I watched the Guns n’ Roses reunion come together with interest but never quite committed to go – and then realized I should go, because “last” opportunities abound these days. It takes a certain show for me to commit to driving the traffic nightmare route to Orlando for a giant arena show with a nosebleed seat, but they did it – and of course it was all worth it.
I hadn’t been to this venue since 1983 – I went to all of the old Tangerine Bowl concerts with my high school bff. So it was somewhat surreal to be there 33 years later and at the same time be able to text her in California. Back in the ’80s the tickets were General Admission, and we were either on the floor or stage right, one level up. I probably only remember this because of the picture I took of Mick Jagger with my 110-camera with the snap-on flash at one of the 1981 Rolling Stones shows ;o).
When I finally went to buy GnR tickets the good ones were sold out or really expensive – we settled for seats way up high, but not all the way up, in the back. It worked because of the fantastic video boards and camera guys, and big graphics and big fireworks that made use of the entire arena in a good old-fashioned rock concert kind of way…there was a great energy. And the sound was fantastic, amazing, couldn’t have been better. But most of all, the musicianship was at its peak and it was pretty much the best you could have hoped for – a bunch of really talented guys who have honed their craft and brought it to a new level. I hate to say matured, but the great jam sessions that popped up here and there can only come with experiences.
I simply don’t remember the last time I saw Guns n’ Roses – all I know is that it was in L.A. in the ’80s, shortly before or after they disappeared from the scene to make Appetite for Destruction. I THINK it may have been at the Cathouse…I think I saw the Cult at the Cathouse too. Damn my faulty memories. I do clearly recall seeing Slash being carried out of the Cathouse about ’86-’87, one guy on either side holding an arm and leg. I’m pretty sure I remember it was Axl that showed up at the Rainbow party-in-the-parking lot at 2 a.m. in a bathrobe, circa ’84 (was that really him? see my psychological discussion of false memories). Memories are so odd. My bffs and I remember pieces of things and we try to put it all together the best we can, but blanks remain. Maybe there’s something about these shows in my old Cathouse flyers. I once flagged something I read in Slash’s biography because he gives a somewhat plausible explanation as to why those days seem a blur:
“I had a finite amount of memory, and since I eagerly awaited the next moment, the past faded fast.” – Slash
So I tried my best to be present in the Citrus Bowl despite the nostalgia flooding through me from memories of high school concerts and Sunset Strip days. I noticed the crowds: every age was represented. I was amazed by the merchandise sales. Everybody was happy, the beer and water lines were easy, and it was just a pleasant place to be in this crazy world, in an energy of the expectation of something good.
GnR went on at about 9:50 and opened with It’s So Easy and fireworks, then went right into Mr. Brownstone with some classic Axl moves – it set the mood perfectly. They did some Chinese Democracy, which I am completely unfamiliar with but my concert pal was, then continued to keep the mood with Welcome to the Jungle – that song, that line, that place in time, that thing that never gets old. The vocals were mostly good, the guitars kicked with some more-than-expected enjoyable jamming going on, keyboards were beautiful. The video boards were great, especially for the guitar. Live and Let Die led perfectly to the intensity of Rocket Queen – as always, the first half portraying an exciting danger and the second half a freeing of worries, a force that never fails to take me back – to You Could Be Mine, Civil War and a beautiful guitar solo (I’m told from The Godfather), Sweet Child O’ Mine, Better, Out Ta Get Me, amazing rendition of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, and a great Axl piano solo into November Rain. The sound was big and full and Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door and Night Train, The Who’s The Seeker and Don’t Cry, all great. The encore ended with Paradise City and a fireworks extravaganza that finished things off quite grandly – and I actually saw a REAL lighter amongst the cell phone glow at one point ;o). I will definitely go see them again, but next time around I’m planning on the upfront and personal experience.
This Mr. Brownstone snippet captures a great shot of the Classic Axl Move:
This video shows how great the video boards were and captures the sound pretty good:
And a snippet of the Paradise City finale:
I’m so glad I went to this show. I think perhaps I didn’t trust that they could live up to all that they were, but they did. I also think I may have forgotten how amazing the music really is in the midst of everything else that they represent. All in all, it was good for the soul ;o).
Some other random GnR related stuff…