"The Spaghetti Incident?"

Set lists and a little bit of Rock

Sunday, 1 July 2007

GNR Herald Review

GNR Review from NZ Herald

It will never be the same. But no one here - not even the bogan chick spewing over the railing or the teens in their ironic bandanas or the politely seated older fans - expects this strange incarnation of Guns'n'Roses to fully transport them to the 80s. You have to use your illusion.

Axl Rose, now 45 and the only original member of GnR, is almost unrecognisable with his rotund frame, ridiculous corn-row braids and shades. Backed by seven rock ring-ins, (including long-term guitarist Robin Finck and keyboardist Dizzy Reed) and booming fire balls that erupt from behind the drum kit, he belts out the thrilling opener, Welcome to the Jungle. It's 11.45pm.

Rose does all the characteristic moves - spinning with his mic stand, bobbing from side to side and running, faux-recklessly, across the stage. But he moves in a more considered way. He calls himself the "kinder, gentler Axl", and at one point, stops the music to ensure no one is getting crushed in the mosh. When he holds the mic skywards and gives his first "cry-eee-eyee" on Live and Let Die, he almost looks like a gospel singer.

AdvertisementPity he doesn't quite sound like one. It's not until Sweet Child O' Mine that his squally rock howl really makes an impression. When he's not getting the crowd to sing the chorus, he gives a heartfelt performance of Knockin' on Heaven's Door.

Elsewhere though, that snakey vocal is a little swamped, and new songs from his promised but not-yet-delivered Chinese Democracy album wash over an indifferent crowd.

The ring-ins play the hits with the accuracy of a practiced house band: It's So Easy, Mr Brownstone and, when the grand piano is wheeled out, November Rain.

It's when they make the show about their own rock theatrics that things start to get messy. There are torturously long and flamboyant solos from Finck and Reed, and what's with the Bob Marley covers? Pink did Redemption Songs a few weeks ago; this time it's a naff duet by the two guitarists, as Rose disappears into the wings again.

By the time support act Sebastian Bach reappears for a guest turn the crowd are restless for a hit. They get it from Patience, Night Train, and, in the encore, Paradise City.

Does it feel as dangerous as it once was? Hell no. But it's still fun, if a little freaky, to go back in time.

As the tired Auckland crowd heads home just after 2am - a crowd Rose once thought of as one of the "rowdiest" he'd encountered - you have to wonder if his late stage appearance was rock'n'roll arrogance or a sensible decision from a former hellraiser who has well and truly grown up.

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