Waiting 17 years just for the album ‘Chinese Democracy’, you can’t say Guns n’ Roses fans are anything less than patient. We’ve heard, from a number of reliable sources, the band’s original line-up are now in the frame to reform and play a huge outdoor London show in 2016, followed by more UK dates in 2017. VF scribe Graeme Johnston ponders the collective appetite for more destruction.
So Guns N’ Roses are back. For weeks the music world has looked on with bated breath, awaiting official confirmation of the rumours; but what’s a few weeks to the band who needed 17 years to finish ‘Chinese Democracy’?
Axl, Slash, Duff, Izzy and Steven (ed: back of the line when the names were handed out?) will once again jet around the world, touring together for the first time in more than twenty years.
GN’R are the ultimate rock and roll band. Don’t expect politely-called press conference with drinks and canapés for invited members of the press. The clues leaked, the cat popped its head so far out of the bag that the RSPCA were even asked for a comment. The Roses are now so comically late to their own reunion announcement that all there is left for them to do is step out from behind the curtain and give an embarrassed nod. Notorious for redefining what it means to be late onstage, we should expect no less from LA’s chief rock export.
Long after fans had given up hope of William ‘Axl’ Rose and Saul ‘Slash’ Hudson ever patching up their seemingly irreconcilable differences, it appears the band’s frontman and lead guitarist have been finally able to bury that massive hatchet. Perhaps they each got all misty-eyed with nostalgia while staring at framed pictures of the other and remembering the good times, or more likely the number of zeroes in question from pleading festival bookers became just too numerous to ignore.
You have to imagine the reconciliation came from Axl’s side: the man who hired DJ Ashba as GNR’s replacement guitarist and laid him out black clothes, a sunburst Les Paul and a top hat in his dressing room. Rose has been pining for his curly-haired counterpart since the split and after years of scrolling past Slash on his ‘People You May Know’ feed on Facebook, he’s obviously bit the bullet and nervously sent that friend request. It probably sat pending for months, Mr. Hudson is not striking anyone as the type to check in on his Candy Crush notifications, pals’ birthday reminders or Lad Bible videos with any sort of regularity.
But what of the legion of fans who have waited so impatiently for the classic lineup to reform? Has years of frustrated message board rants bemoaning what a pair of childish arseholes Axl and Slash are now really paid off and is it time to dust down the denim jackets and leather trousers to see how many inches need shed before the tour bus rolls out.
I myself am just such a self-confessed sad act when it comes to Guns N’ Roses. Having grown up on a staple diet of ‘The Spaghetti Incident?’ on vinyl, Live in Tokyo on VHS and never skipping past November Rain on MTV, the obsession has been pretty much lifelong. A framed copy of ‘Appetite For Destruction’ signed by Slash and mounted with a Duff McKagan plectrum takes pride of place in my office.
I have been lucky enough to ‘tick off’ my desire of seeing them all live and in the flesh on several occasions - catching Velvet Revolver in Glasgow and on various festival bills around the UK, and seeing Axl and his hired hands a.k.a. “Guns N Roses” at Download Festival and the northern leg of Reading and Leeds in 2010. Leaving aside Leeds, where they were late and not so great, it has always been a thrilling experience seeing my musical heroes onstage playing the old songs I know and love so well, but the gnawing feeling that it wasn’t the real Guns N Roses was always there. Always.
So how does the prospect of seeing the old gang back together sit with me?
I’m about as nervous as a Star Wars geek checking the ‘Force Awakens’ cast list for any sign of Jar-Jar Binks. The massive excitement is tempered by so many questions. How much will tickets cost for example? Demand must now be so high after such a lengthy breakup that they can almost charge what they like.
Are shows going to be marred by the histrionics we’ve come to expect? Arenas half-emptied of fans, making the toss up between missing the last train home and hearing the Axl screeching “you know where you are?” are not uncommon where Guns are concerned. Add a famously combustible singer/guitarist relationship into the mix and there could be no end of drama.
Are they still going to be cool? When they first burst on the scene they were these young, punk rebels who shook the bloated hair metal scene to its core. Now Axl Rose could be the bloated thing we’re talking about.
Can Axl still hit those high notes? Rose was in his early twenties when the band recorded their debut album. As he gets older and his voice gets deeper, the frontman has to hope that that infamous yowl of his is still as recognisable as ever and doesn’t begin to sound like the vocal stylings of a dodgy pub tribute act.
Will they be as good? Their live videos from back in the day are considered some of the best concert recordings of all time. When Guns N Roses were in their pomp, they were one of the best live acts on the planet. Fans will be praying that these new shows live up to that legacy.
Will Slash get his top hat back from DJ Ashba? Said DJ does seem to have laid a genuine claim to the bloody thing.
That’s the stuff that keeps me up at night. Not the hat so much, more the other stuff. But my overriding feeling about Guns N’ Roses touring again? That’s excitement. One of the best live bands of all time, one of rock’s great guitarists and a truly unique frontman, back together and performing around the world for an army of delirious fans? Bring it on. Just don’t pay any mind to that show start time on the ticket.