Review by John Hayhurst with photography by Marianne Brits-Strodl.

A show that was never to be played in Axl Rose’s lifetime, happened in London tonight and he was on time, on cue and fully committed. London’s Olympic Stadium shook to the heavy rock sounds from Guns n’ Roses ‘Appetite for Destruction’ and a lot of covers, but at least Slash and Axl are on stage together once more.

Guns N' Roses live at London Stadium, Friday, 17 June 2017

It was Donington Monsters of Rock day in 1988 and a much hyped band from Los Angeles stunned the mainly male crowd there, sadly the crush that ensued during their set meant that 2 people lost their lives (yes folks those were the good ol’ days of heavy rock festivals). I can proudly say I was there and I survived the crush but realistically I was probably much further away than my memory allows me to recall. The thing I most remember about their performance was that it felt like the start of something new from America, it was gritty, dangerous and dirty, and their hair wasn’t all pumped up with spray, and they were not wearing any glitter make up like those many other metal genre bands of the day.

Guns N' Roses live at London Stadium, Friday, 17 June 2017

Fast forward now almost 30 years later and looking around the Stadium I’m seeing probably some of the same 50 thousand mainly males still watching them, they have a lot less hair now, and slightly more paunch, some have brought their partners and even their kids – but there is that same eagerness to see if the band we all loved have still got the energy and balls they showed back then.

We are also privately worrying if Axl will turn up, let’s face it, he has a track record of being an hour late the last time he came to play these shores, and he was bottled off stage for this by an annoyed Irish crowd. Those “Guns n Roses” shows were abysmal by most people’s standards, Rose’s voice was pretty much shot, and to get our GnR kicks we looked more towards Slash and Myles Kennedy as they were doing a better job. When asked in 2012 if the original line up would reform, Axl Rose’s reaction was “Not in this Lifetime” – however money talks and within a few years the ‘Not in this Lifetime’ tour was announced. Not quite the full original line up (Izzy Stradlin and Steven Adler missing), but if it means that we get to see Axl and Slash together on stage again, then we’ll take anyone else along the way as a bonus.

The first positive sign is that the band are bang on time and as the sound of The Equaliser is played, they emerge to blast straight into ‘It’s So Easy’, the first track of many from Appetite. Already Axl is in his usual garb of jeans, black shirt and checked overshirt tied around his waist, he’s wearing shades and screaming “It’s So Easy” wildly like he’s been gargling helium infused Jack Daniels. His trusty sidekick Slash is rapidly becoming a cartoon caricature of his former self. Seemingly hasn’t changed in 30 years apart from a few extra pounds of flesh here and there, and we

can’t really tell anything about his face because it’s covered in that black shaggy mop and hat, but the sound from that shiny Les Paul guitar tells us everything we need to know.

Guns N' Roses live at London Stadium, Friday, 17 June 2017

These two are clearly classic rock icons, recognised the world over and have been for at least 2 generations now. That opening drum and riff of ‘Mr Brownstone’ has the hairs on the back of my neck rising, it’s been a while but certain tracks can still do that live, however, a song that some years ago was a bit daring – singing about heroin addiction – now feels like a mild mannered party karaoke classic, the closest most people here have been to an addiction of anything brown would either be Newcastle ale or sugar in coffee. Axl is still doing his trademark snake hips side shuffle though, but these days he’s dancing with his pinky purple mic stand rather than Mr Brownstone.

Guns N' Roses live at London Stadium, Friday, 17 June 2017

We bear through ‘Chinese Democracy’ before another classic arises from Slash’s finger work, Axl screams “You know where you are?” and ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ gets this crowd moving and bouncing. Slash jumps around like Tigger wondering where those 30 years have gone, although there’s nothing moving his hat as it looks like it’s fully welded to his scalp.

Shamefully the stadium sound is very sludgy and out of time with the visuals for those at the back, surely this should have been sorted beforehand? There is a distinct dip in reaction levels during ‘Better’ and ‘Estranged’, but the hardcore fans put that all to one side as its been twenty odd years since they saw these two on stage together.

