Guns N’ Roses played their first show of 2018 at Berlin’s Olympiastadion earlier this week and, 13 songs into the night, they stunned fans by playing “Slither” by Velvet Revolver. The reunited group has been playing material from Chinese Democracy since the first show of the tour, but this marks the first time the group has covered a tune by Slash and Duff’s post-Axl Rose project that was fronted by the late Scott Weiland. “We’re gonna try something,” said Rose before kicking into the tune. “Hope you like it.”
Velvet Revolver came together in 2003, just a couple of years after Axl and a new lineup of Guns N’ Roses started playing gigs. It was a marriage of convenience since Scott Weiland needed a band after the dissolution of Stone Temple Pilots. Plus, Slash, Duff and Use Your Illusion-era GN’R drummer Matt Sorum needed a singer. Many fans noted that they were basically trading the single most volatile lead singer in rock for the second most volatile singer in rock, but for about five years it seemed to work. They cut two albums (2004’s Contraband and 2007’s Libertad) and played shows all over the world that mixed their original compositions in with classics by STP and GN’R.
Unsurprisingly, the group melted down during a 2008 European tour. Tensions had lingered behind the scenes for months as Weiland’s erratic behavior forced them to cancel gigs, and then during a show in Glasgow, Scotland Weiland said to the crowd, “You’re watching something special… the last tour by Velvet Revolver.” A few songs later, he threw his microphone onto the stage and stormed off. “So last night was interesting,” Sorum wrote to fans the following day. “Had a little band turmoil on stage, as you probably all could tell. Being in a band is a lot like being in a relationship. Sometimes you just don’t get along. I guess there has been more turmoil lately, I guess, with the cancellations and all. It has been frustrating, I am not going to lie.”
The group somehow limped through another eight concerts, but they officially parted ways with Weiland after an April 1st gig in Amsterdam. Rumors swirled for years about a new singer joining the group, but it never happened and by 2011 Slash was giggling with singer Myles Kennedy and Velvet Revolver seemed to be nothing but a memory. That changed when John O’Brien, a composer and longtime friend of Velvet Revolver rhythm guitarist Dave Kushner, died in 2011. Kushner put together a benefit show at the House of Blues in Los Angeles to raise funds for his family, booking Maroon 5, Sheryl Crow, Tom Morello and Stephen Stills. He also somehow managed to reunite Velvet Revolver for the show. “We haven’t played together in four years,” Kushner told Rolling Stone, “and so we’re really just like, ‘Let’s see how this goes.'” (Check out video of the complete set right here.)
The reunion of Velvet Revolver guaranteed that the show sold out very quickly, though they were only able to put together a four-song set that included three of their originals – “Sucker Train Blues,” “She Builds Quick Machines” and “Slither” – along with a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.” “Thank you so much for showing up to this,” Weiland told the crowd after the first song. “It’s one of those things that is sad, but it’s a sweet thing, too. I remember when Matt and I did the same thing when we played a benefit for one of our brothers that passed away. It was a really rough show. We just want to send all the love and all the good wishes, all the prayers, out to John’s family.”
Fans chanted “Tour!” to the group between songs and the reunion did inevitably lead to rumors of a reunion tour, especially after Stone Temple Pilots fired Scott Weiland in 2013 and he was once again in need of a band. “I even called the guys to propose the idea of doing some shows together in a few months,” Weiland said in 2014. “We are on good terms, but I do not want to be a member of Velvet Revolver full time. If possible, I would like to only play at festivals. You know, to make easy money.“
A costly divorce made Weiland especially eager to earn that easy money, but a Velvet Revolver reunion simply wasn’t in the cards. He died from a drug overdose on December 3rd, 2015. Five months later, Guns N’ Roses reunited for an extremely lucrative reunion tour that is still going on to this day. Their decision to finally play Velvet Revolver tunes is the perfect way to keep the legacy alive. Here’s hoping they try out “Fall To Pieces” next.