Throughout their Not in This Lifetime reunion tour, Guns N' Roses have been peppering their nearly three-hour performances with some well-chosen covers. Axl Rose is fond of weaving in the Who's "The Seeker" into the encore and teasing Derek and the Dominos' "Layla" during "November Rain," while Slash and second guitarist Richard Fortus have been tag teaming Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here." Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun" has now become a set staple following the death of Chris Cornell in May.
But during Wednesday night's show in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, the band debuted their most unexpected cover of the tour: a faithful version of Glen Campbell's "Wichita Lineman."
"We're going to play something we've never played before. It might not be your thing, but we're just trying to pay a tribute to someone," said Rose. "It's not what you think."
Despite being a little ahead of the beat – perhaps the first time Rose has been early to anything – the singer nails the performance, leaning toward the understated in his delivery and lingering over the notes, while Slash, Fortus and bassist Duff McKagan huddle around Frank Ferrer's drum riser. Slash turns in a fluttering, acoustic solo, weaving in hints of flamenco to give the song an extra dose of elation.
"For Glen," Rose says, at its conclusion, honoring the country singer-guitarist who died August 8th.
But "Wichita Lineman" wasn't the only left turn of the night for the band. Prior to their nightly tribute to Cornell, Rose launched into James Brown's "I Feel Good," the first time the group has played the song in full, and the first time with Slash and McKagan in the lineup. Rose's hired Guns performed a snippet of the song at Rock in Rio in 2006.
"If anybody will fuck up on it, it'll be me," he quips before the Edmonton performance.
Guns N' Roses continue their Not in This Lifetime Tour on Friday with a stop in Vancouver.