March 12th, 2012, 5:50 am · · posted by GUEST
The marquee outside the Hollywood Palladium Friday night might have read “Welcome Back Guns N’ Roses,” yet though the legendary L.A. band hadn’t played the venue in more than two decades, the fans who packed the venue on the first of three local dates in relatively intimate venues (including tonight at the Wiltern and Monday at House of Blues in West Hollywood) knew this wasn’t exactly the same band that devastated the Sunset Strip in the ’80s.
After all, the only original member on stage from those halcyon days was singer Axl Rose. And despite looking leaner and meaner than he has in years (not to mention losing those ridiculous cornrows), his presence alone wasn’t enough to keep a fan from leaning over after a few strong songs — “Welcome to the Jungle” of course, “Mr Brownstone,” the title track from the amazingly/actually released 2008 album Chinese Democracy — to remark: “This is fun. But it seems like something’s missing.”
She completed the statement: “Slash.”
That’s not to say Axl’s current band can’t keep up with the licks of his former partner in crime. He’s got three beyond-adept guitarists to do that job: Richard Fortus, who looks like he was plucked off the Strip in 1993 and positioned on stage; DJ Ashba, a crazily-tattooed, glamtastic solo-er; and Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, who with his foot-long beard and mass of hair could pass for hippie-dippie Alex Ebert of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros. Bassist Tommy Stinson, a former Replacement, is also clearly comfortable in the Duff McKagan role after years of working with Rose.
But none of the current members have the untouchable chemistry Rose and Slash shared in the band’s early days. That means that the songs have to speak for themselves — not an easy task when you’re asking an aging audience to put on their marathon shoes.
Rose and his posse first emerged at 12:25 a.m. with the last notes reverberating out around 3:30 in the morning to a room that had half-emptied out. Those that left missed some of the highlights: a surprisingly winsome “Don’t Cry,” an audience singalong for “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” and, especially, the epic “Civil War,” a song nearly as grandiose as the band’s classic “November Rain.”
Most numbers were accompanied by video montages of beautiful, scantily-clad women that wouldn’t look out of place in a karaoke bar — although at least here the guy convincingly screaming his way through “Sweet Child o’ Mine” replicated the hip-shimmy with aplomb.
What’s really too bad is that Rose doesn’t see the benefit of editing: There’s at least an hour of filler and fluff in this show, unnecessary rocking that included solo numbers from each guitarist, a Stinson-sung song during which Rose disappears, and a jam through Pink Floyd‘s “Another Brick in the Wall.”
Lose all that and Axl would go from potentially disappointing fans who paid big to be in a small room with one of the great frontmen of all-time to blowing them away with the very best from a group deserving of its imminent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction.
Instead, he tested the limits of their legs, ears and patience. And “Patience” was an encore song. All the early exiters missed it.
Setlist: Guns N’ Roses at the Hollywood Palladium, March 9, 2012
Main set: Splitting the Atom (Massive Attack intro music) / Chinese Democracy / Welcome to the Jungle / It’s So Easy / Mr. Brownstone / Sorry / Rocket Queen / Estranged / You’re Crazy / Used to Love Her / Richard Fortus guitar solo / James Bond theme > Live and Let Die (Paul McCartney & Wings cover) / This I Love / Motivation / Tommy Stinson song / Street of Dreams / You Could Be Mine / DJ Ashba guitar solo / Sweet Child o’ Mine / Instrumental jam > Another Brick In The Wall Pt. 2 (Pink Floyd cover) / Axl Rose piano solo > November Rain / Bumblefoot guitar solo / Pink Panther theme / Don’t Cry / Riff Raff (AC/DC cover) / Civil War / Shackler’s Revenge / Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan cover) / Nightrain
Encore: Instrumental jam / Madagascar / Better / Instrumental jam / Patience / Instrumental jam / Paradise City / My Way (Frank Sinatra exit music).
Article by Jeff Miller, for the Orange County Register. Photo by Jason Merritt, Getty Images.
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