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GUNS N’ ROSES @ Domain Stadium

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Guns N’ Roses with Wolfmother
@ Domain Stadium

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

8.5/10

Not in this lifetime? Not true! One of the most unlikely and anticipated reunions in rock ‘n’ roll finally eventuated last year, and at last it was our turn, as the massive touring juggernaut of legendary LA rockers Guns N’ Roses hit Australia this month. While Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan have all toured here over the years with their own bands, not since the Use Your Illusion tour of 1993 had this lineup come to Australia. And Tuesday marked the first time the band has ever come to Perth with the original members. They came packing a full stadium show with all the trimmings and an epic, career spanning, near three-hour set, and boy did they rock. If there was a roof on the damn thing, they would have blown it off.

Sure, original guitarist/songwriter Izzy Stradlin didn’t make it, nor drummers Steve Adler or Matt Sorum. But with this classic lineup, it was the stuff bogan dreams are made of. Joining the trio was long standing, Use Your Illusion-era keyboardist Dizzy Reed, guitarist Richard Fortus, Frank Ferrer aka the “thunderchucker”, and new addition, green-haired pixie girl, Melissa Reese, on synths and backing vocals.

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This here reviewer was lucky enough to catch the first Sydney show too, where AC/DC’s Angus Young made an appearance to shred on Whole Lotta Rosie, followed by a Riff Raff jam sesh. While Perth missed out on that glorious moment, we got some extra songs. Apart from that the overall show was very similar.

Many were battling massive queues for merch and drinks during Wolfmother’s set. The amount of GN’R shirts on parade was quite something – many pulling out a ratty looking T from the back of their wardrobe, and many more picking up one of the iconic designs from the busy merch stand.

With giant graphics of firing guns heralding their arrival, the group hit the stage a little after their 7.30pm scheduled start time. They didn’t waste any time getting stuck in, kicking off with the sleazy jam of It’s So Easy from their classic 1987 debut Appetite For Destruction, then backing it up with Mr Brownstone and Chinese Democracy.

Guns N' Roses

Then came Welcome To The Jungle, with Slash teasing us on the intro, before launching into it proper as Axl screamed “You know where you are? You’re in Perth baby! You’re gonna die!” Seemingly still trying to make amends for the gaffe in Melbourne where they addressed the crowd as “Sydney”.

Despite the solid opening salvo, things got off to a bit of a shaky start, much like the first part of the Sydney show, with some sound issues detracting from the impact of the songs, even with pyrotechnics accentuating the drops. It didn’t slap you across the face and punch you in the guts like it should, and while some people reported certain sweet spots in the massive arena, the sound was lacking in oomph for many – perhaps due to the swirling wind, poor sound mixing or just Australia’s international reputation for noise restrictions. But thankfully as the night progressed, it just got better and better.

They dug deep into their catalogue, and filled the Angus shaped hole in the middle of the set with some choice selections the east missed out on – notably the heavy Coma from Use Your Illusion I, My Michelle, Yesterdays and Used To Love Her – the only inclusion from 1988’s Lies. Sadly there was no Patience or Out Ta Get Me, but the near 30 song setlist covered pretty much every other classic you could hope for.

There were a few little surprises, such as Duff taking lead vocals and showing his punk roots with a cracking mash up of covers from The Spaghetti Incident? in Johnny Thunders’ You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory and Misfits’ Attitude. Slash and Fortus duelled on a beautiful instrumental version of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here that had the crowd singing – perhaps an ode to absent friends.

Their explosive Wings cover Live And Let Die got a big reaction, and a couple highlights were underrated tracks, Civil War and the mighty Estranged, which contains one of Slash’s best solos, as well as a barnstorming You Could Be Mine, famously featured on the Terminator 2 soundtrack.

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The few inclusions from 2008’s Chinese Democracy could have been done without – especially considering the album was made without Slash or Duff – typical Axl. Though the operatic ballad This Is Love was an unexpected highlight, providing a nice change of pace, with Slash owning the scorching guitar solo, matching Axl’s vocals – that was until his wireless mic cut out, apparently due to flat batteries, prompting him to remark “Are you fucking kidding me?” He apologised for some tech difficulties, joking “maybe we should just start again”. A sign of how much times have changed – it seems Axl has tamed his notoriously volatile temper, finally learnt to laugh at himself and not take things too seriously.

While they all certainly looked their age (apart from the fighting fit Duff) on the giant HD screens, Axl seemed in good shape, running around the giant stage like the madman of his youth, jumping on speakers, striking classic ‘Axl’ poses, flashing his perfect, white teeth, with his trademark smirking grin, able to hit most of those ball-tearing notes, albeit sometimes not quite getting there. Working his way through multiple costume changes, featuring a myriad of leather jackets, flannel shirts and hat combinations, all while dripping with bling – he seemed to be having a ball.

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Slash was more low-key, keeping his head down mostly, his giant mop of curly hair stuffed under his trademark top hat as he struck that iconic stance, legs far apart, Les Paul pointed to the sky, unlocking Guitar God mode, effortlessly hitting every note as he shredded up and down the neck. A solo interlude segued into an awesome rendition of Love Theme From The Godfather, which led smoothly into their stone-cold classic, Sweet Child O’ Mine – which saw everyone lose their shit.

From then on in, the atmosphere seemed to lift as they hit their stride, ironically with a run of monster ballads. Culminating in their opus, November Rain, with Axl at the grand piano and Slash launching into one of the greatest solos of all time, the stage lit up with flashing images of rain and lightning, and a waterfall of sparks fell down above him. Slash’s playing is timelessly brilliant, inspired and vital – reminding us he’s more than a rock caricature and one of the all-time great lead guitarists.

While obviously a lot of the crowd were older, they were a surprisingly lacklustre lot for a bunch witnessing the heroes of their youth. A big singalong to their cover of Bob Dylan’s Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door got people fired up though, before a storming rendition of Night Train ended the set.

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They were soon back for a big encore trifecta of one of their most beautiful moments, Don’t Cry, a rollicking rendition of The Who’s The Seeker and of course Paradise City, which concluded the night in an explosion of lights, confetti and fireworks, as Axl genuinely thanked Perth and all the Australian crowds.

Despite some lulls in the momentum and some production issues limiting the show’s full potential, it was an amazing concert and a big bucket list moment for many. They just don’t make bands like Gunners anymore. As the crowd spilled out of the massive arena to the gentle strains of The Rolling Stones’ Far Away Eyes and headed towards the night train, the mood was high, with many smiles and proclamations of “How fuckin’ great was that?!” Indeed. And with any luck, we’ll get a chance to do it again, as the band have stated that they will be back. Maybe next time they can get Izzy and Adler along – the 30th anniversary of Appetite For Destruction is imminent!

ALFRED GORMAN

Pics by Stuart McKay

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