I was thrilled to see Guns N’ Roses last Sunday at Madison Square Garden. At least, until I was actually in the stadium watching the show. Then it was a bit of a snooze, I am disappointed to say.
I had previously seen early GNR shows in 1989 at the LA Coliseum (where they backed the Stones) and in 1991 when they headlined at the Tacoma Dome. I can clearly recall the thrill in LA of seeing Axl twirling with the microphone stand, and performing his signature sideways sashay. Somehow, as the old blues song says, the thrill is gone.
“Welcome to the Jungle” was song #4 in their setlist, and I thought, finally, this show is getting going:
But it never sustained this level of energy… By the time they did “Coma,” 9 songs later, I was pretty much in one.
Surprisingly, the covers they performed had more energy. I especially enjoyed the freshness and emotion of Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman.” But honestly, I just saw Paul McCartney do “Live and Let Die” last month at Barclays Center, and his version was better! I could feel the heat from the flashpots in the nosebleed section. I also saw Roger Waters do his own “Wish You Were Here” last month (see my video on YouTube), and again–his was of course WAY better than GNRs, though the crowd loved the song and sang along over GNRs instrumental version. It was a fun moment, don’t get me wrong. Just not the GREAT moment I was expecting.
What surprised me was that the audience was on its feet much of the time. A lot of reviewers loved the show, and here’s one by Loudwire. GNR are the 41st best-selling artists of all time, with Appetite for Destruction being the best-selling debut album of all time in the US, 11th best-selling album period. The “Not in this Lifetime” tour was the highest-earning per-city global concert tour of 2016, and the fifth-highest grossing concert tour of all time. People love this shit. And I did too. But maybe I’m not the fan I thought I was.
By comparison, I was blown away by Mötley Crüe in their final tour, which I saw at Madison Square Garden in 2014, on my first trip to New York. And AC/DC rocked the house in Vancouver last October–one of the best shows I have ever seen, with one favorite song after another, and the aging rockers kicking ass like you wouldn’t believe. I thought GNR would be equally exciting, but their show just wasn’t as good as these others. I guess it’s hard to live up to a memory. Nuff said.
Oh, except for one more fun fact: