The group’s Not in This Lifetime tour, which launched in Detroit last night, left the earlier Guns N’ Roses classic reunion dates – a warm up gig in Los Angeles in April, then a few Las Vegas shows, with a double weekend at Coachella to top it off – feeling like nothing but mere practice.
This was the real thing, the thing we’d all been waiting for: the triumphant return of one of the most important bands to cross rock music history. And it happened in our lifetime.
Whatever bumpy start the reunion got off to – a criticized lineup, which featured original members Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan, but not Izzy Stradlin and Steven Adler; a broken foot for Rose at the very first gig; lengthy delays – had mostly smoothed itself out by Thursday night.
Not only were Guns N’ Roses on time in Detroit, but they were two minutes early. With an expected start time between 9:45 p.m. to 10 p.m., Guns N’ Roses promptly took the stage at 9:43 p.m., making it clear they’re no longer playing games.
On a bi-level setup backed by a video screen with additional screens on each side of the stage, Slash and McKagan were first to emerge, followed by Dizzy Reed and newer Guns N’ Roses members Richard Fortus, Frank Ferrer and Melissa Reese. Then a completely mobile Rose burst onstage last with a boundless energy and lust for the performance that lay ahead.
Rose, who initially borrowed the throne used by Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl after he broke his leg last summer, ruled without one: Detroit saw Rose in full force, letting loose the snake-like moves that defined the Guns N’ Roses look. While Rose often let his weight sit on his right foot (he had broken a bone in the left one), it never once limited him from spinning, hopping and darting from the back of the stage to the front of the catwalk that stretched into the crowd.
Opening with a pulsating rendition of “It’s So Easy,” Guns N’ Roses played for two-and-a-half hours to a near-capacity Ford Field. Often sporting Detroit shirts, the members showed their love for the Motor City. “You want the jungle, Detroit?” Rose screamed during “Welcome to the Jungle,” later cracking a few Detroit-centric jokes. (“Everything here is fucking fried,” he exclaimed at one point. “First thing I’d do in Detroit is put a tariff on vegetable oil.”)
Rose continuously thrilled with his immense vocal range – especially seated at the piano for “November Rain” – which was always precise and extraordinarily fresh despite coming off of a string of dates with AC/DC, where he filled in for vocalist Brian Johnson. But he never let himself become the star of the show: Slash shined as often as Rose (if not more), letting his unrivaled guitar skills speak for themselves. Most solos were extended and spotlighted, but none spoke louder than his cover of The Godfather theme – a real treat for fans.