February 23, 2012
Silver Spring, MD
In the late 80's music was desperate for a change... lacking was the danger in music & artists on the scene were happy, shiny & pre-packaged...POISON were a good indication of that statement because they looked pretty, had hits & did NOTHING shocking or outrageous!
Then a little band came along that forged the best of Hanoi Rocks, Iggy Pop, The Rolling Stones & all that was decadent. The band had 5 members who each stood on their own & the core sound the band created was a blend of bluesy rock n roll with punk rock energy...I have a personal recollection of hearing the band for the first time & being blown away with the energy, the excitement, the themes that touched on drug abuse, sex, love & all things to do with the true underbelly of rock n roll culture....this WAS the structure for oh-so-many bands that came out after GNR to follow & while the essence of GNR was copied loosely from what The Stones & Aerosmith did before them, GNR managed to influence an entire generation with their attitude, actions & music.
No one in GNR ever tried to sway too far from what they do, the core members of the band always stayed true to their music & other than the band appearing in the movie "Dead Pool" starring Clint Eastwood, GNR let their music be their main thing they were all known for other than drug use.
As we all know, GNR splintered off into a sad state when the core members could no longer work out their difference and Slash, Duff & Sorum went on to form Velvet Revolver with Scott Weiland on vocals while AXL Rose took over a decade to release the 3rd "official" studio record from GNR.
Over the years AXL has employed an interesting cast o' musicians to help him create the musical sounds-cape that he wants to call GNR & it's interesting to note that the "Chinese Democracy" tour is still going on several years after it's initial release.
GNR announced they would play a handful o' intimate club sized venues & on February 23, 2012 they played the Fillmore in Silver Spring, Maryland and the show sold out almost instantly when tix went on sale...sadly the scalpers scooped up the bulk o' the tickets BUT day of show I saw people paying $60 per ticket which was a considerable bit cheaper than the actual ticket cost when they went on sale!
Electric Sun opened the show at 10 PM & they bridged the gap between Kill Hannah & Coldplay...their singer was the most interesting member of the band & he utilized quite a few guitar pedals & an ebow to make his playing sound less like a guitar at many given moments during their set.
Electric Sun were ok...the crowd honestly seemed to care less about their set BUT I found their set entertaining regardless of the lackluster crowd interest in the band.
Once Electric Sun were finished it was time to play the waiting game..."How Long Would it Take AXL & co. to Take the Stage?"
The original concert billing said GNR were supposed to take the stage at 11 PM, then they changed it to 11:45 PM & the band's actual set started at Midnight when the lights dimmed & they opened with "Chinese Democracy".
AXL looks better these days, he seems really healthy, he looks like he's slimmed down some since he first resurfaced from his self imposed seclusion & AXL did his trademarked hip-less shimmy from side to side, at any given time he sported different hats, different boots, different jackets & my only complaint was that I didn't think his mustache looked good on him; the only rocker who could pull off a mustache with conviction was Freddie Mercury...I remember looking at AXL towards the end of the set & from a distance with his hat on & the mustache he reminded me of Wilford Brimley...if he had said "Die-a-beetis" I would have lost it!
The breakdown on each member is like this:
AXL: Owns the name GNR & owns the stage no matter where he is. I think the core fanbase were ecstatic with the show & just seeing AXL play a club show was a treat...sure, AXL doesn't wear the tight leather pants anymore, he's got shorter hair and he's an older man these days.... his attire & presence reflects his age and some people understood that the AXL Rose from 1988 is NOT the AXL Rose of 2012...the people who went into the show with an open mind & a willingness for change were treated with a good time while the ones who expected "Appetite" era were let down a little. AXL sounded good & for what it's worth that IS the most important part of it all!
DIZZY REED: Dizzy anchored down the back of the stage on the left side, he came out front & center during his solo & played "Baba O'Reilly" by The Who. Dizzy's been there for a long time & I hate to admit it BUT when I see him all I can think of is the "Last Living Slut" book that dished on him rather hard.
TOMMY STINSON: Tommy's energy is rooted in punk rock & he's an interesting choice as bass player for the band. I've always wondered if he wasn't picked because the past formula for GNR was to always have a punk rock bass player. Duff always added the 3 chord aggression that made a song like "It's So Easy" what it was & Tommy's presence in GNR is definitely punk rock YET it's a looser punk rock than what Duff was into...Tommy is less aggressive than Duff is in his approach with music & Tommy was very hands on with the crowd talking between & during songs with the fans up front.
