Guns N' Roses with Mixmaster Mike at the Air Canada Centre, November 29. Attendance: 15,000. Tickets: $40-$75. Rating: NNN
Being given the privilege of watching Guns N' Roses from the media gondola at the Air Canada Centre is not as glamorous as it might seem. It's a vantage point so high up and remote that my vertigo has kicked in, and the sound sucks big-time. Plus, I can't drink, as all alcohol is cut off at 9:15, a strategy devised to avoid the kind of riot that rocked Vancouver recently.
A security guard yells at me for not wearing my pass (nobody else is wearing one either), then gives me shit again for trying to use the courtesy phone. He calls in a squad of guards to check me out.
After Mixmaster Mike's snappy set, there's a major lull and a whole lot of tit action on the big screens.
I hold in my vertigo puke. By the time Guns N' Roses appear -- an hour late -- I'm not in a good fucking mood. Finally, Axl Rose, looking a little bloated and wearing a Leafs jersey and macramé on his head, hauls his ass and new crew onto the stage.
Rose and his boys -- a mix that looks like he ordered them out of the backs of comic books, including ex-Mat Tommy Stinson, ex-NIN Robin Finck and the amazing Buckethead -- open with Welcome To The Jungle from Appetite For Destruction. Over the course of what turns out be a two-hour show with Rose in fine, high-energy form despite appearances, they play almost the entire record.
It's impossible not to be awed by the sheer volume of GnR hits when you hear them showcased back to back: November Rain, Patience, Dylan's Knockin' On Heaven's Door, McCartney's Live And Let Die. Of course, the entire show rides on the past, and the two tracks from the forever upcoming release Chinese Democracy fail to live up to rock expectations.
Each new band member fills his allotted shoes with style and skill, Buckethead (Brian Carroll) being the main standout, his solo consisting of a nunchucks routine, doing the robot, a stellar solo sort of like Robert Fripp with a sense of humour, the theme from Star Wars and the passing out of toys to the audience. Buckethead rules.
For these two hours you can pretend that Axl rules again, too. (Remember when you had a crush on him?) So that's fun -- I must say I'm rooting for him. Poor little dude. The odds are so against him. Obviously, he's giving it his best shot and he's got some great musicians in his corner, but come on, realistically, how long before one of 'em sues him? And that upcoming record better be pretty bloody good after seven years in the making.
Rose would certainly be safer eschewing the comeback, forever securing his page in the history books as rock icon and legend, so you gotta give him props for ball size.