock and roll. This is business.
So... who was there, then? Welll... this guy was there.
|I swear I tried to be discreet while taking this photo, but I don't think he would have noticed|
Setlist – the setlist was good, and... exactly what I expected. The downside of an arena rock show like this is you don’t get surprises. There are so many lighting cues and pyro cues and instrument changes that setlists are highly highly highly regulated. Every single show for about 3 years has had the exact same setlist. I am disappointed by that. The Dead played stadiums for a goddamn living and played a different set each night. The music should be the star, not video cues and explosions. BUT… I am being picky. They played the stuff I really needed to hear: My Michelle, November Rain, and Rocket Queen. I love those songs too deeply to even tell you why.
While there was a lot of filler junk from 'use your illusion', they played everything I wanted to hear. Side note, the wifey really wanted to hear 'one in a million'. Yeah, that can't play that. EVER. Why? Google the lyrics, I dare you!
Also in the setlist were some very well chosen covers. The first big one, for me anyway, was 'Black Hole Sun'. For some reason, it was only now I felt the final weight of Chris Cornell being gone. I actually cried through most of the song. To be fair, though, I was drunk. I needed a good cry over Cornell, anyway. Also was a nice little 'Melissa' jam to honor the recently departed Greg Allman. Then... some fun and kinda silly ones. We got a super cool Ac/Dc jam on 'Whole Lotta Rosie'. You may remember Axl stepped in and toured with Ac/Dc. I love the song, and love that it was a kinda deep cut. Then, we got 'the Seeker' from the Who. Also a fairly deep cut.
The stadium was only about 70% sold out, but I think the promoter takes a bath on that one, not the band. A very educated guess tells me the band gets about 3 to 5 million a night to walk on stage. A very educated guess tells me that is a guarantee not tied to ticket sales. The caveats for those guarantees would be Axl-isms: playing less than 40 minutes, going on more than 25 minutes late, not showing up, starting a city wide riot again. Those things you can bet are in the contract. To make up for the shortfall of ticket revenue… they have merch sales. These T shirts were $60.
I am quite surprised at the lack of merch, though, on many levels. Where are the CDs and DVDs? You know, they how have the technology where you can buy a live CD of the show you were at as you walk out of that actual show. True story! Pearl Jam pioneered it. I would have bought that. However, I claim to know everything about rock music, don't i? So... why aren't they doing it? I think Axl is insecure about his voice, and fears if they release concert stuff now, people will hear him and not want to see him live. OR... maybe they want to keep the mystery. It is pretty exciting and dramatic to see them walk on stage together with your own two eyes. Since there is millions and millions more to be made, I would expect a ton of DVD packages to come. When the Grateful Dead just did their 50th anniversary show, they actually started selling DVDs of the show before it happened. It was a pre sale thing.
On whole, the show was far better than I expected... and the credit goes to Axl. We knew Slash would be great. Slash can do no wrong. Axl, though, really brought it. It didn't feel 'phoned in' for even a moment.