Tuesday, December 3, 2002 @ 12:43 AM
Axl & Co.Tear Up The Tacoma Do
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REVIEW BY: R. Scott Bailey, Seattle, WA
The concert of the year is here and the expectations are high. The show the night before was cancelled and the fans rioted. No this is not 1991. This is GNR for the new millennium. It has been 10 years since I saw GNR on the Use Your Illusion Tour. It was October 1992 and it was the final show of the GNR/Metallica double bill. The Kingdome was packed and the show went on for hours. It was one of the best shows I have ever seen. And that is saying something.
With all the controversy about the Guns' lineup changes, the lack of a release date for "Chinese Democracy", and the cancelled show in Vancouver, I was leery of what the Tacoma show would be like. Of course one of the first things I did was confirm that the show was still scheduled with the venue. They confirmed that all was well and that the show will go on. Great ball o' fire! I am officially excited.
The opening band chosen for this tour seems a surprise to me. CKY sound like almost 90% of the Nu-metal bands out there and tried their hardest to get the crowd into a bouncing frenzy. Mission failed. Except maybe for about 75 people crammed right up front. The singer yells into the mic for about 30 minutes the guitar player gave his stage rap between songs. Overall, a high energy but low talent set that will easily be forgotten by the majority of the crowd.
Mix Master Mike was picked to play a set in the middle. Now, I am not a great fan of rap, hip hop, or DJs in rock bands, but even I was curious to see Mike. He made his name being the DJ for the Beastie Boys and is highly regarded as one of the best. After a brief intro movie on the big screens on the sides of the stage, Mike hit the stage with his turntables and records full force. Spinning and scratching through Led Zeppelin, Jane’s Addiction, Rob Zombie, a bunch of funk, drum and bass, etc... He did a couple minute tribute to the recently departed Jam Master Jay (lots of cheers). The crowd responded kindly to his set and I was impressed with his choice of music and his showmanship. My fingers would break if I tried some to the scratching pyrotechnics he pulled off. It was like watching a 45-minute guitar solo from some 80's guitar god. I don't know who selected him to be on the tour, but Mike is a great pick. Next up, Guns N' Fuckin' Roses!!
After the last 2 times I have seen GNR, I did not expect them to hit the stage for another hour or more (it is 9:10pm at this point). My group of friends and I have fixed ourselves center about 30 feet from the stage. And we wait. But, Surprise Surprise Surprise!!!! At 9:45 the lights go out and the curtain falls. The massive screens begin to show images of worldly atrocities and the voice over is stating some frightening revelations, about things he likes (deviance, torture, drugs, violence, sex...) So, I and everyone else knew where we were, "The Jungle". Axl's trademark rasp permeated the air with "YOU KNOW WHERE YOU ARE? YOU'RE IN THE JUNGLE, BABY! YOUR GONNA DIE!" "Jungle" was ripped through with reckless abandon. The crowd was jumping and the energy on stage was unmistakable. This is Axl's band. And all in attendance knew that this was not the crew from past tours. But that did not stop them from showing their appreciation with chants of "GUNS N" ROSES". The new "Hired Guns" lineup is not exactly a ragtag group of second rate hacks as some press and webmasters would like you to believe. They have a long history with great bands (Primus, The Replacements, Nine Inch Nails) and Buckethead is no slouch on the six-string. They followed Axl into "It's So Easy" and the crowd sang every word.
The Gunners plowed through a set that would appease any long time fan of GNR, and as apparent by the audience, new GNR fans. The crowd was mixed with the 30 year old metalheads (yours truly) and a healthy mix of youngsters who were still in early childhood development when Appetite for Destruction hit the shelves. Maybe the young ones were here to see the band that their older siblings, cool uncle, or maybe even parents, always raved about. Or maybe they were fans who just happened to be born in the wrong year and just appreciated great rock n roll. Either way, it is good to see the younger generation enjoy music that pre-dates the 1991 fall of 80's rock.
"Appetite" was the centerpiece to the show. Not a big surprise due to the fact that it is one of the top albums of all time. Also included was "Patience" and the big hits from the "Illusions" discs. With some songs getting guitar intros from Robin Finck. A piano was brought out for a shorter version of "November Rain", and stayed for a new song. Which brings me to what I was waiting for, the new songs. For those of you who watched the MTV Video Music Awards this year and stayed through the show for the GNR finale are slightly familiar with one new song "Madagascar". The new songs that made it to the set list seem to be ones that fit into the traditional GNR catalog. I am familiar with about 4 new songs (thanks to the internet and the Rock in Rio show). The title track from the hopefully up-coming "Chinese Democracy" disc was great to hear live. It was true rocker in the GNR tradition It was followed by the previously mentioned "Madagascar" which Axl intro'd with a little humor as "my song about how much I hate car racing, ‘Mad at NASCAR’". Axl seemed to be in a very jovial mood. During "Patience", some one from the audience handed him 2 mini-KFC buckets, which he proceeded to put on his head. He laughed his way through the song with the band as he sauntered around stage.
Buckethead got a chance to show his talent and quirkiness with this guitar solo. His solo, complete with nunchuks and breakdancing, was something to behold. Classical, blues, jazz, nursery rhymes, Star Wars, dueling banjos, nothing was safe from Buckethead. And the crowd loved it.
Of course the show must end, and end with a bang. After a little "Rocket Queen", the traditional closer of "Paradise City" was delivered with some great bombast and fury. The crowd and Axl screamed as the pyro blazed, and when the smoke cleared the masses slowly flowed out the exits.
The Tacoma Dome was not sold out. It was have been about half capacity. This did not surprise me. But that should not be a foreshadowing of future dates in other cities. I hear that Madison Square Garden sold out and it holds a hell of a lot more that the "Woodshed" in Tacoma. This area of the NW always is a strange place for music. The Seattle-Tacoma region has always embraced the new flavor of the week when it comes to rock music. Grunge, Nu-metal, Pop-punk have all had their day as well. Ten years from now lets see who sells out 10-15 thousand seat arenas.
For those wondering, Axl's voice stayed true for the entire 2 hour set with a few technical problems that always seem to get a comment from Mr. Rose.
The Guns N Roses of 2002 is a show that should not be missed.
Set list (maybe a little out of order):
Welcome to the Jungle
It's So Easy
Live and Let Die
You Could be Mine
Out ta Get Me
Knockin on Heaven's Door
Sweet Child O' Mine
Think About You
The Blues (new song, title from Internet, so who knows if it is correct)