"The Spaghetti Incident?"

Set lists and a little bit of Rock

Sunday, 1 July 2007

Another one...

Stuff review by Chris Shulz

It's been 16 years since Guns N' Roses released an album of new studio material, and 14 years since they visited New Zealand.

Axl Rose has certainly trained his fans in the art of patience.

And they had to wait just a little longer to see their hero at the first night of the band's three-date New Zealand tour.

Following an hour or so of old-school hair metal from former Skid Row front man Sebastian Bach, a beaming Axl arrived on stage at 11.30pm - just 30 minutes after the "official" start time.

How punctual of him.

Axl and his new band proceeded to tear into a crowd-pleasing run of classic Gunners hits, including Welcome to the Jungle, It's So Easy, Mr Brownstone, Live and Let Die and Sweet Child O' Mine.

If they played them like they had a point to prove, that's because they did.

Can Axl still rock a crowd? Can the new-look band compete with the original Gunners line-up? And did they have any new songs worth hearing?

Those questions were all answered by tonight's performance.

Yes, Axl is still a charismatic rock front man that can keep a crowd entertained. But his voice was unreliable and couldn't back up his energetic stage antics.

Less impressive was his use of three - yes, three - teleprompters. Dude, don't you know your own songs by now?

And he kept leaving the stage - between songs and during guitar solos - to obviously take something for his strained voice. Talk about a disappearing act.

Meanwhile, the new band was missing the pinpoint accuracy of Slash's guitar solos, even if replacement Robert Finck can match him in the big hair stakes.

But the band - criticised by some as a covers act - can rock out when they need to, providing particularly lively versions of Live and Let Die and You Could Be Mine. But a meandering and often wayward version of Knockin' On Heaven's Door didn't come close to touching the 1991 effort.

But the impressive stage setup - including synchronised lighting, pyrotechnics and fireworks - helped divert attention from any shortcomings in the band.

The set was heavy on tracks from Appetite For Destruction, but two of the four new tracks played tonight - Better and IRS - sounded bloody good. Shame about the bemused reception they received.

It was, of course, those classic singalong hits that got the biggest crowd reaction, and Axl didn't disappoint during two key moments.

The first was when he put on his dinner jacket, sat down at a grand piano and played a thrilling version of November Rain while fireworks rained from the ceiling. The word "epic" was invented for times like this.

The second was during the show's encore - a thunderous Paradise City performed just before 2am complete with more of those booming fireworks and cannons showering the crowd in red confetti.

Yep, it was more of a celebration of the past rather than an attempt to craft any kind of future for Guns N' Roses. And judging by some of the yawns being stifled in the audience, Axl's ageing fan base weren't used to being up this late.

But it was a reminder of just how good Guns N' Roses were - even if their classic songs weren't always performed to the best of their ability tonight.

Hey, we've always got the release of Chinese Democracy to look forward to.

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