Concert Review by Frank Lucas
Photos by: Katarina Benzova
I recall the first time I saw Guns N’ Roses, as a young tyke, back in 1988 on the Monsters of Rock tour. Axl and company looked like street toughs onstage doubling as one of the most exciting, new rock bands in the world during that time. As famous as Guns N’ Roses were for their music (Appetite for Destruction went to #1 on Billboard several times that year), their off stage personas garnered them just as much notoriety. The band was known for engaging in fisticuffs with police and fans alike and heavy drug use as it was for its music.
The album influenced an entire generation of teen rockers and like the little engine that could, it just kept chugging along, gaining momentum and popularity as time went on.
Subsequently, after the huge success of follow-up albums Use Your Illusion 1 and 2, the band collapsed with Rose becoming the sole remaining member, letting go of the other musicians. Since then, only one album, Chinese Democracy, was recorded and released.
Fast forward 23 years later, Guns N’ Roses (with original members Rose, McKagan and Slash) showed their old form to a packed Soldier Field audience and reminded us of the many chart topping hits the band scored back in the day. Izzy Stradlin and Steven Adler may no longer be with the band, but the monster seven-piece group featuring Dizzy Reed on keyboards, Richard Fortus on guitar, Frank Ferrer on drums and Melissa Reese also on keyboards, tore through a 2 ½ hour 25 song set that satisfied even the most die-hard Guns N’ Roses fans.
The show delivered every conceivable rock-opus concert staple from pyrotechnics to high tech lighting rigs to massive OLED video backscreens. Axl Rose came and went, off and onstage for numerous outfit changes as he and the rest of the band were decked out in traditional rock star garb.
The band itself looked great and in great physical shape and did not seem to show any adverse effects of past hard-living. Sounding like the Axl Rose of old, the Guns N’ Roses lead singer moved and slinked about the stage non-stop with the band tearing into the fan demanded “Welcome to the Jungle,” “Paradise City,” and “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” I actually turned to several concert goers nearby and we all agreed that Rose sounded every bit as good as he did back in 1993, the last year the original lineup had performed together. To my eyes and ears, however, the night belonged to Slash who consistently was the most musically polished and soulful throughout the show. His guitar playing was at such a high level and connected so much melodically that even many of his famous solos and intros were aped vocally by the audience as was the case during his performance of “Speak Softly Love” from The Godfather. Slash, gut-rumbling bassist Duff McKagan and thunderous drummer, Frank Ferrer, tore through the rhythm section featured “Nightrain,” “Double Talkin’ Jive” and “Out Ta Get Me.”
Some of the high points of the show were also some of the most understated if you were to just look at the evening’s set list. The spacy “Wish You Were Here” (Pink Floyd cover) into “Layla” (Derek and the Dominoes cover) had Rose sitting in on piano and also highlighted the genius guitar playing of Richard Fortus, especially when exchanging solos or during duet guitar work with Slash. I actually felt the hints and touches of the Allman Brothers during these segments. There were the epic moments as well in which keyboardists Dizzy Reed and Melissa Reese gave a convincing effort synthesizing and replicating a 30-piece symphonic orchestra on powerful arrangements of “Live and Let Die” and “November Rain,” in which the audience, once again, sang along to Slash’s guitar solo in the latter.
Ladies and gentlemen, this was such a fun show. It ranks as the surprisingly must-see event of the summer. The band looks and sounds great and has returned back to its original form, readily delivering the epic, football stadium musicianship Guns N’ Roses fans have come to love.
Photos © 2016 by: Katarina Benzova
It’s So Easy
Welcome to the Jungle
Double Talkin’ Jive
Live and Let Die (Wings)
You Could Be Mine
Raw Power (Iggy and The Stooges /You Can’t Put Your Arms)
This I Love
Band intros into Slash solo – Speak Softly Love (Love Theme From The Godfather/Andy Williams)
Sweet Child O’ Mine
Out Ta Get Me
Jam (“Wish You Were Here” Pink)
Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan)
The Seeker (The Who)
GUNS N’ ROSES NORTH AMERICAN SUMMER STADIUM TOUR
All dates, cities and venues below subject to change.
Thursday, June 23, 2016 – Detroit, MI – Ford Field
Sunday, June 26, 2016 – Washington, DC – FEDEXFIELD
Wednesday, June 29, 2016 – Kansas City, MO – Arrowhead Stadium
Friday, July 1, 2016 – Chicago, IL – Soldier Field
Friday, July 3, 2016 – Chicago, IL – Soldier Field
Wednesday, July 6, 2016 = Cincinnati, OH – Paul Brown Stadium
Saturday, July 9, 2016 – Nashville, TN – Nissan Stadium
Tuesday, July 12, 2016 – Pittsburgh, PA – Heinz Field
Thursday, July 14, 2016 – Philadelphia, PA – Lincoln Financial Field
Saturday, July 16, 2016 – Toronto, ON – Rogers Centre
Tuesday, July 19, 2016 – Foxboro, MA – Gillette Stadium
Saturday, July 23, 2016 – East Rutherford, NJ – MetLife Stadium
Wednesday, July 27, 2016 – Atlanta, GA – Georgia Dome
Friday, July 29, 2016 – Orlando, FL – Orlando Citrus Bowl
Sunday, July 31, 2016 – New Orleans, LA – Mercedes-Benz Superdome
Wednesday, August 3, 2016 – Arlington, TX – AT&T Stadium
Friday, August 5, 2016 – Houston, TX – NRG Stadium
Tuesday, August 9, 2016 – San Francisco, CA – AT&T Park
Friday, August 12, 2016 – Seattle, WA – CenturyLink Field
Monday, August 15, 2016 – Glendale, AZ – University of Phoenix Stadium
Monday, August 22, 2016 – San Diego, CA – Qualcomm Stadium