Guns n’ Roses fans have been clamoring for a reunion throughout the 20-plus years since the (mostly) original lineup called it a day. Now, they’re finally going to get what they think they want. Singer Axl Rose, guitarist Slash and bassist Duff McKagan will reunite for a tour commencing with a headlining stint at the Coachella Music Festival this spring.
None of us should encourage this behavior, for many reasons, predominant among them the fact that a GnR reunion reeks of a cash-grab most foul. (According to Rolling Stone, “The group has reportedly asked for up to $3 million per show, with tickets reported to cost up to $275 per night for the reunion tour.”)
The passion among devout fans of this band – a band responsible for exactly one great album, its 1987 debut, “Appetite for Destruction” – seems to have become a bit confused over time. They – or we, I suppose, since I was once a fan – believe that they want a reunion. But what they really want is to be young again; carefree and energetic enough to get excited about a second-rate Aerosmith knock-off cranking out howling anthems tinged with vague threats of rebellion and set to admittedly juicy guitar riffs.
Alas, you can’t go home again. Or, more precisely, you can, but don’t expect the street you grew up on to look the same.
These fans, bless their hearts, must have poor memories.
Have they forgotten the late arrivals, the no-shows, the last-minute cancellations, all a result of the mercurial and temperamental Rose’s mood swings? Have they forgotten “Use Your Illusion I & II,” the overblown aural trainwreck with which the Gunners attempted to follow up the gritty and great “Appetite”? Have they forgotten “The Spaghetti Incident,” the aggressively insipid collection of faux-punk rock covers that flooded the used bins in record stores the world over within a few months of its 1994 release? You know, the one where Axl thought it would be cool to cover a tune written by Charles Manson? Have they forgotten the ridiculous dog and pony show that was the version of GnR most recently trotted around the globe, stopping along the way for a “Meh, so-so” showing at Buffalo’s Outer Harbor concert site? If we didn’t interpret that ensemble as a GnR cover band, we were seriously deluding ourselves. Or, more accurately, using our illusions.
If they have forgotten all of these negative attributes, I’m inclined to forgive them, or at least, to understand. Because what all of this comes down to is a real desire among a healthy portion of the music-aware public for some genuinely blazing rock ’n’ roll. Not indie rock, not alternative, not pop or EDM. Rather, what these folks are starving for is a bit of the Led Zeppelin-esque grandeur associated with 1970s and ’80s and early ’90s guitar rock. Sure, there’s plenty of great music being made these days. But the people making that great music aren’t rock stars. More than likely, they’re people with day jobs, or at the very least, a few Kickstarter campaigns to their name. The people making the big money these days don’t look like Janis Joplin, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, or Slash – they look like Adele, which is to say, they look like someone who drives a Lexus SUV to their kid’s soccer game.
Rock is not dead, necessarily, but anyone believing that a reunited Guns n’ Roses is going to save what’s left of it might want to consider the following.
Axl couldn’t sing in 1987. It’s now 2016. Do the math.
Throughout “Appetite,” Rose sounds like a seriously intoxicated alley cat being strangled to death in a barbed wire noose. Somehow, it worked, probably because the tunes were incredibly strong, and the singer’s possibly psychotic persona and tortured howl lent an appreciatively menacing air to the proceedings. Thirty years later, the fact that Rose never learned how to sing properly will likely be obvious by halfway through the tour-opening Coachella set.
Axl and Slash are quite likely pretending to get along for the cameras.
This is about money. It’s possible that Slash can stomach being within 100 yards of Axl. But it’s not likely. It’s amazing how a multimillion-dollar payday can make you “like” your boss. To paraphrase the old GnR chestnut: You’re in the jungle, baby. You’re gonna pay $275 for that seat.
Once the band plays all of “Appetite,” then what?
A high ticket price should suggest a lengthy performance. However, Guns n’ Roses doesn’t really have all that much material in its oeuvre. “Appetite” is a little bit more than 60 minutes. What then? A 10-minute jam on “November Rain”? An acoustic set on a satellite stage?
‘Chinese Democracy.’ ’Nuff said.
Thirteen years in the making, $13 million spent in the process, “Axl’s folly” is overcooked and unlistenable.
The era that birthed ‘Appetite’ can’t be reclaimed.
GnR arrived with such force because of when it arrived, (the late ’80s) and where the band came from (Los Angeles). The band was a bridge between banal ’80s hair metal and the soon-to-come Seattle-born psychedelic heavy rock movement. The band had a punk-ish attitude, was happy to rehash the best riffs from Aersomith’s “Rocks” album, and compared to Jon Bon Jovi, at least, seemed rough, real and “street.” That ship has sailed. GnR no longer seems dangerous.
That said, if the Guns n’ Roses reunion tour comes to Buffalo, well, you just might see me there. Against my better judgment. Because I remember how great they were in 1987, too.