Like most people, I assume, who purchase Guns n Roses tickets, I was mildly concerned with Axl Rose starting late. In retrospect, after seeing the show, I would have stood until the wee hours of the morning.
December 7, 2011 Black label Society and Guns n Roses hit the intimate Covelli Center in Youngstown, Ohio. With the capability of drawing in Cleveland and Pittsburgh fans, as well as the host city and surrounding areas, Covelli Center was a perfect choice. Doors opened at the unusual late hour of 8PM, presumably to accommodate Axl’s notorious late starts. The place was packed to the rafters with blue collar descended fans whom love and covet their serious rock n roll. In fact the first 30 or so rows of seats were removed at Axl’s request to provide a more intimate and show. Starting to pack in like sardines, the crowd beamed in anticipation for a lifetime experience. By 9:15 PM they no longer had to wait.
Ozzy Osbourne’s former guitarist Zakk Wylde and Pittsburgh’s own Nick Cantanese opened with their band Black label Society and were a perfect fit to warm up the crowd. Blasting the audience with such hits as Crazy Horse and Suicide Messiah, Wylde and crew killed the crowd with hard and heavy music while looking and playing the part as though they were the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club. Choosing not to promote their newest release of often softer cover tunes entitled The Song Remains Not the Same, BLS bombarded new and old fans with sweet metal music for nearly an hour long set.
The wait time between acts was relatively short and at 11PM Guns took the stage barraging ears with the song Chinese Democracy from their latest release Chinese Democracy. Axl is wholeheartedly cognizant of his fans and what the crowd especially came for: original Guns n Roses. Songs two through four hit the right note with Welcome to the Jungle, It’s so Easy and Mr. Brownstone. From there the setlist wavered between highlights of Appetite for Destruction material, including Rocket Queen, to Use Your Illusion I and II, such as the Live and Let Die and November Rain. Sadly, at least for this writer, was the lack of material from The Great Spaghetti Incident? that featured many punk classic and legendary covers.
One of the really entertaining qualities of Axl’s hired henchmen is their musical abilities and backgrounds emerging with their solos and in-between song jamming that did feature some cover material. Former Love Spit Love guitarist Richard Fortus, who looks like Ron Wood and Izzy Stradlin’s love child, chose to solo with elements of the James Bond Theme. Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal played with the Pink Panther Theme and pianist Dizzy Reed, who has been with the band since 1990, played The Who’sBaba O’Reilly. Former Replacements bassist Ron Stinson sang and dedicated the Dead Boys Sonic Reducer to Stiv Bators (both the punk legendary band and their leader hailed from Youngstown). Even Axl got caught up in the act with some Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, accompanying Bumblefoot and Fortus on part of Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall Part II, and the whole band blazed through AC/DC’s Whole Lotta Rosie.
The real star of the show, besides Axl, is the new recruit of Sixx A.M.’s D.J. Ashba. Originally from Indiana just like Rose, D.J. has built a reputation working with the likes of Nikki Sixx and pre-Guns n Roses fame band member Tracii Guns of L.A. Guns. D.J. ran from side to side, into the crowd, jumped the risers, danced and posed as close to Slash as one could get. His intonation from his trusty Les Pauls was the soul of the act and a true focus of the crowd.
After all these years, Axl’s voice is still at the top of the heap. When he speaks to the crowd he is often hard to hear, but his thank you was loud and clear for the timely induction into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, acknowledged by thanking the fans that put Rose (and former bandmates) there. While wailing for just under three hours, Axl never lost a step or a note. For anyone doubting the experience for lack of Duff, Slash, Izzy, and Adler you can always hold out your dreams for a Hall of Fame reunion or a fantasy tour. For my money though, the current line-up is here, ready, and willing…and worth the wait.
Alan Welding – Review and Photos