Firstly, allow me to make a confession! I am not an archetypal Guns N Roses fan. I own but one of their recordings and in fact, when I last saw GNR on March 27, 1993 (use your Illusion tour) in the beautiful “Bridge City” commonly referred to as Saskatoon, it was solely due to their superb choice of support acts – “The Brian May Band’. Yes Brian May guitar player extraordinaire from the Legendary group Queen. Not to be confused with the Brian May from Mad Max fame.
At any rate, 16 years 9 months and 24 days have passed (but who’s counting) and my opportunity to see the legendary Axl “you love him, you hate him, you can’t have a good old fashioned rock n’ roll riot without him)”Rose is here. This time, I’m posed to see the much lauded ‘Chinese Democracy Tour’ in Regina, AKA ‘The Queen City’, AKA ‘The City That Rhymes with Fun’– more on that later, in the comfy confines of the acoustically challenged Brandt Centre. My curiosity has the better of me. Will he be late? How Late? One hour? 2 Hours? Will he storm out? Will he even show up? Is he still capable of delivering the goods? The questions mount.
IMHO, the words “rock star”, “epic”, and “legend” are more common these days than candy floss at the local summer fair. Well, allow me to remove all doubt that this incarnation of the multi-million selling (100 million at last count) American rockers are not only alive and well – thank you very much, but in fact, they make a compelling argument to be regarded in the aforementioned rock star, epic, legend status.
From the moment Axl and Company took the stage at precisely 10:16 pm, opening with ’Chinese Democracy’, Axl clad in a button down, white collar, long sleeve stripped shirt, (sans the sleeves) and adorned with enough silver jewelry to make any Mexican beach vendor proud (I swear I saw him in Puerto Vallarta last year – true story) and with trademark red bandanna tucked under a black hat, he had the crowd on their feet, which is precisely where the majority of the 5,500 fans stayed for 2 ½ hours until the show closed with ‘Paradise City’.
As Axl sashayed and prowled effortlessly about the stage, it became apparent very quickly that Father Time has been rather kind to Axl. His soon to be 48 years belies him. He looks and moves about with a presence and energy that reminds us that you don’t have to be a middle age rocker who well…looks middle age.
The between song banter was minimal at best, with Mr. Rose telling the crowd “good to be here tonight – I feel pretty good considering how much tequila I drank last night” Hey wait a minute, TEQUILA, MEXICO… I swear that was him! Axl later informed the crowd that this was his second show of the day, as earlier he did an impromptu performance at a local A&W. Although my sources say it was actually a Taco Time. Of course no rock show in Regina would be complete without the obligatory reference of Regina being the city that rhymes with fun. In this case, immediately before ‘Knockin’ on Heavens Door’, Axl suggested he “heard this is the city that rhymes with fun.” Regardless of how it’s delivered, the crowd obliged as they have become known to do. This appears now to be a full-on tradition in these parts.
As GNR blinded and deafened the crowd with a dizzying display of lights, explosions and pyro, while playing such mega hits as ‘Welcome to the jungle’, ‘Live and Let Die’ (an argument could be made here that the explosions were excessive) and closer to the end of the show ‘Sweet Child O’Mine’, but most certainly during ‘November Rain’ that I conjured up the hereto unforeseen and unbearable notion that perhaps the 80’s were not so bad after all. In fact, GNR was quickly proving to me that 80’s arena rock is alive and well.
In addition to Axl, ( the only original member) the band consists of Frank Ferrer – drums, Tommy Stinson – bass guitar , Richard Fortus – rhythm guitar, Ron (Bumblefoot) Thal – lead guitar, Dizzy Reed on keyboards, Chris Pitman keyboards and DJ Ashba also on lead guitar. These guys are not just “window dressing” for Axl that’s a for sure. These guys can all play. What a novel concept!
Rock Star? Absolutely! Epic? No Question! Legend? The jury is out on that one, but on this rather chilly night in “The City That Rhymes with Fun” no one, (myself included) would argue that Guns and Fucking Roses showed up, on time, and delivered the goods to a satisfied audience that were left wanting more. In my case, if I have to wait another 16 years 9 months and 24 days to see them again it’s quite conceivable that “Legend” will be in Axl’s back pocket.
By Gary King
Photo: Ben Checkowy