DJ ASHBA: Sporting a knitted together leather hat & kinda bringing the "Slash" vibe to the stage with just a touch o' Nikki Sixx, Ashba gained notability when he played in the band Beautiful Creatures alongside Joe Leste from Bang Tango & later went on to play guitar in SIXX A.M. with Nikki Sixx. Ashba is the guy onstage with the best "rock star" looks & attitude, he nails the Slash licks well BUT he's definitely the odd fit to the band because Bumblefoot is a virtuoso & Fortus is an interesting mix of Izzy Stradlin & Johnny Thunders while Ashba does a solid job playing wise, I found myself questioning IF GNR really needed Ashba when the other 2 guitarists did such a great job of holding down the GNR ship.
BUMBLEFOOT: The man is a freakin' virtuoso & his style is clearly more proficient than ANY musician in the band...Bumblefoot wore his hair in a Pebbles Flintstone style & at one point in the show AXL wrapped Bumblefoot in tape & Bumblefoot laughed as he just continued to play his solo...I posted a pic of Bumblefoot with the tape wrapped around him in this review & later during hour #2 of the show AXL teased Bumblefoot with another role of tape! During "Estranged" the solo's Bumblefoot played gave me chills & like I said, the man is ridiculously talented!
RICHARD FORTUS: The man is pure rock n roll in both his looks & guitar playing style...he's got the spirit of Izzy Stradlin when he plays & he clearly loves Johnny Thunders & Keith Richards equally when you analyze his playing & style...he has some cool guitars on the road with him & his style of playing is really pleasing to the ear...I could listen to him jam all night!
FRANK FERRER: The big man on the drums...he did a solid job of holding down the back beat of the band, he's a hard hitting drummer BUT he has no looks onstage other than that big star tattoo on the side of his head...when I think Guns N Roses I think glam looks & rock n roll...Frank IS a good drummer BUT lacks the rock n roll looks I'd expect a member of GNR to have.
CHRIS PITMAN: I have nothing to really say about him because he was almost invisible on the right side of the stage...you had 8 men onstage playing their hearts out & Chris is the one who you almost miss at times because AXL owns the stage & the 3 guitarists battle it out for the audience's attention....Chris just blends easily & with so many players onstage it was hard to tell what he played onstage because at times you had Dizzy & AXL playing piano so a 3rd keyboard was hard to hear.
There were solo's between every few songs that allowed AXL to go backstage & change his clothes & hats...among his random shirts worn onstage there was one that sported a Mickey Mouse body with a skeleton head on it that looked like something Marilyn Manson might have used at some point & AXL's neck was adorned with quite a bit o' bling...he has platinum chains with diamond encrusted bullets & during the middle of the show he came out wearing these oversized rings that could have carried pills inside them quite easily because they were so big!
"Rocket Queen" had an amazing crowd response but the grimy darkness that song once had in the beginning with Slash on guitar has lost a bit o' it's charm & the darkness....the song at this point is a reflection of a time that's passed & it's cool to hear AXL still singing it onstage for his adoring fans.
During "Knockin' on Heavens Door" a large breasted female fan managed to captivate most of the room's attention when she flashed them repeatedly!
Bumblefoot played the "Price is Right" game theme at one point during a break in songs & "Used to Love Her" was played a bit differently than the original. "You're Crazy" was the song that they changed the most & I'm not so sure I really like the current arrangement BUT I give AXL credit for reinterpreting a classic like that!
At the merch table there was a small selection o' GNR merch...2 shirts which sold for $40 a piece or a GNR hoodie which sold for $80 and when the band began the opening notes of "Paradise City" the crowd knew it was the last song of the night & all hell was about to break loose because the last minute or so of the song was a blur of red & gold confetti that covered the entire venue like a thick blanket o' cut up crepe paper & this show was one that NO ONE in attendance will EVER forget...this wasn't your Mom's GNR, it was the GNR of 2012....the band kicked serious ass from start to finish & say what you want about AXL, the simple fact is that he still has it!
Actually, I want to address one more thing before I end this review...they had a STRICT no camera policy...apparently you could film the entire show with an iPhone & taking pics on an iPhone were cool BUT a still camera, regardless of whether it was pro or not was NOT allowed & I was informed that if AXL saw a camera being used in the crowd that he would walk off stage immediately!