FOR me, this was one huge miss. Because of unavoidable personal work, I had to go outstation, and skip the Guns N’ Roses gig in Mumbai, though I had already written a curtain raiser called ‘Waiting for GNR’ in my blog. My good friend Parag Kamani, however, kindly consented to write a guest article for this blog.
Parag is a Mumbai-based music industry professional and music columnist. Kaansen Kalling extends gratitude to him for posting this.
Walking into the audience at Mumbai’s BKC to attend the Guns N’ Roses concert on December 9, 2012, I was filled with tepidity as only the vocalist from the original band, Axl Rose, remained its sole survivor. But from the smell of grass outside the venue to seeing a crowd numbering 10,000 people inside the MMRDA Grounds ensured that no one had devalued the strength of the band even if it was without the likes of guitarist Izzy Stradlin and, needless to say, Slash.
However, by the time the programme commenced at 7 pm or so, all doubts vanished about the competency of the band, supported by the tightness of the sound – at least where I was located i.e. in the standing Rs 3,000 priced “gold” category [the others were “silver” at Rs 1,500, also standing, and the seated Rs 10,000, located between these two categories] – as the now 50 year old Axl Rose cut into the title track of the band’s lesser known last album, Chinese Democracy.
While his distinctive voice has certainly lost its shine from the heydays of the ‘80s, he nevertheless put full effort into the songs performed as he played songs from the album that had made G N’ R superstars in the first place – Appetite For Destruction – with selections such as Welcome To The Jungle, It’s So Easy, Mr Brownstone, and Rocket Queen, among others.
As Axl took multiple breathers during the set by going off stage wherein he changed his tee, hat, jacket and, perhaps, the chains worn around his neck, it also provided the three guitarists – Richard Fortus, Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, and DJ Ashba [who appeared to mimic the clothing and guitaring of Slash to the T] – to showcase their respective solo talents. And, for the record, as much as it would have been difficult to cater to an obviously, largely sceptical audience – like me – who would have preferred the original members representing G N’ R; on the whole, the “new” band was indeed brilliant in performance even if it did take three guitarists to reproduce what just two had done in the past. An observation provided to me was that most of the “new” band members have now had a stint with G N’ R a lot longer than the “original” line-up.
Axl obviously does not like to surprise the audience from a set list that is being utilised for the better part of the past several years but, for those who were not aware of it, paradoxically, there were surprises galore. There were the expected “covers” that have graced G N’ R albums from the past such as Paul McCartney & Wings’ Live And Let Die and the call [from Axl]-and-response [from the audience] on Bob Dylan’s Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, which was dedicated to Mumbai, India, and to Freddie Mercury. [For the trivia-minded, the link with Mercury first occurred in 1992 when Guns N’ Roses appeared at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, performing a three-song set. Slash later performed Tie Your Mother Down with the surviving members of Queen, while Axl performed We Will Rock You and sang a duet with Elton John on Bohemian Rhapsody. When the band returned to the U.S. for the second leg of the Use Your Illusion tour, Queen guitarist Brian May and his band opened the shows.] Meanwhile, there were more covers too: Led Zeppelin’s No Quarter, an outstanding reading of The Who’s The Seeker, Neil Young’s Don’t Let It Bring You Down and, surprise, Pink Floyd’s Another Brick In The Wall [part II] – which commenced at the conclusion of the anthemic Sweet Child O’ Mine that had the audience sing along – with Axl seated at the piano before seguing into November Rain.
As the concert lasting three hours was coming to an end, the band went through the acoustic Patience, that had an extended opening sequence containing interplay between Thal and Ashba, a song that was revived by actor Tom Cruise through his movie – and vocals – from earlier this year, Rock Of Ages. The song concluded with cannons firing red confetti over the crowd. After some 32 songs [yes, count them!] containing instrumentals, popular tracks, covers, jams, and a few throwaways [mainly from Chinese Democracy], the concert was over, but one that was, without doubt, full value for money and thanks to Axl for that! “I’ve been wanting to come to India for the last 27 years,” he announced. “It’s finally happened [and] I’m so happy, I’m so thankful to you guys for being here.”
Indeed, if Guns N’ Roses had thorns from the past, he has had them removed for the present and ensured that the band merely requires an Axl to make it rock as a perfectly serviced vehicle in future!
1. Chinese Democracy
2. Welcome To The Jungle
3. It’s So Easy
4. Mr. Brownstone
6. Rocket Queen
7. Richard Fortus Guitar Solo
(Blacklight Jesus Of Transylvania)
8. Live and Let Die
9. This I Love
(Tommy Stinson song) (Tommy Stinson on lead vocals, with band introductions)
12. Dizzy Reed Piano Solo
(No Quarter by Led Zeppelin)
13. Catcher In The Rye
14. Street Of Dreams
15. There Was A Time
16. You Could Be Mine
17. DJ Ashba Guitar Solo
(Ballad of Death)
18. Sweet Child O’ Mine
19. Another Brick In The Wall Part 2
(Pink Floyd cover) (with Axl on piano)
20. November Rain
(Bumblefoot cover) (Bumblefoot on lead vocals)
22. Don’t Cry
23. The Seeker
(The Who cover)
24. Civil War
25. Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door
(Bob Dylan cover)
28. Don’t Let It Bring You Down
(Neil Young cover)
32. Paradise City
Axl Rose – lead vocals (1985–present)
Dizzy Reed – keyboards, piano, percussion, backing vocals (1990–present)
Tommy Stinson – bass, backing vocals (1998–present)
Chris Pitman – keyboards, backing vocals (1998–present)
Richard Fortus – rhythm guitar (2002–present)
Frank Ferrer – drums (2006–present)
Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal – lead guitar (2006–present)
DJ Ashba – lead guitar (2009–present)