The iconic hard rock band played for over three hours at Madison Square Garden on October 15th; will finish residency tonight (Oct 16th)
A looping video displays the two guns in the classic Guns N Roses “bullet” logo, firing off every few seconds. They are warning shots, emitting a low-frequency vibration that rumbles through the stadium. I lean over to the guy seated next to me. We’ve never met. I ask, “How long do you think this’ll go on for?”
“Until Axl’s ready,” he quickly replies.
Shortly after, Guns ‘N Roses took the stage at Madison Square Garden, fronted by three classic members. There’s Axl Rose, Duff McKagan, and Slash, backed behind members from the past twenty years.
Powering through a thirty plus song set, the band never took a break, yet somehow managed to change shirts multiple times. Rose and Slash received the most emphatic ovations of the night, while the stoic McKagan grounded the group.
In their three hour, fifteen minute set, the group stayed true to their routes, pouring emotion into selections from (mainly) the Use Your Illusion albums, Appetite for Destruction, and 2008’s Chinese Democracy.
Axl Rose has a voice that has stayed timeless. When not singing in his defining high-falsetto nasally voice, his lower register brings the listener in to experience a huskier (dare I say twangier?) library of tones. This range was on display during “Patience” and an oddly placed (yet fitting) cover of Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman.”
Slash, too, has not lost his stride. If ever a man could make love to an instrument, the man in the steampunk top hat had several moments in which he did just that.
The guitar solos were like nothing else. Only Slash, and his new-millennium counterpart Richard Fortus, can deliver the kind of shredding intricacy so deceptively awesome, you feel like jumping onstage and joining in.
GNR is at its best when the songwriting is on display. While the head banger anthems are crowd pleasers, the twenty-two thousand at the Garden were never happier when they could sing along: Cue “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” “Paradise City,” and “November Rain.”
If there was one ‘Illusion’ the band ‘Used,’ it was the pyrotechnical show that supplemented the music. Don’t let the fireworks (literally, there were fireworks) fool you: Guns ‘N Roses’ staying power has nothing to do with the high-octane show. Though, Rose’s stage presence is legendary, it only serves as the vessel through which a truly irreplaceable voice flows.
The show itself moves, with little to no variation between concerts in the main setlist. They never stop to address the crowd at length, and very rarely vamp during the precious seconds between songs.
Rose, too, knew how to pick next-generation members that would compliment the band, no matter the line up. Dizzy Reed, Frank Ferrer, and Melissa Reese laid the bedrock. The classic three built the house.
Underneath the veneer of a show that moves like the monster truck in the opening video, the flashes of the constant explosions, and the eye-catching variations of GNR iconography (guns, skeletons, roses, etc) is true musical talent. Even after the sparks settle and the final confetti piece flutters, the last the crowd hears is the fading screech of the amp as Slash releases the last note. That is the sound of a show set ablaze by the music.
Guns ‘N Roses plays one more show at Madison Square Garden tonight (Oct 16th) at 7:30 pm.
Author: Matt Bailey
Matt Bailey is podcast producer and writer located in the Northeast. Since 2013, Bailey has produced more than 160 episodes of his own online radio show, Talk For Two. In 2016 alone, he interviewed Kevin Bacon, Crystal Gayle, Bob Barker, and Gilbert Gottfried, among several other stars. As a Correspondent for The Music Universe, his focus is Broadway, country music and concert reviews.