The calm before the storm. Guns N’Roses July 16 at Rogers Centre, Toronto by: Morais, Tommy.
Freshly reunited (sorta) rockers Guns N’Roses made the only Canadian stop of their ongoing North-American tour at the Rogers Centre on Saturday night.
The tour —dubbed the Not In This Lifetime tour— offered young generations of concert-goers the chance to catch the band they thought they’d never see while granting another opportunity for longtime fans to witness the gunners in a live setting once more.
The unpredictability of the band kept the packed Rogers Centre on it’s feet. Would the band breakup on this momentous occasion? Would Axl lose it? That uncertainty is part of the ritual that comes with attending a GNR concert. On this night there were no hints of tension or drama as Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan shared the same stage.
It was a far cry from the Guns N’Roses that played Toronto just two short years ago when they hit the Sound Academy stage with Axl the sole remainder of the band’s glory days. The lineup then consisted of Rose with several musicians who would be unknown to anyone who hasn’t kept up with the band in 25 years. Flash forward two years to a sold-out crowd of 50,000 as the current version of the band appears on the top of the world bringing rock to Toronto— and the masses.
Although members of GNR’s original lineup have kept busy with various projects over time —including notable absentees Izzy Stradlin (who isn’t a part of the tour) and Steven Adler (who briefly performed guest spots on the tour in Cincinnati and Nashville) — Axl, Slash and Duff looked to be right at home onstage at the Roger Centre with the band that made them household names and members of the Rock N’Roll Hall of Fame. It may not be the full-fledged original lineup, but that didn’t stop fans from buying tickets in ’92-93 during the Use Your Illusion/Spaghetti Incident-era when neither Izzy or Steven where around. Why should it now?
The lineup was rounded out with longtime members Dizzy Reeds on keyboards, Richard Fortus (who could very well pass for the son of longtime Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood) on guitar, Frank Ferrer on drums and fresh face Melissa Reese on keys and vocals. With a few shows under their collective belt, this lineup of the sunset-strip rockers brought a well-oiled production to Toronto.
The Gunners took the stage around 9:45 PM, almost on time —and practically spot-on by it’s previously established standards—and surprisingly early for a band notorious for being especially late. The machine that is Guns N’Roses had the audience in the palm of its hand with opener It’s So Easy. Welcome To The Jungle received the biggest pop of the night. “You Know where you are Toronto?”, announces Axl to roars from the sold-out crowd. The song’s reception was rivalled perhaps only by that of Sweet Child O’Mine‘s and Paradise City‘s. Songs from Appetite for Destruction were played side by side with material from the Axl-lead Chinese Democracy —including Better and the new added, Sorry—along with classic Use Your Illusion I & II era favourites like Civil War and the long epic November Rain (complete with Axl on piano).
The band played a massive minute set clocking in at just under 3 hours, comprising 27 songs including a guitar duel between Slash and Fortus and a 4 song encore. The last time I saw Guns N’Roses live circa 2010 they played a set that was just as long at 2 hours and 45 minutes.
Unlike the notorious frontman’s wardrobe changes (Roses loves his hats; cowboy, Crocodile Dundee-inspired, sombrero-style, it’s all good in his book), interactions with the crowd were kept to a minimum except for some Canada-related banter. Until Axl shared the woes experienced by the band at the Canadian border, that is. According to the frontman, someone from the organization brought a gun with them delaying their entrance in the country.
“They were very nice, they were very understanding. You know, it happens: You can forget you have a fucking gun,” said Rose just before a rendition of the bad-boy anthem Out To Get Me. “It wasn’t my gun”.
The matter wasn’t made public before the show, as such, fans in the audience got the “scoop” firsthand.
Was it worth the hype?
While it wasn’t the full-on Appetite for Destruction-era reunion many had hoped for, the 3/5 classic Guns members experience definitely brings a bang for the buck with their lengthy performance and expert musicianship.
Axl’s voice was in excellent shape throughout the concert as he displayed the wide vocal range he is known for. The only signs of wear in his voice happened during the closing encore Paradise City at the end of a complete near 30 song set. Judging by visible panting and the expressions on his face after hitting the high notes, Rose truly gives his all for the fans.
The enthusiastic crowd was also delighted to see Slash, the ever cool top-hat, leather clad guitar slinger. SkyDome was buzzing when the fuzzy-haired, Les Paul-clad guitarist played the blistering solos to songs like Sweet Child O’Mine, but admittedly it looked slightly out of place when Richard Fortus played the solos created by Slash.
Bassist Duff McKagan even got his share of the spotlight as he sang lead on Attitude as the gunners covered punk outfit The Misfits.
I will gladly tell anyone who will listen that I was at Guns N’Roses 2016 . I’ll proudly add, “I survived Guns N’Roses 2016, including scorching heat and a tight, rough crowd”.
It’s So Easy
Welcome to the Jungle
Double Talkin’ Jive
(with Slash intro solo)
Live and Let Die
You Could Be Mine
(Misfits cover) (with “You Can’t Put Your Arms… more )
This I Love
(with Voodoo Child Outro)
(with band introductions)
Speak Softly Love (Love Theme From The Godfather)
(Andy Williams cover) (instrumental, Slash guitar solo)
Sweet Child O’ Mine
Out Ta Get Me
Slash & Richard Fortus Guitar Duet
(“Wish You Were Here” with “Layla” outro)
Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
(Bob Dylan cover)
(“Angie” by the Rolling Stones)
(The Who cover)