Update, April 2nd: On Friday in Los Angeles, Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan performed together in Guns N’ Roses for the first time since 1993. This post has been updated to reflect what we’ve learned.
After months of rumors, the official news finally hit last night that Guns N’ Roses will reunite in April at this year’s Coachella. Well, sort of. The California music festival’s Saturday lineup merely lists “Guns N’ Roses” as the headliner — with no clear indication of what exactly that means in 2016. Bassist Duff McKagan and guitarist Slash both shared the announcement via Twitter, essentially confirming their participation. McKagan played with Guns N’ Roses during a series of shows in 2014, but Slash hasn’t shared a stage with Axl Rose since the end of the Use Your Illusion tour in 1993. His return is a huge deal, and his presence in the lineup alone will help fill stadiums around the world — but there’s still a ton that we simply don’t know about the terms of this reunion. Here are just a few of the questions we have.
1. Will Izzy Stradlin Be Involved?
The rhythm guitarist, who played a key role in the creation of Appetite For Destruction, the Lies EP and the Use Your Illusion albums, left GN’R in 1991. Since then, he’s become one of rock’s most mysterious figures, even as he maintained a steady release of under-the-radar solo albums. Stradlin joined his ex-bandmates in Velvet Revolver during their early rehearsals, but ultimately opted to stay out of the project. In 2006, he shocked Guns N’ Roses fans when he played with the new lineup at a New York show, and since then he’s made many guest appearances with the group, most notably during their 2012 European tour. But he didn’t show up when the group got inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that year, and there’s absolutely no word on whether or not he’ll play any role in this reunion.
2. If Izzy Doesn’t Play Rhythm Guitar, Who Will?
Update: Richard Fortus performed with the band on April 1st.
DJ Ashba and Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal both left the group last year, though the status of third guitarist Richard Fortus is unclear. Might it be him on rhythm? If not Fortus, might Gilby Clarke return? He was Izzy’s original replacement back in 1991, and he filled in for Izzy at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012. Might there be a role for Velvet Revolver’s Dave Kushner? Will Axl want two guitarists, like the old days, or will he want to stick with three? We have no idea.
3. Who Will Play Drums?
Update: Frank Ferrer performed with the band on April 1st. Steven Adler did not play.
Frank Ferrer has been with Guns N’ Roses for the past 10 years, and seems like a very likely pick. But there’s also Matt Sorum. He joined in 1990 for Use Your Illusion and played in Velvet Revolver with Slash and Duff in the early 2000s. He certainly knows the material and is quite capable of pulling this off. He’s been guesting on Late Night with Seth Meyers all week, but there’s no word on his participation at Coachella. Then there’s Appetite-era drummer Steven Adler. He famously left GN’R in 1990 due to a drug problem, and since then he’s been the loudest voice calling for a reunion. He’s been suspiciously quiet since this reunion noise started. He’s never played the Use Your Illusion material in concert, and it’s difficult to imagine him being the sole drummer on the tour. But might he have a role similar to the one Mick Taylor had on some recent Rolling Stones tours, where he comes onstage for a few songs every night? Once again, we have no idea.
4. Who Else From the Last GN’R Lineup Will Be Involved?
Update: Dizzy Reed also performed with the band on April 1st. Joining him on keyboards was new member Melissa Reese, a seasoned vocalist and songwriter, and collaborator of former GN’R drummer Bryan “Brain” Mantia.
Keyboardist Dizzy Reed has been in the group since 1990, giving him a longer tenure in the group than any member besides Axl Rose, so his participation seems like a lock. Chris Pitman, another keyboardist, has been with the group since 1998. It’s easy to imagine him returning. There won’t be two bass players, so that means Tommy Stinson is gone. And as we previously said, the status of drummer Frank Ferrer and guitarist Richard Fortus is completely unknown. Some old-school fans would like to see a complete break from the most recent GN’R lineup, but that’s probably unlikely.
5. What Happens After Coachella?
Update: The reunited GN’R will tour U.S. stadiums this summer, starting June 23rd at Detroit’s Ford Field.
There have been reports of a stadium tour, and it’s hard to imagine the band going to all this trouble to play just two weekends at Coachella and nothing more. As of now, though, we remain in the dark about where this reunion is going. Remember, Led Zeppelin did a single show in 2007 and haven’t played since. These things can fall apart very quickly, no matter how much money is at stake.
6. Will They Play Chinese Democracy Material?
Update: The band performed two tracks from the album on April 1st — “Chinese Democracy” and “Better” — marking the first time Slash has played these songs live. They also covered the Who’s “The Seeker,” a song that was often played by the post-Slash GN’R but never by the classic lineup. Additionally, the group revived several classic-era songs that hadn’t been played since Slash’s departure: Use Your Illusion I‘s “Double Talkin’ Jive,” the Godfather theme and the Damned’s “New Rose” (from GN’R’s 1993 covers album, “The Spaghetti Incident?” — a song never performed live by the band before the April 1st show).
Logic would indicate that the band will stay safely within the confines of 1987 to 1991 when picking a setlist — but there was another Guns N’ Roses album released in 2008. Duff McKagan played those songs when he returned in 2014. Would Slash be willing to do the same thing? Then there’s the Velvet Revolver catalog. “Fall To Pieces” began as a Guns N’ Roses song. Might Axl consider singing it, possibly as a tribute to Scott Weiland? We’ll see.
7. Will There Be New Material?
Most reunion tours focus solely on old material, but Axl and Slash might want this to be more than a nostalgia trip. Is there any chance they’ve secretly recorded a new song or two? Might they actually head into the studio at some point down the road? Stranger things have happened.
8. How Exactly Did This Happen?
Did Axl reach out to Slash? Did Slash reach out to Axl? Is there a chance they haven’t even spoken yet, and this whole thing was arranged by an army of lawyers and managers? Did Duff serve as a peace broker when he briefly returned to the band two years ago? Will this be an Eddie Van Halen/David Lee Roth situation, where they don’t really speak offstage? Did Axl apologize for calling Slash “a cancer?” Let’s hope they do some press soon and answer at least some of these questions, because right now we know very, very little.