Guns N' Roses
M.E.N. Arena, Manchester
Sunday 23 July 2006
Manchester at 16.00 is bathed in sunshine, yet that doesn't deter a high number of people milling around in black t-shirts. There's also an ample amount of big hair, the mullet being a particular favourite, being sported by forty-year-old men with big tattoos. But enough of the stereotyping, I'm sure you get the message – GN'R arriving in town has brought out their original fans, not to mention the following generations that their music continues to connect with.
Fast forward six hours and those same people are booing an empty stage. Reputably not the most punctual, it's another thirty minutes before W. Axl Rose, and no amount of Mexican Waves, topless women and men (with some of the males more in need of a bra than the ladies) can keep the natives happy. When the lights finally go down, the roar is deafening. Teased with the instantly recognisable opening note of "Welcome To The Jungle", the eruption for Rose's arrival is phenomenal. Rumours have dogged the band's only remaining original member for the last decade, so let's confirm and deny so of these. Yes, he has put on weight and no he is not bald. More importantly though, his voice is still perfectly capable of hitting all the notes he does on record, from the screams of the opening track to the growls of the follow up, "It's So Easy". There's not let up, with the crowd rampaging through "Mr Brownstone", and adding ample vocal support to "Knockin' On Heaven's Door".
The new line up consists of three guitarists, each given unnecessary solo spots, but Robert Finch does at least launch into the fantastic riff that opens "Sweet Child O'Mine". Like everything else tonight, it is played to perfection, and you sense that the men that Rose has assembled to take on the GN'R moniker are all very accomplished musicians. The true example of their ability, however, is in the new tracks, which show their ability to write rather than just imitate. None are introduced with titles, but "Madagascar" is a haunting epic number that Rose has been airing for several years already, while the others also prove to be positive examples from the forever delayed "Chinese Democracy" record.
The hits continue to be unleashed, with "Live And Let Die" being accompanied by heart-stopping pyrotechnics, and "You Could Be Mine" injecting further energy to the already mental moshpit. Rose endears himself by declaring he hasn't slept for two days because he has been working incredibly hard on something – he just can't remember her name (Peter Kay need not worry just yet). He also wraps himself in a Union Jack tossed on stage, much to the delight of those in attendance, but perhaps the highlight of the show comes when he brings on stage an old friend. With all the criticism of the band not actually being GN'R due to the lack of original members, the appearance of Izzy Stradlin almost seems magical. He plays the last couple of numbers of the main set, before "Nightrain" and "Paradise City" light up the encore. For all of Axl Rose's prima donna behaviour, the show itself is so brilliant that he can be forgiven anything. It's a wonderful reminder of how great the band was and is, and how badly metal and music as a whole has missed them.
Seven songs to take you to victory, or seven songs to dry your eyes to.
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