The (mostly) reunited Guns N’ Roses officially kicked off their “Not In This Lifetime…” reunion tour at the newly-opened T-Mobile Arena on the Las Vegas Strip. After an LA warmup show at the Troubadour that left Axl Rose with a broken left foot, Rose came out on stage on a gigantic throne adorned with broken guitar necks that looked immediately familiar, as it was the exact Game of Thrones-esque guitar throne created by/for Dave Grohl after the Foo Fighters frontman broke his leg recently, which Grohl graciously agreed to lone to the band, according to Rose.
With founding members Rose, guitarist Slash, and bassist Duff McKagan, 3/5 of the original GnR lineup was present along with keyboardist Dizzy Read, (who’s actually logged more GnR time than anyone else save Rose since joining in 1990), drummer Frank Ferrer, guitarist Richard Fortus, and keyboardist Melissa Reese. Missing from the reunion are founding guitarist and songwriter Izzy Stradlin, original drummer Steven Adler, and Adler’s replacement Matt Sorum.
Given the last 15+ years of Guns N’ Roses history, and the history between the former and present members, one could be forgiven for seeing this as a cynical cash grab reunion. While that may or may not be the case, expectations for how this reunion wold actually sound ranged from fearful to cautiously optimistic. And after seeing their first real show back, it’s safe to say that the reunited Guns N’ Roses demolished even the most optimistic superfan’s expectations. It honestly felt like almost no time had passed, which is incredibly surprising given Rose’s recent past, with the corn rows and hockey jerseys and the Chinese Democracy record that was over a decade in the making/waiting. Perhaps aided by the fact that he could only sit and didn’t have to run around the stage, Rose’s voice was incredibly strong and the best he’s sounded in years. He can still wail on the high notes and power through the baritone parts, and while the several costume changes seemed extra-unnecessary given the team of roadies it took to get him off the throne and off the stage, when he came out in a white leather jacket and white cowboy hat and you knew they were about to launch into “Paradise City,” it kind of felt like 1988 again. While it was disappointing to have an immobile Axl Rose unable to bust out his trademark shuffle, if his immobility means he can just concentrate on belting out the vocals, it’s a more than worthwhile trade, because he sounded fucking great. And the rest of the band picked up the slack in the jumping-around department, with Slash and Fortus both running and hopping across the stage in seemingly sheer exuberance throughout the show.
As good as the band sounded, the most pleasant surprise was that, after an opening set by Alice in Chains, Guns N’ Roses hit the stage at midnight, only a half hour later than their scheduled start time. This was a band that caused more than one riot with their tardiness, so anything before 1 AM was a victory for the crowd. Even with their “early” start, the band still didn’t finish until nearly 2:30 AM, after 23 songs that had the sold-out crowd standing the entire show. Besides the expected hits from Appetite for Destruction and the Use Your Illusion records and their standard covers of “Live and Let Die,” “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” the band busted out covers of the theme from The Godfather, an instrumental cover of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here,” that they played while Rose went from throne to the grand piano, and followed that with end of “Layla” the segued into–and probably inspired the ending of–”November Rain,” (which, personally, was the highlight of the show, particularly Slash’s solos standing above Rose’s piano while pyrotechnics exploded in the background).
If this is the kind of show GnR are going to put on on a regular basis (and reports from the show the next night seem just as positive) the sold-out crowds and festival attendees won’t have reason to be disappointed.
Guns N’ Roses, April 8, 2016, T-Mobile Arena Las Vegas Setlist
1. “It’s So Easy”
2. “Mr. Brownstone”
3. “Chinese Democracy”
4. “Welcome to the Jungle”
5. “Double Talkin’ Jive”
7. “Live and Let Die”
8. “Rocket Queen”
9. “You Could Be Mine”
10. “New Rose”
11. “This I Love”
13. “Speak Softly Love (Love Theme From The Godfather)”
14. “Sweet Child O’ Mine”
16. “Civil War”
17. “Wish You Were Here”
18. “Layla (coda)”
19. “November Rain”
20. “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”
23. “Paradise City”