GNR Legends Week: Guns N' Roses Live Review

by James Rodd

For our GNR Legends week we revisit James Rodd's review of the 11/13/2006 concert at the 1st Mariner Arena in Baltimore, Maryland where they managed to blow him away with their show. Here is James' review:

I am a Guns N' Roses fan. I am an Axl Rose fan. In fact, I down right idolized him in my teenage years and tried to emulate him in my hysterical attempts at musicianship.
I have seen GNR perform three times now, each time with a different lineup.

The 1st time, 1989 or so, opening for Aerosmith in the Meadowlands (or maybe it was Shea Stadium), NYC. This was just during the break out success of Sweet Child O' Mine. Back then it was the absolute original line up. Slash, Axl, Duff, Izzy and Steven Adler.

The 2nd time I saw them was in 1991. A slightly different line up - Steve replaced by Matt Sorum and the addition of Dizzy Reed. This was the Metallica, GNR show with Skid Row opening in Madison Square Garden. One of the best shows I have ever been to, even if it did result in me bombing my Spanish final the next day.

So this was my third time seeing them. 15 years had passed. The band itself is a shadow of what it was member wise. The only original member is Axl himself. The only other name on stage associated with GN'R of yester year was Dizzy Reed. So with all the hype surrounding this band, the drama that is Axl, the album that we have been waiting a decade for… How was it?

It was freaking awesome! I have been to about 25 concerts, so far, in my lifetime. This was, by far, one of the best.

First off, attendance was a bit less than I expected. By the time GN'R took the stage the arena was 2/3 -3/4 full. Not an abysmal turn out, but no where near the capacity crowd present at the two previous shows I had attended. This is not a large arena by any standard either. This led me to believe that these are the die hard fans. With no new album to coax the next generation, it's the diehard's that are present. When you look at it that way, and add in the time lapse, it's a pretty good turn out.

Papa Roach, one of the opening acts for the first leg of the tour, dropped off the bill after Friday night's, sold out MSG show in NYC. I figured since no other opening act had been announced that they would go with Sebastian Bach, the other opening band, and then straight into GNR. I was wrong. We were treated to a 45 minute show by the Suicide Girls. This is not a band folks. They're strippers. Naughty strippers. Tattooed, pierced, and definitely on the Goth edge. 5 girls writhing and contorting to a number of rock hits. At first, while clothed, it was like a "Solid Gold" dance troupe, and the crowd and I seemed a bit bewildered, but when those shirts came off, the shock swept across the arena, and the crowd, 70% male, woke up. The girls put on a hell of a show. Though I really wish they had the jumbo-tron working for a better view. My only regret with this part of the show was that I had my 12 year old son standing next to me. But then I thought about it, and this is rock and roll after all. You can see worse on prime time TV lately.

The Suicide Girls were followed by Sebastian Bach and his band. They were excellent. They performed a number of Skid Row hits and three new originals that will be available on a forth coming album. Bas was very professional. The band was very tight and looked to be having a blast. Sebastian Back was very thankful of Axl and the opportunity to be on tour with GN'R. It seemed a little too thankful, but then I thought about it and in today's music climate, where would Bas and his band be if it weren't for this tour? Exactly. So the thanks are sincere and most probably warranted. The teaser of the three new tunes is enough to make me want to purchase the album. I look forward to its release.

GN'R took the stage at about 11:30. The arena went dark. Then a spotlight lit Robin Fink, formerly of Nine Inch Nails, strummed the first few notes of "Welcome to the Jungle". Just a few then stopped. Then a few more and stopped again. Very dramatic, very effective. Each time he did this the bar grew by a measure and he was playing a bit more of the intro to Jungle. Finally, he broke into the full sustained intro as the lights came up and the pyro exploded. Axl took the stage like a whirlwind. "Do you know where you are Baltimore? You're in the Jungle Baby. You're going down!" And like a punch to the head they were off.

This is the tightest band I have ever seen performing GN'R. I am a die hard Slash fan. I'd love to see the original GN'R back on stage together. But if you can't have Slash, Robin Fink and 'Bumblefoot' are a pretty damn good replacement. These guys are virtuosos. I couldn't even keep up with who was playing lead. They switched off so effortlessly and played so damn well that it was truly hard to distinguish. They really complemented each other and seriously love the music. You can't play with that kind of passion and not love it. I can remember a few re-starts of songs at those other two shows in the past; there was nothing like that here. These guys came out, a professional unit, and threw down the gauntlet. Rock is not dead people. It was recharging or something, but it's not dead.

About 20 songs later it was over. Time went by like a flash. They covered all the hits and standards. Threw in a few goodies like "Down on the Farm" from the Spaghetti Incident and an electric version of "I Used to Lover Her" from Lies. They played three songs from the upcoming album, "the Blues," "Better" and "Chinese Democracy."

Axl's voice was stronger than I recall. He hit every note and really showed of his range and ability to hold notes. I can't say enough about Robin Fink and Bumblefoot. I was in awe of them the whole show. The replacement drummer, Frank Ferrar, stepping in for Brian "Brain" Mantia, was damn good too. No flashy solo's by him, but a true professional through and through. I was always impressed by the massive kit Matt Sorum used and kind of felt, to play the skins for GN'R it must require a kit that big. But Mr. Ferar pounded out the tunes effortlessly on a normal sized kit. Proving it's the musician not the instrument.

The set list for the show went like this:
• Welcome to the Jungle
• It's So Easy
• Mr. Brownstone
• Live and Let Die
• Knockin on Heaven's Door
• Robin Fink Solo
• Sweet Child O' Mine
• You Could Be Mine
• Dizzy Reed Piano Solo on a Baby Grand wheeled to center stage, Axl on the maraca's of all things, a very cool reggae like instrumental version of Knockin on Heaven's Door.
• The Blues
• Better
• Band Intro
• Bumblefoot Solo
• Bumblefoot joined by Robin Fink for a truly bad ass, blues solo
• Out to Get Me
• November Rain, Axl on the wheeled out Baby Grand this time
• Down Here on the Farm
• Don't Cry
• My Michelle, joined onstage by Sebastian Bach, excellent
• I Used to Love Her
• Patience
• Nightrain
• Chinese Democracy
• Paradise City

It has always been a guilty pleasure of mine to hear the solo albums of great bands. I've always felt it gives you a behind the scenes look at the heart of a band. Find out who the true creative entity is. Though this new album was not a solo effort per say, its pretty obvious who the driving force behind GN'R truly was, in concert and on the new tracks. W. AXL ROSE.

Axl made a serious effort to come back out and thank the audience for their attendance and to show his appreciation for their appreciation. This was way different than the mic slam to the floor that ended the previous two shows I had seen. It seems AXL has grown up, GN'R has evolved and has the potential to rule supreme again, and I thank you Axl. Now get that album out. There's still six more Tuesday's left in 2006.

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