Sparkly, safe, cheesy, corporate…
Review by Gary Cordwell
Release date: 4 November 2014
“We were somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert, when the costume changes began to grate…”
Fear and loathing indeed, when Axl and his band hit the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas back in November 2012 to film and record this sumptuous DVD/2CD package. The band take to the stage and immediately let you know what’s in store as they whip through Chinese Democracy you know you’ll be getting a slick, safe, glitzy trawl through the GNR back catalogue replete with elaborate staging, scantily clad pole dancers and very little in the way of fire and brimstone.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plus points to all of this, you get a lot of bang for your buck! The show clocks in at just under three hours and all the songs you want to hear (and several you don’t) are present and correct. The band play with accuracy and polish and, let’s face it, songs like ‘It’s So Easy’ and ‘Mr.Brownstone’ are pretty hard to fuck up – a good song is a good song. However, the band don’t gel at all. Grinning session musicians one and all and unfortunately three widdling journeymen do not equal a Slash!
Solos are recreated note perfectly but that fire, that danger, that indefinable star quality is nowhere in sight. There is no interaction or chemistry between the band at all, they stand in their spots and play their bits. Guns N Roses was all about the band, the personalities. The cooler than fuck, Page- and Perry-loving guitar hero, the Stones fan, the punk and the goodtime Sunset Strip drummer all helped to define a seminal band.
And Axl… I’ll refrain from any Keith Lemon gags but the years have not been kind. His Marmite squawk is still there but he struggles to hit a lot of the old notes, in both low and high registers. Without the outbursts of temper and that hint of danger we are left with a rather mediocre and unengaging frontman who rarely appears from behind an array of hats and shades… not able to look us in the eye, huh Axl?
The show flags midway, collapsing under the weight of too many new songs, superfluous cover versions and endless meandering solos – presumably put into the set to give Axl time for yet more costume changes, which, by this point, are virtually every song! Quite what The Replacement’s bassist Tommy Stinson is doing in the middle of all this is a mystery. And so the show continues – lurching from widdly solo to bloated versions of old classics played on piano’s suspended above the audience while the guitarists stand on the monitors, flicking plectrums into the throng.
I don’t know, maybe I expected too much. I came to this completely open minded, hoping to enjoy it and it was probably fun if you were there. And yes, The GNR I saw in ’91 were bad too (prima donna late starts, Slash visibly fucked up) it felt like it could fall apart at any moment but that tension was what made them great. This incarnation, I’m afraid to say, is a big budget tribute band.
Vegas was the perfect setting for this DVD, although it’s not the paradise city we thought Axl was singing about in ’88. It’s sparkly, safe, cheesy, corporate, the town in the desert where stars go to fizzle out (or at least play residencies), that final costume change into a spangly jumpsuit beckons. But hey, it’s a gamble – you pays your money and you takes your choice. Meanwhile Slash and Myles conquer arena after arena, setting the World On Fire (reviewed here).
Oh well, at least you don’t have to wait hours for Axl to grace us with his presence any more, press Play and there he is! Oh and on a purely technical note, the audio and visuals are a fraction of a second out of synch. Barely noticeable at first but impossible to ignore once you have.
- Chinese Democracy
- Welcome To The Jungle
- It’s So Easy
- Rocket Queen
- Live And Let Die
- This I Love
- Catcher In The Rye
- Street Of Dreams
- You Could Be Mine
- Sweet Child O’ Mine
- Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2)
- November Rain
- Don’t Cry
- Civil War
- The Seeker
- Knockin’ On Heavens Door
- Used To Love Her
- Paradise City