Guns N' Roses Aus tour fulfils thousands of 25 year old dreams

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There might be a few missing faces, but Guns N' Roses still live up to the hype.

The Not In This Lifetime tour, it does what it says on the tin.

Seeing the (mostly) original Guns N' Roses line up play together again seemed like it’d never happen. Even with Axl, Slash and Duff taking the stage again, what would be the chances their tour would take in stadiums Down Under? Fortunately, the legions of fans in this part of the world had enough pull.

The weekend saw two back-to-back shows in Sydney’s Olympic stadium. The rocketing mercury didn’t stop the merch lines packed with fans eager to get their black GnR shirts to memorialise the show they’d waited 25 years – or a lifetime – for.

For anyone reading reviews or set lists going in, there weren’t any surprises to start. On the massive screen behind the stage, animated revolvers wrapped in thorny roses started firing.

If the music Axl had written without Slash and Duff sobered the atmosphere for a moment, the reverb washed opening chords to ‘Welcome To The Jungle’ brought it back.

‘It’s So Easy’ has been the opening track for the whole tour and it was again on Friday night, with Axl running his trademark laps of the stage with a tartan shirt wrapped around him.

Following with another Appetite for Destruction hit, ‘Mr. Brownstone’, meant for a high-energy start.

But dipping straight into the title track of the bands’ adopted child record Chinese Democracy directly after reminded the crowd there’d be some awkward reunion vibes throughout.

If the music Axl had written without Slash and Duff sobered the atmosphere for a moment, the reverb washed opening chords to ‘Welcome To The Jungle’ brought it back.

Axl’s vocal range is still there, from his soaring screams to the lower register, like in their classic cover of Wings’ ‘Live and Let Die’.

It’s the faster verses in the Use Your Illusion songs like ‘Double Talkin’ Jive’ and ‘You Could Be Mine’, you could see the years catching up. Singing while running is hard, though and he’s fitter than he looks.

While there wasn’t a lot of interaction between the original members, each had their time with the audience in equal measures. Their longer, cinematic songs ‘Estranged’ and ‘November Rain’, with their minimum of two guitar solos and piano parts, allow lots of time for multiple stars of the show.

 

Reminiscent of the early-'90s stadium tours, Axl introduces his support on the keys, “Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr Dizzy Reed” – a name familiar from their Live Era record.

But this served as a reminder that there are members of this group that haven’t been resurrected; Appetite drummer Steven Adler or even his replacement Matt Sorum, Izzy Stradlin or second incarnation rhythm guitarist Gilby Clarke weren’t there. But new members Frank Ferrer, Richard Fortus and Melissa Reese played their part and never got in the way of the moment for Axl, Slash and Duff.

If you were still waiting for surprises in the set list then hopefully you hadn’t read anything online, the tracks were all quite predictably executed in line with each of the shows so far; ‘Civil War’ ended with a nod to Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return)’ there was a guitar duet of the first part of Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’ – as much a chance for Axl to have a drink and change his shirt as it was a fitting part of the set.

The guys did seem to be going to extra lengths to pay homage to other iconic rock acts, evident too with Duff wearing a singlet with another bass legend, Lemmy from Motörhead on it.

Many were hoping for a hometown appearance from AC/DC’s Angus Young. Duff had tweeted they ran into each other at the airport and given that Axl had moonlighted with AC/DC’s 2016 tour, it seemed very possible.

 

Sure enough, a casual appearance did happen and the crowd response was one of the biggest of the show. Angus was wearing jeans and a t-shirt, which seemed like free dress at school. They rocked ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’ and ‘Riff Raff’ with a particularly tight vocal performance from Axl.

It felt like the confetti was firing just as the gig was getting started.

The highlight of the night was in the band’s most notable cover, Bob Dylan’s ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’.

The breakdown, featuring an audience call and response, was a needed reminder that this show was in a stadium full of people.

Axl takes pleasure in making the screams to follow impossible for the audience, but the crowd was just happy to make some noise.

The iconic rail steamer sounds of ‘Nightrain’ sent the band into a very short encore break in style.

The predictability of the set had an extra sense of finality about it in the encore.

Just one Use Your Illusion song, ‘Don’t Cry’, led the crowd into thinking we’d hear more classics. The other long song in the trilogy we hadn’t heard yet was ‘Coma’. The heart beats at the start of that song didn’t eventuate though, instead a cover of The Who’s ‘The Seeker’ set up the final song of the night that we all knew was coming.

Perhaps the venue’s curfew had snuck up, but it felt the confetti was firing after the gig had just started. ‘Paradise City’ is an obvious choice to go out on and it would have potentially been an exciting swap for ‘Nightrain’ or ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ to say goodbye to the crowd who’d waited so long.

Still, Guns ‘N Roses return to Australia felt like they had lived up to a quarter of a century of hype.

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