4 Unsettling Realizations At A Guns N' Roses Reunion Show
Recently I got to partake in the awesomeness that was Guns N' Roses reunited in 2016, a concert I thought would have been an impossible dream even a year ago given the long-standing animosity between Axl Rose and the rest of the band and the longstanding love affair between Axl Rose, madness, and Twinkies.
But the band reunited, I was able to benefit with tickets gifted unto me, and it was, musically, totally badass. One of the best concerts I have ever been to. But the awesome cheesy layer on top concealed a layer of foul casserole beneath, replete with canned peas and cougars. All was not what it was cracked up to be, and there's a price to pay for resurrecting '80s superstars in 2016.
The Greatest Generation
I'm no spring chicken anymore; I grunt when I sit and when I poop and when I think too hard. My glory days of power drinking are behind me, and now I drink to forget, to sleep, and to feel better about life in general. And sometimes to moisten the ol' coal chute when things get backed up. But I was really young when Guns N' Roses were in their heyday, and I grew up with them, sort of. So seeing them live now wasn't too weird. I'm not decrepit or senile. However, the vast majority of the crowd attending the concert was.
Every rock show attracts an older crowd, but the curious skewing of numbers at Guns N' Roses was a bit intimidating. I was afraid that if the crowds rocked out too hard so many hips would break that my ability to administer first aid would be taxed to the extreme, to say nothing of my fear of performing chest compressions on ladies who had boob jobs back in 1983 and now looked like skeletons smuggling Valencia oranges.
Or, in a few cases, some very droopy pumpkins.
A sea of men with salt-and-pepper hair down to their waists roamed the crowd below my overpriced VIP riser seats, many of them trailing ladies in leather miniskirts with teased '80s hair that stood a solid foot from their scalps, ready to hop on the hood of any nearby Corvette with an albino snake should the opportunity arise.
They say rock 'n' roll will never die, and in a terrifying way, that's real. Every song you ever heard is captured in the time you heard it, no matter how long you continue to drink from the wrong cup in that cave with the old Templar Knight. So when the opportunity arises to see a band no one thought would ever play together again after 1995, what happens is you get people like me who can still bend over to tie their shoes without assistance and a sea of others who can't eat hard cheese before bedtime. They were totally awesome when the songs came out originally, but now they're taking heart medicine while they do their shots.
I see you, Richard Fortus.
I'm not saying it's wrong for old people to like any kind of music. You rock out to some Waka Flocka if you need to, grandpa. It's just that many of them seem to have not left the time in which they first heard that music, and it becomes weird, like when your parents tried to be hip and maybe started rapping at the dinner table one time when you were in high school and you thought your brain might start bleeding at any moment.
Friends 4 Ever!
Can you see what's happening in this image? I took this in a panic over the shoulder hoping not to be seen. Not out of fear, more out of -- is there a word for not wanting assholes to sweat on you? If so, I assume it's German. That's what I was feeling. This group of fellows, and God bless their little hearts for being so into having fun that they were drunk beyond the ability to maintain balance, they were sweating like overly friendly Uber drivers on a July afternoon, and they were shirtless. And be-wigged. They all had wigs on.
Why the hell would they think that was cool?
The Hooligan crew were pretending to be Guns N' Roses, I think. One guy had the leg of his pants fashioned into a denim hat on his head, though, so maybe he was trying to re-create '80s sitcom sensation Blossom. I can't say. I refused to make eye contact with them, let alone speak to them. But for the popular songs that had been released as singles, they were ready and able to dance and sing the chorus, because those were the words they knew, before at least one of them fell down and spilled a drink all across the back of my calves, constantly making me wonder if someone was vomiting on my shoes.
And I always keep them looking so pristine.
Remember Top Gun? There's that one bar scene where, inexplicably, every pilot sings "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" by The Righteous Brothers and, for a non-musical movie, it's a pretty rousing musical number? Remember the stellar musical entry of the nerds in Revenge Of The Nerds at the end of the film that wins them the right to head the Greek Council? Another fine musical performance in a non-musical film. Now, life not being a musical itself, I can appreciate the times when people come together to put on a hell of a performance. The timing is right and suddenly everyone at prom is doing the same synchronized dance moves and Teen Wolf is there to prove he can be himself and still be cool. So if you're at a Guns N' Roses concert, and you're about four drinks into the night and feeling just saucy enough when "Paradise City" starts playing, of course you can sing along. Hell, I did. But I did not Russian folk dance my way through half the song list, because that shit would be inappropriate even in Footloose, and you remember how preposterous Kevin Bacon's angry solo dance in the warehouse is.
Near where I was watching the show was a small, fenced-in area that seemed to be controlling the lights and maybe doing some sound-mixing. It was hard to tell, except that there were a hell of a lot of control boards and electronics there. People would come and go throughout the show, let in by a single security guard who manned the tiny gate the entire night. Next to him was a toilet. He was the Shit Guard, and his responsibility was mighty.
I didn't say that to his face, obviously.
The stadium the concert took place in has a seating capacity of just over 53,000. That's mostly up in the stands, of course, while I was down on what is normally a playing field for Major League Baseball, which you may recall was a thing in the 1990s. In the entirety of that open stadium, this was the single toilet available. All others required you to leave the stadium area to go back into the concession areas and find a bathroom that way. But this lone toilet, this blue Port-A-Potty, stood in the center of that 53,000-capacity stadium, behind guarded gate, available for use by the people controlling the lights.
When they fall asleep at night, they dream of Port-A-Potties as far as the eye can see ...
Imagine this day, when it was about 75 degrees outside, and about 10 degrees hotter inside the stadium, thanks to wall-to-wall sweaty manbeasts eager to board the Night Train. Imagine that Port-A-Potty, its tepid blue water simmering all day long as roadies and sound engineers alike slowly turn it from a rich royal blue to a verdant diseased-urine green, replete with road apples and the occasional Lincoln Log. Higher and higher the fluid level would climb, the inevitable full roll of toilet paper that you always see in that water making an appearance by midday, until the second hour of Guns N' Roses' performance is under way, the stadium is dark, and one last engineer heads in to pee into that churning miasma of hate waste and shit tickets. That fucker never came back out again, and we all know it. He was a sacrifice to the gods of rock 'n' roll.
I Am No Rock Star
The first thing I noticed about Axl Rose when he took the stage was he's not the fat guy everyone made fun of a few years ago for being a fat guy, which everyone on Twitter says is bad but people still do. He wasn't the rail-thin ginger weirdo from 1997 either, but he was himself. Slash, of course, is timeless because he has no face, and Duff looked weirdly like Michael Bay. The band played for nearly three solid hours, during which time Axl Rose changed his shirt about 10 times. Because he wants to keep up with Beyonce as a fashionista? Fuck no, because you could literally see sweat pouring off of him from midway through the first song, and he must have felt like SpongeBob was giving him a bear hug the entire night.
You know what, I'm good, Axl. You go right ahead and touch yourself.
Axl and crew ran from one side of the stage to the other and did everything you expected him to do based on every video of the band you saw from the 1990s. I can only assume he was being fed a steady stream of hard liquor and modern super narcotics mixed with liquid cocaine and amphetamines through some kind of pump system in his pants directly linked with his colon to maintain the level of activity. This was the kind of workout that's supposed to kill rock stars who've led the life Axl Rose has. But all he did was change his shirt.
As I sat and drank beer after beer, noticing how uncomfortable my back was from the effort of being upright, I began to grow a stunning respect for the rock star. He deserves to trash hotel rooms and bang groupies. I could never do this shit. I'd be singing the third song from a recliner with an air-conditioner pointed at me while sipping a daiquiri, my destruction limited to the mustard that dripped off of my sausage onto the hotel sheets.
A delicious crime.
At some point in the night things got quiet for a moment as Slash started playing solo. Flashed on the big screen, all you could see was the hair and the hat and his fingers banging the shit out of that guitar like 16 different kids on prom night. And suddenly the melody came clear and we were listening to Slash play the theme from The Godfather. Why? Who even cares. It was just a moment in time where a guy who can't even see what he's doing ripped apart the instrumental opening to a movie that came out 40 years ago and made you want to headbang along to it.
The Godfather transitioned into "Sweet Child O' Mine," a song that came out originally in 1987. This is a 30-year-old rock song, and you would have thought someone dropped a bomb from the rafters the moment Slash started that famous guitar riff. The place exploded in screams, and everyone, from the hooligans to the orange smugglers to the poor guard at the shit box, everyone sang along so loud you could barely hear Axl Rose behind it all. More than 50,000 voices stumbling over what her hair reminds me of and something about thunder and rain passing us by. It was like nothing you could imagine. A veritable city whoa-oh-oh-ooohing as one. It was insane and amazing.
You hear stories about Phil Spector kidnapping The Ramones, or Ozzy biting the head off of a dove, or Keith Richards still being alive, but you never truly appreciate just how insane rock star life is until you see it. Until you see Axl Rose refuse to stop moving for three straight hours and still have 50,000 people hanging on his every word, you can't fully appreciate just how crazy these people truly are. They're fueled by the crowds but probably also lots of foreign substances. These are no mere men. These are rock stars. And no one, not one person, broke a hip that I was aware of.
Listen to some cover songs you probably didn't realize were covers in 5 Cover Songs That Stole The Show From The Originals, and hear the worst cover Celine Dion ever performed in The 20 Worst Cover Songs In Pop Music History.
Subscribe to our YouTube channel to see how to make the most out of a concert in 10 Life Hacks For Makin' Any Concert A Rockin' Evenin', and watch other videos you won't see on the site!
Also follow us on Facebook, because we'll help you get your life together one post at a time.