When I learned that Guns N’ Roses was going on tour with three of the original members, I was very interested in seeing what they had to offer. But, when I heard the Los Angeles stop was going to be at Dodger Stadium I lost interest pretty quickly. Dodger Stadium is a hassle to get to, huge outdoor shows rarely have very good sound, and large groups of people are usually terrible to deal with.
But, I kept getting emails about how there were still good seats available, and a few days before last week’s show I bit the bullet so I could see what it was all about, and I am glad that I did.
GNR’s Not in this Lifetime Tour brings frontman Axl Rose back together with Slash and Duff McKagan, who (to me) were the heart of the original band. The other original members, Izzy Stradlin and Steven Adler, were not included in the group for this tour. Other touring band members include drummer Frank Ferrer, guitarist Richard Fortus, and keyboardists Dizzy Reed and Melissa Reese.
I attended the first of the two Los Angeles shows, on Thursday, August 18. The tickets and website were a bit vague as to what time the show would actually start, but I arrived and got parked pretty close to the “doors open” time of 5:00PM. After getting into the stadium the concession guys told me that the warm-up band would start at 6:30 and the main act would start at 8:00. Right.
The stadium was pretty empty at 6:30 when The Cult hit the stage, and it was cool to see that they started on time. Long-time members Ian Astbury (vocals), Billy Duffy (guitar), and John Tempesta (drums) were joined by newcomers Grant Fitzpatrick (bass) and Damon Fox (keyboards). The band was able to cover their big hits, including “Fire Woman,” “She Sells Sanctuary,” and Sweet Soul Sister.” Duffy did a tight job on the guitars, and Astbury showed that he still has a good vocal range, though it seemed like he did not have the breath and stamina to carry all of the vocals; the band helped out a lot with backing vocals on the choruses for most every song. Still, it was a solid set and the Cult was a solid opener, finishing up at 7:20PM.
With the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds as the soundtrack, the crew broke down The Cult’s equipment and prepped for Guns N’ Roses. I was curious when GNR would actually go on, as Axl is notorious for starting shows hours after their scheduled time. But, again, at 8:00PM the lights went out and the band hit the stage with “It’s So Easy,” and this cut from Appetite for Destruction was exactly what the crowd was looking for.
From there they played songs from their debut album, GNR Lies, Use Your Illusion 1 & 2, and Chinese Democracy; and with two dozen songs in the playlist this ended up being a nearly three hour set. I have heard that Axl runs hot and cold, but he was definitely on his game this evening. He was mobile on the stage, was able to hit the high notes, and got the job done. He did take breaks from time to time, but he did well. As an added bonus, he kind of looks like an older version of Cybill Shepherd nowadays.
Slash has lost nothing over the years, and he has one of the strongest left hands in the business. He did an extended solo break that included a kind of hokey rendition of the theme song from The Godfather, but it played well to the audience. He also had good rapport with Fortus, and this duo did a bang up instrumental version of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were here.”
Duff McKagan is a crowd favorite, and his bass work was good but was often lost in the mix. One high point of the show for me was when he took the microphone to lead the band with a rousing rendition of The Misfits’ “Attitude.” I was glad to see that he still has love for the Fender Jazz Bass Special, too!
The rest of the band was tight, with kudos to Frank Ferrer for his powerful and skillful drumming. I had a hard time hearing any of the keyboards, but Dizzy Reed and Melissa Reese were able to provide a solid job on the backing vocals.
There really were not any clunkers in the set, though the audience reaction to the songs from Chinese Democracy was tepid. This was true of “Catcher in the Rye,” which kicked off the encore, but the band made up for it with the inclusion of “Patience,” the Who’s “The Seeker,” and the closer, “Paradise City.”
All in all, this was a great show – the energy was good, the band clicked, and they did not leave out any of the hits. If you have the chance to see them, do it. This is the closest that you are going to get to seeing an 80s vintage Guns N’ Roses show. Trust me!