When the original lineup of Guns N’ Roses (or what was left of it) fell apart due to acrimony in the mid-late 1990s, it seemed that Axl Rose would never again play with the other men who made the band legendary.
Well, Axl made good with Duff McKagan (bass) and Slash (lead guitar) for a reunion at Coachella—their two weekends as the Saturday headliner have been pretty epic.
While the band sounded great during the Weekend 2 show—although Axl’s voice is not as powerful as it once was, and he was sitting on Dave Grohl’s “broken leg throne,” as Axl is nursing a leg injury—and the band performed all the hits, the show felt less exciting and more nostalgic.
As the band opened with “It’s So Easy,” it was obvious that the production budget was quite hefty. The new Coachella Stage, with visuals all the way across, flashed interesting images throughout the set, including raining liquor bottles, rotating guns, raining bullets, Guns N’ Roses’ classic logo, and so on.
Duff McKagan paid tribute to Prince with the legendary logo on his bass guitar, while Slash wore a sleeveless Bad Brains T-shirt. “Welcome to the Jungle” was played early in the nearly three-hour set, along with “You Could Be Mine” and the infamous cover of Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die.”
After “Live and Let Die,” Axl complained that being on that throne was a drag, and he didn’t care for it too much—although the upside was he could belt out some vicious screams.
Speaking of covers, just as Pinch, of The Damned, predicted in my interview with him, the show included a Damned cover—“New Rose,” sung by McKagan.
As for a rumored tribute to Prince … it was not to be. Axl mentioned a tribute to Prince would have been nice if they’d had the time to rehearse, before adding he owned a copy of the film Purple Rain on LaserDisc.
Charming. At least he dedicated the entire set to Prince.
Of course, numerous GNR classics were played during the set. “November Rain” was epic; Axl moved to a piano, and a lot of the distracted crowd members suddenly began running back toward the stage with camera phones in the air.
The band closed with an encore of “Don’t Cry,” “Used to Love Her,” a cover of The Who’s “The Seeker” and “Paradise City,” finishing with a massive pyrotechnics/fireworks display.
While it was a triumphant performance, one has to wonder what’s next. Will there be a new record? Will Axl make it through an entire GNR reunion tour while also committing to lead vocals with AC/DC? Will Slash go back to his solo career or even revive Slash’s Snakepit?
Angus Young from AC/DC did not make a guest appearance as he did last weekend—in fact, there were no special guests at all. The only big surprise was that the band was nearly on time and performed the entire show, something the members had a hard time doing when they were riding high (in multiple ways) on the “Use Your Illusion” tour in the early ’90s.
This reunion could have been amazing about 10 years ago, when Slash, Duff and former drummer Matt Sorum were ending Velvet Revolver with the late Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland. (Slash has a reference to Velvet Revolver tattooed on his forearm; it was clearly visible through the entire performance.) Also, I would have loved to see Axl run around and be the frontman he was was—but broken leg or not, I don’t think that’s possible anymore.
Scroll down to see more Saturday Coachella images by Kevin Fitzgerald.