It’s been 25 years since a stoned, struggling Steven Adler was booted from Guns N’ Roses, kickstarting the rapid unraveling of the lineup that recorded Appetite for Destruction.
In the decades since then, more than two dozen members have cycled through Guns N’ Roses’ ranks. A guy wearing a KFC bucket on his head briefly took Slash’s place. A member of the Replacements replaced Duff McKagan. Myles Kennedy even subbed for Axl Rose in April 2012, singing “Paradise City” with a particularly odd lineup — including both Adler and Matt Sorum on drums — during that month’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Today, as rumors circulate about a possible reunion of the classic Appetite lineup, fans continue to ask the question they’ve been posing ever since Use Your Illusion hit stores: what, exactly, counts as an official Guns N’ Roses performance, and what is simply a cobbled-together band covering a song by someone else?
While that answer can be debated, it’s hard to argue with Carrie Underwood’s genuine love for Guns. She recently said in an interview that she hopes to one day sing with Axl Rose and closed out CMA Music Festival in 2013 with a blistering “Paradise City,” rattling off Rose’s rapid-fire lyrics with the finesse of a hair-metal fan who’d spent an entire childhood in front of the mirror singing lines like “The surgeon general says it’s hazardous to breathe / I’d have another cigarette but I can’t see” into a canister of AquaNet. But it’s a festival performance from April 2012, during which she covered “Sweet Child O’ Mine” — two days before Myles Kennedy and company played the same song at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — that drives home just how passionate Underwood is about Rose and the gang.
While her “Sweet Child O’Mine” is poised and PG-rated, two adjectives that the original G N’ R boys — with their bitch-slap rappin’ and cocaine tongues — never warranted, it still sounds fantastic and faithful. And she delivers the song with more swagger than Sheryl Crow, whose own “Sweet Child” cover won a Grammy in 2000. But most impressively, Underwood also hits the high notes — in a way Rose hasn’t done since 1993 when the 192-show Use Your Illusion Tour came to a close. Her new single “Heartbeat” may feature Sam Hunt on vocals, but, like Underwood herself, we can’t help but dream of that Axl duet.