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GUNS N' ROSES - London Hammersmith Apollo - 7 June 2006   Print  E-mail 
Written by Mark Reed  
Friday, 09 June 2006

When they can be bothered to play, they deserve their status, and - should they ever want to - can easily recapture the crown of best rock band in the world.



Great gigs don't start this way - with the hall emptying, with missles being thrown, and admidst a chorus of jeers, boos, and heckles.


Nor do they end this way - being unceremoniously dumped into a deserted Hammersmith at 1.01am - as about 3,000 people try to find buses, tubes, cars, cabs, or abandoned bicycles to get home with.


At one stage, as the boos and jeers rose to a chorus of disapproval, and the venue was instructed by the band not to sell anything in bottles so the band are not pelted with a piss shower should they deign to appear, things looked decided ugly.


Axl Roses's legendary tardiness, where, in his world, a delay between albums of fifteen years is acceptable, shone through. With Guns N Roses coming to the stage at 10.40pm (20 minutes before the venue's allegedly strict curfew), and a band unrecognisable from the one that actually made the records, fans would be forgiven for thinking that perhaps Guns N Roses was merely the Axl-Rose-Project.


Thankfully, by the time the band came to the stage, not only were almost all of us resigned to getting home at Shit O'Clock (if we were to get at home at all), but the new band were undoubtedly that rarest of beasts : firing on all cylinders, utterly bastard groovy, and most definitely deserving of their legendary status.


Under a cavalcade of apocalyptical lights, a wall of flame, flashpots, 20 foot sparks, and a truly thunderous maelstrom of sound, the band themselves showed clearly that they still have the mysterious unplacable X-Factor that saw them fill stadia the world over a decade and a half ago. From the opening "Welcome To The Jungle" to the final anthem of "Paradise City", the 140 minute set was of epic proportions in every way. If most rock bands are bad movies, Guns N Roses are a biblical twenty part epic TV show. Enormous in scope and vision, songs veer in a dangerously bipolar fashion between euphoric and distraught : "It's So Easy" is a furious exclamation of general misanthropic boredom, whilst twenty minutes later, the band are powering through "Madagascar" (the modern equivalent of 'Kashmir') or the insistent "Better". Which is yet another song about How A Woman Done Him Bad.


Whilst it's easy to suggest that 80's Hair Metal should, by rights, be extinct and was murdered overnight by "Nevermind", it's very easy to see why this version of GNR still have currency in the modern world - having ditched all long in the tooth metal clichés in favour of a knowing, semi-ironic parody of rock : they know it's ridiculous and stupid and outlandish, but can't help loving it anyway. Whereas previously, I suspect GNR didn't necessarily see the inherent humour in the artifice of rock, it feels as if this time around, GNR know, and are playing with it. The new stuff - including "The Blues" and "IRS" - is most definitely a new, perverse slant upon rock-metal, taking all the best elements of pomp metal and welding a determindedly modern interpretation upon it.


Not that there's much evidence of new material. The two and a quarter hour set, comprising most of their debut "Appetite For Destruction", hit singles from the rest of their other albums, four new songs from their yet unheard album, and approximately 28 guitar solos later, Axl erroneously wished us "Good! Fucking! Night!" in the early hours of the morning and we were shoved out into the street.


In fan circles, Axl's contemptuous inability to turn up to work on time is well known. Complainers and whiners, who dare suggest Axl and co should finish some time before 1am, are drubbed as ignorant. In the real world, fans are deservedly pissed off at having shelled out £40 a ticket, only to have to leave early in order to get home to babysitters, last trains, or work in the morning. And this kind of legendary lateness puts off the type of person who likes to get home from a gig before about 4 in the morning.


Aside from the lateness of the hour, there is no doubt though that Guns N Roses are legends for a reason. Because when they can be bothered to, they most definitely are.



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