Show Review: GNR @ The ACC
“Welcome to the Jungle,
We’re Gonna Make You Wait…”
Guns N’ Roses at the ACC
I arrive at the Air Canada Centre on January 28th armed with memories of riots at past Guns N’ Roses concerts after the band failed to show up. Apparently, showing up “fashionably late” or not at all is their shtick. “Certainly,” I tell myself “this couldn’t happen at every show or they would never sell tickets.” Oh, how naïve of me…
The ACC doors have been open for a good hour when I amble through the Union Station walkway and find myself in a giant line. Not a good start. It has to be the coldest night of the year, so of course everyone has flocked to the only indoor gate. An irate woman on a mic tries to direct the masses, actually begging attendees to go outside to another gate. During her constant nagging, she fails to mention that security is separating the men from the women; which I realize once I finally reach the front of the line. I ponder demanding to be searched by the male security guard, I could use a little hands-on action these days, but think better of it. I’m here with my dad, after all. Sourly, I amoeba myself into the woman’s line, almost expecting to have my head shaved and my clothes stripped off. That might not even be an exaggeration, fans were reportedly denied entrance if caught wearing Slash T-shirts or top hats.
Toronto’s Danko Jones and another ’80s ego, Sebastian Bach, are tonight’s supporting acts. Though Bach is now a solo performer, he pulls out a lot of old Skid Row material. By the time his set finishes at 9:45, the crowd is buzzing with excitement. Fast forward to 11:20- we’re still waiting. Additional security and pay duty police officers filter into the building as the crowd becomes increasingly restless. The venue’s cameramen help pass the time by finding hot girls in the crowd to display on the giant screens. Of course this turns into hot girls dancing, disrobing and making out on the giant screens. This spectator sport continues as we cheer and jeer the drunks being tossed before the show even begins.
By 11:30 I decide to cut my losses and go home. Of course, this is when Axl Rose finally decides to grace us with his presence, in a wheelchair (which he ditches, thankfully). The crowd’s boos turn to cheers as the first notes of ‘Chinese Democracy’ fill the arena, but the enthusiasm feels half-hearted. Things pick up a little more during their second song, ‘Welcome to the Jungle’. “Sorry for the delay”, Axl snickers insincerely between songs. Apparently he hurt his back “jumping off shit” the night before. This comes off as a joke, as if to say, “I have to make a bullshit excuse for what we all knew would happen”. “I’m early”, he jokes, recanting that a local radio station predicted the show would start at 2am.
To their credit, GNR puts on a pretty good live show. The two-tier stage is lined with flash pots which explode in time with the music, although the chorus of ‘Live and Let Die’ is noticeably slowed down to sync up with the flames. As big as his ego may be, the show is not all about Axl. Richard Fortus, DJ Ashba and Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal each perform lengthy guitar pieces, while Dizzy Reed and Axl each get a piano solo. This is on top of two instrumental jams – a total of six Axl-less performances! In fact, Axl leaves the stage for a few moments during almost every song, perhaps to ensure that the pyrotechnics have not melted the wax museum that is his face. We were treated to everything we could ever want them to play, from ‘November Rain’ to ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ and ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door’. Whether it’s coincidence or planned, they also play ‘Catcher in the Rye’ and dedicate it to J.D Salinger who passed away the day before. ‘Paradise City’ wraps up the set at 1:55am.
This is the debatable issue. Does playing an extra-long set full of fan favourites make up for the ridiculous wait? In my opinion, Axl needs a sharp reality kick to the groin. It’s not the ’80s anymore. These days, only those who preside over legions of preteens who don’t know any better can pull off this shit. Making your fans wait forever and then playing well into the early hours of a weekday morning is not only disrespectful, it’s inconvenient. Most people expect ACC shows to finish up around 11pm and plan their night accordingly. I doubt I would have seen as many families with young children in attendance had we known this would be an all-night affair. Also, thanks to our inadequate transit systems, anyone who took the GO or subway to the show would have to cut out early just to get home, but that’s an entirely different rant. So thank you Axl, for letting us know how little you value our devotion. I thought that after making us wait 17 years for Chinese Democracy, you might want to redeem yourself. I guess not.
(Original publication: Bring Back the Boom Box Magazine- Feb 24 2010)
Posted on March 3, 2011, in Show Reviews and tagged Air Canada Centre, Axl Rose, Catcher in the Rye, Chinese Democracy, Danko Jones, Dizzy Reed, DJ Ashba, Guns N Roses, Knocking on Heaven's Door, Live and Let Die, November Rain, Paradise City, Richard Fortus, Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal, Sebastian Bach, Skid Row, Sweet Child O Mine, Welcome to the Jungle. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.