Live Era '87-'93

There is a definitive souvenir of the live G n' R experience lurking somewhere in the band's attic. This baby isn't it, for reasons having little to do with the actual performances. Like, where are the dates and venues for these twenty-two tracks? As rock scholarship, "Recorded across the universe between 1987 and 1993" doesn't cut it. The credits also give no hint as to which lineup — the original five, the Use Your Illusion-era big band — plays what. As for repertoire, the avant-glam sprawl of the twin Illusion LPs is shortchanged (no "Coma" or "Civil War") in favor of Appetite for Destruction, reprised almost in its entirety. And "Move to the City," from the '86 Live Like a Suicide EP, runs for eight minutes, too many of 'em going to brass and keyboard solos. So that's what's wrong with Live Era. Here's what's right: the contrapuntal bark and skid of Slash's and Izzy Stradlin's guitars; Axl Rose's supercharged bray, a blood-and-spittle shower of contempt ("You Could Be Mine"), paranoia ("Out ta Get Me") and desperate measures (the Illusion II epic "Estranged"); the shotgun union of pop brains and death-ride metal in "Welcome to the Jungle" and "Sweet Child o' Mine." On a real firefight night, G n' R were thirty years of rock & roll history, muscle and bad temper soaked in diesel and vodka, and the stage was their bully pulpit. This set is a narrowly missed opportunity to truly seal the histori cal worth of the band's guts and glory in concert. But Live Era's master blasts are visceral evidence of a time when Guns n' Roses ruled the earth and every show was, as it says on an old gig flier reproduced in the booklet, A Rock N Roll Bash Where Everyone's Smashed.