Music

Guns N’ Roses threw everything and the kitchen sink at their Sydney show

As silly as it may seem, it’s actually kind of thematically fitting that the first thing you hear at the start of a Guns N’ Roses show isn’t a wailing guitar or a wailing W. Axl Rose; but rather the jaunty theme song from Looney Tunes.

This is, after all, a band with a history of big explosions, larger-than- life characters and probably more than a few alien encounters. Yet, even after all these years, they’re still here to share their stories and serve as bright, big-swinging entertainment. Back at stadium status for the first time in many years on account of classic-era members returning to the fold, the band are enjoying a huge renaissance period – and, if tonight is any indication, it’s a momentum that Guns N’ Roses have taken full advantage of.

There are early indicators that the once-troubled hard rockers have managed to pull their shit together – literally, in this instance, as the band arrive on-stage just after 8pm. Considering they’ve been notoriously tardy in the past, this is a strong sign that the band means business; which is a notion that rolls directly into ‘It’s So Easy’, the sets opening number.

“The stage is so big, you can honest-to- god lose track of where the four mobile members of the band are at any given point.”

Rose – fully recovered from a broken foot and surprisingly sprightly for his 55 years – is already doing laps of the expansive stage set-up, sounding closer to his ’80s peak than he has in a long time. When he screeches the timeless question of “YOU KNOW WHERE YOU ARE??” to the audience, he sounds as though he genuinely knows the answer himself; which is a lot more than one can say about previous tours.

Of course, it’s not all about Axl and his antics tonight. Here, we welcome back Slash and Duff McKagan – neither of whom have appeared in Australia with the band in something like 25 years. The former is amazingly at home with the band, despite featuring mostly unfamiliar members from his era of the band. He works well with fellow guitarist Richard Fortus, with the two jamming together during Rose’s costume-change interludes on Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’ and The Godfather’s ‘Speak Softly Love”.

He also even has some moments with Rose himself – and given the history between these two, it’s enough to warm the heart of any die-hard fan. As for McKagan, he’s still exuding that classic rock-star cool.

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He takes the charge on an unexpected cover of the Misfits’; ‘Attitude’, and takes full advantage of the stage by heading all the way from one side to the other via the platform behind drummer Frank Ferrer. It’s worth mentioning that the stage is so big, you can honest-to- god lose track of where the four mobile members of the band are at any given point. The fact that all ooze charisma, confidence and stage presence ensures that dull moments are at a relative low.

Sadly, said moments do rear their head within the at-times exhaustive two-hours- 45 runtime. For whatever reason, the set includes cuts from 2008’s Chinese Democracy; ignores ‘Patience’ entirely and drags out their ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’ cover so far out that you’re half expecting Rose to cry out “give us some reggae!” Aside from ‘November Rain’, nearly every ballad slows the pacing of the set to a crawl; which is just not what you’re after as far as a stadium rock show is concerned.

Still, the thing about tonight is that the best moments are so good, they eclipse any and all shortcomings in an instant. Slash teases out the unmistakable riff from ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ purely for the sake of audience reaction, Rose builds up the mane-thrashing charge of ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ and even an out-of- costume Angus Young makes an appearance for two AC/DC deep cuts, ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’ and ‘Riff Raff’. Considering Slash, Rose and Young haven’t appeared on the same stage together since Coachella of last year, the Sydney crowd promptly loses its shit at the sight of it all.

By the time we’re taken down to ‘Paradise City’, one can’t help but grin like an idiot while indulging in one of the ultimate rock sing-alongs. Confetti rains down, fireworks go off and the grass reveals itself to be well and truly greener on the other side.

It’s not a perfect show by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s the closest G’n’R have come since at least the early ’90s. For all the time we’ve looked down on this band through the 2000s and part of the 2010s, tonight promptly brings us to our sha-na- na-na- na-na- na-na- na-na knees.

Guns N’ Roses Australian tour 2017

Tuesday February 14 – MCG, Melbourne VIC
Saturday February 18 – Adelaide Oval, Adelaide SA
Tuesday February 21 – Domain Stadium, Perth WA

Images provided by Kerry O’Brien Publicity