There’s a well-worn Chinese proverb which suggests that “if you believe everything you read, don’t read”. Reading can be as much a misleading past-time as it can be informative, particularly in the internet age where there is such a wealth of material available that it is difficult to filter the reliable sources from the mischief-makers.
If you were to believe the internet and sections of the tabloid media then you would be aware that the new Guns N’ Roses lineup is a sham; that Axl Rose is an unreliable front-man who is a ticking time bomb and will either be extremely late on stage or will walk off mid-perfomance; that Axl has had extensive plastic surgery; that Axl Rose is dead.
Fans making their way out to the sun-drenched SECC were warned well in advance that there was no specified start time for the Guns N’ Roses performance. We were advised that they would play a long set – 32 songs was the final tally – and that audience members should make arrangements for a late finish. I don’t know if the SECC is alone in this level of organisation – I would find it doubful – but it would be difficult to accuse Axl Rose of being unprofessionally late when both the band and the venue had gone to great lengths to ensure that fans were aware of what to expect.
Following an entertaining support set from Thin Lizzy a pyrotechnic gunshot explosion at 10.35pm heralded the arrival on stage of one of the most iconic rock groups of a generation.
Having read internet reports and speculation I would confess to entering the SECC last night fearing the worst. The prospect of Guns N’ Roses without Slash, Duff and Izzy felt more like a tribute act than the real thing, but I guess it’s the creation of expectations like that for which the Chinese proverb was originated.
Any doubts about the suitability of the all-new Guns N’ Roses were blown away in the crescendo of guitars that greeted second song of the set Welcome To The Jungle, a raucous throwback to the 1980’s. With as many as three guitarists making up a seven-man armoury of instrumentalists, Gn’R pack quite a punch.
Axl Rose’s voice has obviously changed over twenty-five years and he regularly ducked off stage during songs (obviously I’m not going to speculate over the reasons behind this) but that shouldn’t detract from the overall spectacle of the show.
The three-hour set was packed with classics: the firework-laden McCartney hit Live and Let Die, You Could Be Mine, Don’t Cry and Bob Dylan cover Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door amongst them, while each member of the band was provided with a solo spot to showcase their particular talents as Axl underwent costume changes – the most impressive of which being Dizzy Reed’s incredible piano solo of The Who’s Baba O’Riley.
The undoubted highlight of the night came midway through the sprawling set when one of the most famous opening chords in rock came alive inside the SECC. I heard Slash perform Sweet Child O’ Mine at T in the Park last year and I questioned whether any other guitarist could make it sound like he did. The stark truth is that any talented guitarist could play in Guns N’ Roses – I’m not arguing that they’d do it better than Slash – because Axl’s voice fits the music more than Slash’s guitar makes the music.
Sweet Child O’Mine was bridged with a brief piano interlude of Another Brick In The Wall Pt. 2 into the song I’ve been waiting to hear live all of my music-loving life: November Rain. Axl’s voice was complimented finely by a soft string section as DJ Ashba and Bumblefoot assumed the Slash-in-the-middle-of-a-field guitar stance. It was everything I hoped it would be.
The set was customised for the Glasgow audience with the addition of Flower of Scotland before continuing with Civil War, Nightrain, Patience and the AC/DC belter Whole Lotta Rosie before reaching a confetti-strewn climax with the seminal Paradise City, complete with whistle and all.
Coming off stage at 1.33am, Axl fulfilled his promise of a late night, and despite the difficulties of getting home for many due to the lack of public transport on offer at such a time the audience was completely satisfied with the three hours of rock theatre provided.
Guns N’ Roses were everything that I didn’t read about online beforehand. There are few acts in the world who can put on a show the likes of which we saw last night. The three hours flew by with a set offering something for Guns N’ Roses fans of all eras.
This was a rock ‘n’ roll show in the grandest scale, proving that old Chinese proverb to be words well heeded. So far as Guns N’ Roses and Axl Rose are concerned, don’t believe everything you read; you’ll only be depriving yourself of the best gig of your life.