They said it wouldn’t happen. It did.
It’s 1987 and MV is 12 years old. In the library they loaned records and I often browsed in there while dad looked for books on Thursday night. One week I spotted an LP I’d read about in Kerrang. Rock n roll had never sounded so dangerous before or since and the album remains my favourite to this day.
Fast forward thirty years and three fifths of the men who made “Appetite For Destruction” are right here.
The water under the bridge, the trials, tribulations, name calling, has filled books (and about 100 editions of Classic Rock Magazine ). Here they are summed up thus: the Not In This Lifetime Tour.
Or put another way, as the announcement before the band hits the stage says: “Of all the bands in the world this is definitely one of them. Ladies and gentlemen Guns N Roses”.
And with that, for the next almost three hours, the one time most dangerous band in the world are all that you’d want them to be. Forget the soap opera. This is about the music.
Ironically they start with the one that hooked me. To understand the danger in “It’s So Easy” you probably had to be a 12 year old boy in 1987. But all our pre-pubescent frustrations are back with the line: “why don’t you just fuck off.”
They might follow this up with an incendiary “Mr. Brownstone” but as if to emphasise the point that this is most certainly not an “Appetite….” show, the title track of – and one of a smattering of decent songs on – “Chinese Democracy” puts an early appearance in.
But let’s cut to the chase, shall we? You ain’t ever going to play a stadium once, let alone two nights in a row, if you don’t have a truckload of massive songs. The type your mum knows, your nan knows and everyone has heard. GnR have plenty. And they use them well. “Welcome To The Jungle” is first and there is still some menace when Axl Rose roars “do you know where you are…..?”
There are many things that the band deserves credit for here. The bravery in doing a set this long where most would have played the whole album in order and called it a night, the way they don’t just do the hits – “Double Talking Jive” for example becomes a centerpiece – but you have to say having the balls to merrily play all their longest, most involved tunes in a setting such as this is right up there. “Estranged” is not a three minute pop song, but it’s here along with a glorious “Coma” and a poignant “Civil War”.
The band too, look like a gang again. Axl is reborn from the dreadful caricature he was trawling a line up of the band around a few yews ago, Duff brings the punk as on The Damned’s “New Rose” and Slash? Well Slash is the embodiment of rock n roll cool, and they all – drummer Frank Ferrer, guitarist Richard Fortus, long standing keys man Dizzy Reed and backing singer Melissa Reese – look to have rediscovered the joy playing these songs.
Slash gets his turn with a lengthy solo – he and Fortus later duet on an instrumental take on Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” – and there’s another one – perhaps the one – of the mega hits, “Sweet Child O’Mine” and another, “November Rain” segues into “Black Hole Sun” neatly.
After “Night Train” ends things with a Molotov cocktail and a match to go, and 50,000 people go all kinds of crazy, there’s an encore. “Don’t Cry” has an understatement that most GnR songs don’t, and the choice of “Whole Lotta Rosie” is interesting, given that in many ways it was his initially much maligned stint in AC/DC that perhaps reminded everyone that Rose wasn’t a hasbeen and in fact he could perform to stadiums just fine, thank you.
Which leaves just one more. MV’s favourite song. The one about the grass being green and the girls pretty and as the fireworks go off as Slash plays that last solo, the mind wanders back to the late 80s and that album that changed not just my life but the lives of millions – not least the men here playing it.
The question is will we ever see their like again? It can be answered easily: not in this lifetime.