Queen Elizabeth Olympic Stadium, London
I never got to see Guns N’ Roses as a kid: I was about 14 when Slash called it quits, and I never had any interest in seeing LA’s finest hard rock JD-swiggers without him. By the time I lost interest in them, they’d become a bloated caricature of rock excess with Axl Rose routinely arriving 3 and 4 hours late for shows and causing riots by so doing.
So I was a little amused that we were late for this gig.
By the time we got there, it was about 8:20. The Olympic Park is a proper shlep from the wilds of Berkshire and we thought there was no way they’d be on before 9. But as it turned out, we missed It’s So Easy, Welcome to the Jungle and half of Rocket Queen. Ironic, as Alanis Morissette might observe.
Didn’t matter, though. I never thought I’d see Slash, Axl and Duff on the same stage again and yet not only here they were, but here they were warm, smiling, going back-to-back in solos, Axl laying a fond hand on his top-hatted compadre’s arm every so often. It was so good to see.
Axl’s voice, of course, is a marmite thing – but regardless of whether or not you like it, it’s a stunning instrument. “How can he DO that?”, I kept asking my friend. He was in perfect voice last night – hitting those impossible high notes hard, with such force, and seemingly without effort. (And his teeth were so Hollywood white you could see them from the back of the stadium even without the big screens.)
The set wasn’t without its very occasional longeurs. Slash has never met a 15 minute solo he didn’t like, and as thrilling as it is to see him in the flesh – and Christ, what a guitarist: icon isn’t, for once, the wrong word – his solo show-off spot was plain old boring. But who cares, when you get My Michelle and You Could Be Mine and Yesterdays and Civil War and the monstrous riff of Coma and and Knockin On Heaven’s Door and and…? Not me.
You could’ve set your watch by there being an encore. Of course there was. They left without playing Paradise City – no way were they not coming back. But what they did when they reappeared surprised and moved me: a note-perfect rendition of Soundgarden’s Black Hole Sun in tribute to Chris Cornell. And then – Patience. Acoustic. Perfect. 80,000 people singing every word. And THEN, yes, Paradise City, which was electrifying.
What a night.
Huge. HUUUUGE. And mostly late 30s and 40s, but the full range.
It made me think..
I really love Guns N’ Roses. And this was a wonderful night.