My history with these legends of rock extends way back into the midst of my musical origins. From buying their classic debut album on its release and witnessing the original line-up blitz the Monsters of Rock Festival at Castle Donington in 1988. With the release of the overblown double Illusion albums, I saw them live at Slane Castle Ireland, and The Milton Keynes Bowl. A long break then ensued though not my fault as the band deliberated over creating the Chinese Democracy release. By that time, however, only Axl remained from the classic debut album. Duff and Slash then spent a long-time exploring variety of other musical projects and continued releasing albums. Slash in particular was particularly prolific through his partnership with Myles Kennedy.
My next encounter with the Guns n Roses musical juggernaut sadly was a less than favourable one. It was termed in the local press at the time as “the beginning of the end for one of the greatest bands of all time” It truly seemed like the classic rock band had exhausted its own “Appetite For Destruction.”
Fast forward some years, both Duff and Slash had re-joined the band and potentially a rebirth of the legend. However as evident throughout the band’s history with every apparent rise comes a rapid fall. Glastonbury 2023 and the band’s performance broadcast live was widely castigated both by fans and media alike. I sat through this and for whatever reason was blamed(there were several) it was like watching a horror show or a car crash. With the London Hyde Park concert coming up with tickets and hotel accommodation booked I faced a dilemma. Finally, deciding to bite the bullet we decided to give the band one last chance to restore that musical majesty that I had seen during my youth. After a day of varied support on three stages -personal highs included musical legends The Pretenders, upcoming blues sisters fronted by Larkin Poe and The Dust Coda. As the clock ticked down to 7:20 pm the air rose with palpable tension. It was finally time for the Guns to fire again.
Here comes the shock-I absolutely loved it. True there were a couple of songs-the two “new ones” that saw Axl really struggle vocally but for most of the three-hour set it was a great nostalgic trip through a legendary band’s classic past.
The band played extremely well with all three of the original members genuinely appearing to be enjoying being there. Classic anthems peppered the set in abundance, heralding massive audience communal singing. The next generation of rock fans were hoisted onto parents’ and even grandparents’ shoulders to get a better view to enjoy the songs of another musical era. Stage sound and lighting were befitting and not to the excesses of those Illusion years. Axl’s piano did appear for November Rain as expected as indeed did the British atmospheric rain. Fortunately though spirits remained undampened.
By the time “Paradise City” sent the 60,000 heading to the exits it was with exhausted but very happy smiles on their faces. The band had not tarnished their legacy at all but polished it. Words that I didn’t really expect to be writing especially after that Glastonbury set. Guns n Roses may no longer have their “Appetite For Destruction” or be dancing with Mr Brownstone anymore but still showed that “It’s So Easy” as they departed on their own musical “Nightrain.”