Could the (almost) original Guns N’ Roses lineup perform a 25-song set in 2016, and still make it great? “Not in this lifetime!” would probably most skeptics’ first reaction to such a question, I know mine was. However, whether you were among the rabid fans who grew up as in GNR’s hayday, or were simply attending the concert just to hear the hits, you probably got more than you bargained for at Guns N’ Roses’s Saturday night performance at the Rogers Centre.
The set kicked off with a literal bang of gunfire ringing through the speakers, announcing the arrival of the night’s main spectacle. The Jewel-clad arena rock legends bursted out onto stage, launching right into the first song, “It’s So Easy”. Axl Rose was filled with a surprising amount of energy, bounding from one side of the stage to another, belting out the notes to the song at full force. I have to hand it to him, he still has the vocal range after all these years.
Joining Axl on stage was Slash, and Duff McKagan for the first time in over 23 years. I can’t say the band’s chemistry was particularly strong, the many members onstage rarely acknowledged one another, but individually, each member played with enough of energy and vigor to captivate the audience. Well, at least for the first half of the rather long-winded show.
Bluntly put, Guns N’ Roses don’t have a strong enough discography to maintain interest for a concert of this length. Sure, they have a solid catalogue of awesome hits, but after an impressively long 2 hours, the chant-along chorus after chorus and rippin’ 5-minute guitar solos began to garner more yawns than cheers from me. Could it be possible that the band is compensating for all those years of sets being cut short and concerts cancelled? If so, maybe this wasn’t the best way to go about it, but at least the sentiment is probably there.
Perhaps the band was even aware of their limited selection of good songs, as they opted to play five covers that night. If your own music doesn’t hold up, maybe someone else’s will, right? Well, the answer to this one is actually, “yes!” Some of the covers Guns N’ Roses pulled out were not only great choices, but also very well done. Trust me, I would’ve been the last to expect an instrumental cover of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here“ or a true punk-rock rendition “New Rose” by The Damned at a Guns N’ Roses show. Some covers were a bit more predictable, like the band’s famed cover of “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” or the clearly influential “Live and Let Die” by Paul McCartney (with a main riff like that one, you could swear it was a Guns N’ Roses original)
Overall, Guns N’ Roses returned in all of their heavy, loud, and uncomfortably sexual glory (Yes, I am referring to the spinning, CGI, Kama Sutra Skeletons). GNR have the legend status, and it’s nice to see that they’re far from resting on their laurels. Maybe they’re not the best band to play 25 songs a night, but they can’t be missed either. The band performs brilliantly together, and Slash still proves himself as one of the best in the biz. So why not take a night to indulge in some of the most defining songs of the 80s? I can guarantee a major nostalgia blast whether you’re 15 or 50, Guns N’ Roses are just one of the few bands that span all living generations, and appeals to the foot-stomping, head-banging side of all of us.
Photos by Katarina Benzova