Well, it wasn’t, as GnR’s boisterous Not In This Lifetime tour (an outing named after Rose’s own promise a few years back that they’d never share the stage together again) crashed into Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on August 18 for the first of a two-night, hometown run. An impressively large number of fans were either sporting their GnR outfits or, even, Slash and Axl costumes at the show, if you were curious how fervent fan interest was for this gig.
Opening the night (bright and early at 6:30 local time!) were the Cult, who powered through a 10-song set of hits (Rain, Sweet Soul Sister, Fire Woman, She Sells Sanctuary and Love Removal Machine) as the crowd trickled into the stadium. Ian Astbury, who took a few time-outs to chat during their 45-minute set, at one point quipped that “everybody thought this would be Green Day“, alluding to the rumors that swirled about who would be opening the Los Angeles shows a week or so ago.
One of the night’s most intriguing aspects, though, was hearing and seeing Slash wail on the guitar on Chinese Democracy songs he had no part in conceiving — after all, the entirety of that album and its grandiose songs were composed by Rose and a host of musicians brought on for the project that have long since departed (though Fortus, who joined the band in 2001, and Ferrer, are holdovers). The album was represented at the show by the title track, Better, Catcher in the Rye and This I Love.
Considering their pedigree and status as hard rock legends, it goes without saying that the Cult were a fantastic addition to the night’s festivities.
Let’s get one thing out in the open right now: The wait for this tour was worth it. Starting shortly after 8 o’clock (no lengthy delays anymore, as Axl is a punctual guy these days) GnR – Axl, Slash, bassist Duff McKagan, guitarist Richard Fortus, drummer Frank Ferrer, keyboardists Dizzy Reed and Melissa Reese – led their throngs of fans through classic FM radio hit after classic FM radio hit for nearly three hours.
As for the hits…there were plenty. As you’d expect, the sold-out baseball stadium lit up with glowing camera phones for Welcome to the Jungle, Sweet Child O’ Mine, November Rain, Civil War and a fireworks finale during Paradise City, but it was during the other fan favorites — among them Mr. Brownstone, Out Ta Get Me, Nightrain, You Could Be Mine, Yesterdays, Estranged, Coma, Double Talkin’ Jive, set opener It’s So Easy and others that one could really tell that this wasn’t just any “reunion” tour.
Slash, meanwhile, brought with him the attitude, style and demeanor everyone has come to expect from him over the years, effortlessly shredding his guitar on song after song as only he could. A guitar battle with Fortus during a cover of Pink Floyd‘s Wish You Were Here was an especially enjoyable moment, too, as was the McKagan-led Misfits cover Attitude.
Rose, spry and energetic, sprinted around the stage and huge, stairwelled backdrop with an enthusiasm and spirit that made it evident how much fun he was having out there. You’d hardly know he broke his leg prior to the tour launch, given how active he was on the stage. And his voice, while admittedly not as pristine as it was in the late 1980s, has held up very well over the years.
Fans waiting forever for a Guns N’ Roses reunion have to be pleased with the effort the band’s putting out on this tour. Sure, Izzy Stradlin, Steven Adler, Gilby Clarke and/or Matt Sorum aren’t part of the current lineup (though Adler did show up in Cincinnati), but the trio of Rose, Slash, McKagan, not to mention Reed and the very capable Fortus is a tremendously strong core that definitely does justice to the band’s legacy. Plus, Ferrer does a great job behind the kit, too.
The full set list:
Who knows what the future holds for Guns N’ Roses after this tour, but on Thursday night everything was juuuuuust fine in GnR land.
It’s So Easy
Welcome to the Jungle
Double Talkin’ Jive
Live and Let Die (Wings cover)
You Could Be Mine
Attitude (Misfits cover)
This I Love
Civil War (with “Voodoo Child” outro)
Love Theme from the Godfather (Nino Rota cover) (Slash solo)
Sweet Child O’ Mine
Out Ta Get Me
Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd cover)
Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan cover)
Catcher in the Rye
The Seeker (The Who cover)