Tonight’s set is peppered with the old tunes and interspersed with a lot of covers and probably my least favourite starts the proceedings – Wings ‘Live and Let Die’ has long been for me the most difficult to swallow cover that GnR have done, but I can’t deny that for younger generations they have almost claimed it as their own. The orchestral pieces taken care of by Slash and Richard Fortus as they duel quite successfully across the stage. Whilst this guitar work is like no other, the tinny sound coming from the mahoosive speakers is a little off putting. This is big stadium filling loud rock music and deserves to be heard properly, I’m not sure whether it’s the residential area we are close to or what, but I get the feeling something is definitely more than amiss with the sound quality this evening.

Guns N' Roses live at London Stadium, Friday, 17 June 2017

A blistering ‘Rocket Queen’ and ‘You Could Be Mine’ are followed by the part of the set where they go back to their influences and pick out a punk track to cover, last night was the Misfits, tonight it’s The Damned and ‘New Rose’ is given the Axl Rose shriek rather than the Dave Vanian growl.

Time to slow it down a little, for ‘Civil War’, Slash brings out a double necked guitar and Axl starts his whistling. The start of this song and lyrics are quite poignant for our current times, I’m not sure whether this is lost on the audience or not, but by the end Axl seems to be just over screaming every line.

During ‘Coma’ we get band introductions and then the mother of all guitar solo spots from Slash. Whilst I like a good solo run, and there’s no denying he is a guitar god, sometimes…just sometimes, it’s a little over played and could be cut by a couple of minutes, – there I’ve said it, I’ll run off and hide now!

The trade-off between Richard Fortus and Slash during the next piece (Love Theme from The Godfather) is fantastic and its then followed by probably one of the most famous opening guitar solos ever. ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ is surprisingly not saved for the encore, instead thrown in mid to late in the set, but as expected it is greeted like a long lost family member, all phones in the air and the grand “woooagh…woooagh…woooagh” sing-a-long commences.

Guns N' Roses live at London Stadium, Friday, 17 June 2017

Whilst there is almost 3 hours of non-stop entertainment here, from arguably the biggest heavy rock band on the planet right now, there is little interaction between band and audience, and interestingly not much at all between Axl and Slash. Both individually are putting in 100% and seemingly loving every minute, but between them tumbleweed is blowing in large quantities. It will be fascinating to see if the promised new material does actually appear after this tour!

More covers in the setlist with Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’ and a simply stunning tribute to Chris Cornell with ‘Black Hole Sun’ the latter made for Axl Rose’s voice perfectly. At the point from Wish You Were here onwards it’s all a little slow and sad, ‘November Rain’ has all the power ballad and piano perfection, but when you add Dylan’s ‘Knocking on Heavens Door’ to the 4 tracks, I can’t help but think there should have been a rocker in there to break up the mood a bit. Still, ‘Nightrain’ provides the relief that we were all looking for and this closes the set proper.

Of course this expensive rock n roll panto requires a big encore, and they wouldn’t let us down by not playing ‘Paradise City’ would they? First we get another slowy ‘Don’t Cry’ and then a bizarre concoction of AC/DC’s ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’. This for me is when it becomes a bit too much of a joke, I’m only grateful they didn’t pull out Stairway to Heaven – instead perhaps a final trip to the bar. It reminded me of watching Ian Gillan sing with Black Sabbath at Reading Festival when they played ‘Smoke on the Water’. Let us not confuse the kids, otherwise it all just becomes a pub rock mishmash in a stadium.

Finally, ‘Paradise City’ with its clapping start and full on moshpit finale brings this all to a close, the ‘Not in this Lifetime’ tour will rumble on for a bit longer, and then hopefully we may get some new material to replace the covers. There were too many tonight and instead I would have traded them for missing tracks like ‘My Michelle’, ‘Patience’, and ‘Used to Love Her’. They have more than enough of their own great tunes rather than raiding the classic rock bank safe, and ‘safe’ was never a word used to describe GnR.

For those that have never experienced them live before, this is a great show (when they sort the sound out), it is everything you would expect to see and hear from a massive heavy rock band. It is music history or nostalgia neatly commercialised and sold back to you – Perfect for some of today’s casual ‘Rock T shirt from Primark’ wearing peeps. Personally, I’ll try to keep my 30-year-old memories intact, I like my heavy rock music a little angrier and more dangerous than this.

Footnote: Marianne popped along to take photos at Friday night’s performance, while John Hayhurst reviewed Saturday night’s gig.

One Response to “Guns n’ Roses – ‘Not in this Lifetime’ Tour @ London Stadium – 16th & 17th June 2017”

  1. Carol Says:

    Love ❤️ the photography Marianne .. world class

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