Guns N’ Roses
Amway Center, Orlando, FL • October 28, 2011
Axl Rose (circa 2011): “You know where you are, Orlando?!”
Axl: “You’re in the JUNGLE, baby!”
[mild, drunken applause]
You know where you are not, Orlando? In 1988, and you can’t really handle your booze as well as you used to, aged fans. Then again, Guns N’ Roses (or, rather, Axl Rose and company), you’re not in 1988 anymore, either, and as much as we would ALL like to see the young, androgynous, slinky Axl waxing metallically poetic about the eccentric horrors of streetlife in Los Angeles — that Axl has long since left the building.
The current Rose can’t even arrive at a venue on time… well, that’s nothing new for Guns N’ Roses, really, but making the fans wait nearly two hours after the opening band wrapped it up before making your grand entrance? That’s just plain rude! When there’s nothing to do but drink, and beers cost $10, you’re just raping your fans’ wallets, shamelessly. No wonder they don’t show much enthusiasm for even your band’s biggest songs!
Demonstrating that rock N’ roll can be both aggressive and punctual, Buckcherry lit up the large stage — like pros — as the clock chimed nine o’clock. The illustrated Josh Todd is a show in and of himself, even if the band’s music doesn’t set your heart skipping. A 12-song set, culminating with the L.A. glam metal act’s hot 2006 radio hit “Crazy Bitch,” gave Todd and crew nearly an hour to smoke their weed (oh, the smell was RIPE!), drink their drinks, and warm themselves up for the explosion that never really came… unless you count pyrotechnics.
Hidden beneath layer upon layer of clothing and a face-shadowing fedora (later switched for his trademark bandanas), the fu-manchu sporting Axl Rose entered with fire-spurting theatrics and warmed his vocals up on a song no one really cared to hear, “Chinese Democracy.” It was the first of too many moments throughout the night that found the audience waning — sitting through the songs we don’t know in hopes of getting a jolt from the ones we’ve been jamming out to for decades.
When a three-song punch of goodies (“Welcome to the Jungle,” “It’s So Easy,” and “Mr. Brownstone”) was laid down within the first 15 minutes of the three-hour, late-night test of patience (*wink*), my hopes were lifted. Could a Guns N’ Roses that looks like a cover band with an original, if unrecognizable, lead singer make us forget all of the drama and ridiculousness and still WOW us?
Sadly, and not all that surprisingly, No.
To be fair, Rose’s vocals — after a about thirty minutes of warm up — sounded as strong as ever. He nailed the low octaves on “Estranged,” hit the out-of-this-world notes on “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” and emoted beautifully during his seated piano performance of the epic “November Rain.”
As for the all-important lead guitar role, it takes two people to fill Slash’s shoes, but Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal and DJ Ashba do it well — though Ashba could stand to lose the top hat. Dude, be your own guitarist, don’t just try to mimic a legend. Tommy Stinson, formerly of The Replacements, is the current bassist and Frank Ferrer sits at the drums. Keyboardist Dizzy Reed, a band member since the Use Your Illusion tour hangs in the back with a smattering of other anonymous players.
The main show, the reason anyone showed up at all, is — of course — the large personality that is Axl Rose. Love him, hate him, post unflattering pictures of him on the Internet — he possesses that Rockstar thing that allows him to do such ballsy things as start a show 90 minutes late and just expect you all to stick around until the show wraps up at 3 am.
Really, Axl wasn’t the biggest problem — it was the lack of energy from the audience that depressed the set. Undersold, especially on the general admission floor level, the Amway Center was an empty shell that reflected the lack of interest in a once great band. And this on the opening night of the band’s first US tour in five years.
“Paradise City” closed out the night, but fear not — if you fell asleep long before that time, there are plenty of video clips of this and the rest on YouTube.
Guns N’ Roses: web.gunsnroses.com