Photography: Cole Maguire
Hell can freeze over and pigs (although, ironically, not in the case – yet – of Pink Floyd) do fly. And so it is after years of consternation, feuding and nit-picking that we see an as-close-as-we’ll-get-to-classic line-up of US rock behemoth Guns N’ Roses.
That’s not to say it ain’t fun, though. The sight of vocalist Axl Rose, guitarist Slash and bassist, Duff McKagan, rubbing shoulders on a Perth stage wasn’t something a good majority of the 35,000 assembled would have expected to witness.
And so it was that a sea of black t-shirts snaked through West Leederville and Subiaco and into Domain Stadium as Andrew Stockdale’s 2017 version of Wolfmother did what it does to constantly get these iconic opening support slots. It garnered a polite response, even if Stockdale is a different class of old school for the punters who have come to see their favourite millionaire bad boys.
As the bars did keen last-beers-before-showtime business, the band’s announcer, McBob, correctly announced that we were all in Perth, and from Hollywood, here were ‘Guns aanndd Rooooses!’.
Blasts of light and big screen fanfare lit Subiaco Oval and our fave LA bar band hit the stage. ‘It’s So Easy’ and ‘Mr Brownstone’ made for a cracking opening selection as Rose covered the stage in the first of his many flannelette-and-hat/or-bandanna combos. McKagan wore a hat and glasses and looked a little like Captain Sensible for the first few songs. Prince’s emblem appeared in purple on his white bass guitar and indeed his t-shirt changes featured the likes of Iggy & The Stooges. It’s nice to see a rock star wear his rock stars on his er, sleeves.
Slash seemed distant, though a top hat on top of a mop of hair and eternal sunglasses will do that. He still brings the laidback moves and poses however, even to the title song from ‘Chinese Democracy’ a tune he once had nothing to do with.
In fact a few tunes from ‘Chinese Democracy’ were aired and it was at these time that you realised just how good Guns N’ Roses are when they’re rocking the bangers. So it comes as no surprise that the likes of ‘Welcome To The Jungle’ (‘Perth I wanna hear you scream. Perth?’), ‘Live And Let Die’, ‘Rocket Queen’ (Slash’s voicebox solo followed by video screen images of skeletons in the ‘act’), ‘You Could Be Mine’ and a Wings-worthingly epic ‘Live And Let Die’ fared far better than the drinks-break-pondering ‘Better’ or ‘Estranged’ (despite some classy piano work from Dizzy Reed) or the heavy leaning towards cover material (an instrumental version of ‘Wish You Were Here’, the outro Eric Clapton’s ‘Layla’ used as an intro into ‘November Rain’).
When combined with their ubiquitous ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, a nod to Led Zeppelin’s ‘Babe I’m Gonna Leave You’ and a full version of The Who’s ‘The Seeker’ perhaps the old bar band tendencies were ringing a little too true. Could it be that even with a three-decade history, actual Guns N’ Roses albums perhaps provide slimmer pickings than required for a two-and-a-half-hour show?
Meanwhile, an unexpected version of ‘Used To Love Her’- as the band seemed to become restless with the setlist on the final night of an Australian tour – was a nugget indeed.
But when it was good, it was great, as the likes of ‘Civil War’, ‘Nightrain’ and ‘Sweet Child O Mine’ then the eventual finale of ‘Paradise City’ attested. On those ones they answered the call. They’re an iconic bunch, whose subsequent show in Singapore saw them introduced as ‘a band who need a good caning’. Bless the badness.
See you at Adele then?