Guns N' Roses at Comerica Theatre, 12/27/11
Guns N' Roses
Tuesday, December 27
The line stretched around Comerica Theatre, and snaked all the way down Adams, placing us just across the street from the stucco façade and glowing neon sign of the New Windsor Hotel, and every single person waiting to get in was talking about Axl Rose. Would he show up? Would he have a meltdown? Would something go catastrophically wrong?
Never mind that we were packed in a line at 8 o'clock, knowing full well that G N' R wouldn't take the stage till 11 p.m. I saw some big shows at Comerica this year -- Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes, Bob Dylan, Louis C.K. -- but this was a different kind of big.
This was an event, a massive, curious one. Maybe folks had read the reviews, heard that Axl and crew had been putting on solid, career spanning three-hour sets, that Rose seemed to be in good health and good spirits, and the band was kicking ass. But there's always a sense of volatility regarding Guns N' Roses: Would things work out? Would the guy dressed as Slash be disappointed by Axl's lineup of guitarists Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal, DJ Ashba and Richard Fortus, three pros who have the unenviable task of living up to the guitarist's legend? Would the already viably drunk guy shouting at his girlfriend to "hurry up" make it in in time to sit in his seat for an hour before any music started?
All questions were set aside for an hour set by Sebastian Back, who won the crowd over with Skid Row classics after sorting out some muddy sound issues. Bach prowled the stage with a tremendous amount of energy, and his voice has remarkably held up. My experience with solo Bach has been an iffy one (I watched VH1's SuperGroup, and could never shake loose him insisting that Savage Animal was a great band name), but his set great when leaning toward the classic stuff; the new nu-metal flavored newer material didn't showcase his defining aspect (voice, not hair, though the latter was looking good, too), but the crowd seemed on his side, anyway.
Maria Vassett Sebastian Bach
"I want to thank you for 25 years of fuckin' rock 'n' roll!" Bach shouted, taking time out to sing happy birthday to guitarist and Phoenician Nick Sterling's father.
Guns N' Roses took the stage promptly at the very rock 'n' roll time of 11 p.m., marching in right as the theme from Showtime's Dexter concluded. Ripping into "Chinese Democracy," Axl emerged, clad in a tight leather jacket, blue jeans, sunglasses, and a hat. He ran laps across the stage, singing the title track to the album that despite what felt like a forever wait has proved to be something of an afterthought in the band's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-approved career. But Rose didn't sing it like anything other than The Most Important Song in the World, and then, without so much as a breath dove straight into "Welcome to the Jungle." No wait for the goods here -- you want G N' R? This is G N' R.
Sleazy L.A. classics like "It's So Easy" and "Mr. Brownstone" followed, with Rose shimming his signature shimmies and the 6-piece band roaring behind him. Explosions, giant video screens, goofy women-in-distress mock "art-films" beamed onto said giant screens -- like I said, this wasn't a concert, it was an event.
Rose didn't speak much, offering little more than: "How are you tonight?" and "This is a cool looking place," but he sang and the crowd air-drummed along unironically, mimicking Rose's dance moves, and making out.