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Guns N’ Roses reunion: A Review

Guns N' Roses and The Cult performed at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome July 31. (Source: Chris Finch) Guns N' Roses and The Cult performed at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome July 31. (Source: Chris Finch)
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -

There were a lot of hugs, high fives, and air-guitar Sunday night at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, all of the things you would expect at a good ole’ fashion reunion.

Thousands slipped back in time Sunday for Guns N’ Roses and while no one looked like they did nearly 25 years ago (most don’t at reunions right?), the decades apart hadn’t diminished GNR’s ability to pull off a tight, high energy reunion show.  

Three of the Guns N’ Roses original members, Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan, have reunited the band for a stadium tour this Summer, and gauging the reaction of the fans, the concert was a huge hit.

Fans stood for most, if not all, of the two and a half hour set and there were some tears shed as well. It’s not lost on GNR that expectations would be high for a band that's heyday was in the late 80's and early 90's.

Fans shelling out big bucks had big questions about how the guys would get along, play music and live up to a reputation for once being one of the most exhilarating live bands around.    

They checked all of the boxes and lived up to those expectations with maybe a tad more. Axl hit the high notes and ran up, down, and around the massive stage. Slash, with his trademark top hat on, shredded like you would expect, proving he is every bit the beloved guitar hero he has become around the world. Duff pounded the bass, nailing all of those grooving GNR bass lines and he’s just plain cool, isn’t he?

The rest of the band, Richard Fortus (guitar), Dizzy Reed (keyboards), Frank Ferrer (drums) and Melissa Reese (keyboard & synthesizers) helped deliver the goods all night.

The highly structured set included 24 songs from five of their six album catalog with half dozen covers mixed in. The crowd was pumped and many rocked their GNR concert t-shirts, some new and some vintage.

The show kicked off with a couple of cuts from their mega-hit debut “Appetite for Destruction”. After “Chinese Democracy" from the 2008 album of the same name, which only included Axl from the classic lineup, they lit their fans up with one of their biggest songs, “Welcome To The Jungle” and the crowd lit up.

Axl has obviously got himself in shape, especially vocally, because he hit some of his trademark screeches regularly and none more important than,  “you know where you are!”

One thing GNR has done very well is cover great songs. They payed homage to a number of their heroes playing songs they‘ve made into big hits of their own like “Live and Let Die” by Paul McCartney and Wings and “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” by Bob Dylan.

One of the highlights was hearing a couple of teenage girls (they could have been 20) screaming behind me the lyrics to “Live and Let Die”, I wish I would have asked if they knew who wrote that song!

While Axl had a number of wardrobe changes, mainly shirts and jackets, Slash never changed with a black t-shirt and black leather pants with a Union Jack embroidered on them. It’s not a big stretch to honor the British rock music the Gunners have emulated. Slash and Fortus teamed up for a strong instrumental version of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here" and one of the encore numbers was “The Seeker” by the British union jack flag wearing band “The Who."

Duff McKagan honored the bands punk spirit wearing a “Dead Boys” t-shirt, a Cleveland punk band from the 70‘s before giving Axl the first of a number of breaks to sing a cover song of The Damned. He also had a Prince symbol on his bass, again showing the bands wide range of musical influences.

The biggest responses of the night were clearly for their big three songs from “Appetite For Destruction”. The band closed the night with a ragged “Paradise City” right about midnight, leaving their fans appetite for a reunion fulfilled.

Set list:
1) It’s So Easy
2) Mr. Brownstone
3) Chinese Democracy
4) Welcome To The Jungle
5) Double Talkin’ Jive
6) Estranged
7) Live & Let Die (Paul McCartney & Wings cover)
8) Rocket Queen
9) You Could Be Mine
10) New Rose (The Damned cover) Duff McKagan on vocals
11) This I Love
12)  Civil War
13)  Coma
14)  Love Theme from The Godfather (Slash solo)
15)  Sweet Child O’ Mine
16) Better
17) Out Ta Get Me
18) Wish You Were Here (Instrumental version of Pink Floyd cover)
19) Layla outro (Derek & The Domino’s cover) into November Rain
20) Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan cover)
21) Nightrain

Encore
22) Don’t Cry
23) The Seeker (The Who cover)
24) Paradise City

The Cult opened the show at straight up 8 p.m. and were the perfect appetizer for GNR fans. Their 10 song, 50 minute set was full on from the beginning as they pulled out one of their standards “Wildflower" to get the party off to a proper start. While they barely scratched the surface of their 10 album career they chose a strong set which included three songs from their “Love” album, three from “Electric” and two from “Sonic Temple." 

Frontman Ian Astbury was as good as he has ever been live. Guitarist Billy Duffy is always a force and the band played like they owned that huge stage. The appreciative crowd was hugely supportive as no one sat down on the floor for the entire set.

GNR and The Cult proved that a couple of bands with three decades experience behind them could put on shows with the best of them old and new. Here’s to more reunions shows like this in the future.

The Cult Setlist:
1) Wildflower
2) Rain
3) Lil Devil
4) Rise
5) The Phoenix
6) Deeply Ordered Chaos
7) Sweet Soul Sister
8) Fire Woman
9) She Sells Sanctuary
10) Love Removal Machine

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