(Below is a reprint, of sorts, of an e-mail I sent to a number of my friends in 2002, after I went to London to see Guns N' Roses. I've saved it forever, and it kind of cracks me up to re-read it now. I thought y'all might enjoy a look at it. Quite a little time capsule.)
I know where I was...
I was in the jungle, baby, in London, England. And it totally rocked!
Greetings, one and all! I am back from chasing Axl Rose around the planet!
OK, so many of you are thinking, "Dude, I haven't talked to you in ages! What are you talking about?" I'm talking about finally getting to do the thing I wanted to do most of all: I actually saw Guns N' Roses, live. More importantly, I saw Axl, the love of my life. (And he just happened to be wearing a Jerry Rice jersey. Seriously.)
A little background (for those of you who know this, skip ahead): I was supposed to go to Montreal this week with my friend Jeremy, who was doing a bike trek to raise money for AIDS vaccine research for the second straight year. Unfortunately, they canceled the ride. (But huge kudos to Jer, who raised more than $3,000 again.)
Anyway, I just happened to check out Pollstar.com one night, searching in vain (so I thought) for any GNR sightings. Lo and behold, there was a show at London Arena on Aug. 26, a day I ALREADY HAD OFF. How often does that happen? (Uh, never.) So, thanks to my mom's American Airlines retiree passes and Jer's very kind, very sweet understanding, I hopped off, with Mom in tow, in search of the king of all rock stars. And it actually all worked out ...
As you know, traveling on stanbdy passes often means you don't get on the plane. Well, we made it on through Dallas to Gatwick with 0.0 problems. And, further adding to the too-good-to-be-true nature of this tome, we got first class. Let me just tell you, it's not even like being on a plane. You can recline your little seat back, all the way to a bed. They feed you a ton (and it's actually really good), and you get your own VCR to watch one of like 20 movies you can choose. It's just ridiculous.
Anyway, as you also know, with Axl, there's a always the chance a temper tantrum or a squirrelly sound check will derail an entire concert. (Or maybe James Hetfield catches on fire. That's happened before, too.) So until I got in the door (after purchasing not one, not two, but three shirts) and saw my man on stage, I wasn't going to believe anything good was going to happen.
London Arena holds somewhere around 20,000 people, it turns out, and the place was packed. Naturally there were at least a thousand lucky bastards who had standing tickets, down on the floor. Who ARE those people, and HOW do they get those tickets?!
Anyway, first the opening act ... which just happened to be Weezer. Yes, really. (Again, I point out, everything about this trip was too good to be true.)
Eds Note: Painstaking details follow ... feel free to skip ahead if you don't care. I won't blame you. Weezer was great. NOBODY except me had ever heard of these guys. Evidently people in England just have no clue. Of course, Rivers, evil rock and roll genius that he is, totally knew no one had any clue that, in fact, this little Weezer joint is a really big band. And he played it to the hilt.
Weezer is all about irony, and never has an occasion called for being tongue-in-cheek quite like this one. Weezer grew up in LA, playing clubs in '92 behind a bunch of GNR wannabes, and here again Weezer was the little misfit band. And they totally rocked -- the show was better than the one I saw them headline in February in Pittsburgh.
Anyway, they closed with "Buddy Holly" (duh), which was the only song anyone in the place seemed to have heard. The rest of the set included The Sweater Song, Goin Surfin', Gone Fishing, Island in the Sun, Say It Ain't So, My Name is Jonas, Hash Pipe, two new songs and one or two others I couldn't remember after GNR played.
Weezer played from like 7:05 to about 8. And then, true to the lyrics of "Mr. Brownstone," GNR went on stage around 9 and got on the bus around 11, presumably sippin' a drink and feelin' fine.
The crowd was super fired-up, and it was truly a diverse group of people of all sorts of ages. So, the lights go down and there's a little voice-over thingy and some video stuff... and then, the moment, we've all been waiting for....GNR takes the stage.
"Welcome to the Jungle" opens it, of course, and let me just tell you: The band is good. Most of you probably know GNR isn't just GNR anymore. It's basically just Axl and a handful of other musicians he's put together who, except for Dizzy Reed, were never in the band back in the day. So, there's been a lot of concern that the newfangled band wouldn't be as good. WRONG!
They're great, and it all runs through Axl, who looks great, sounds as awesome as ever and runs around the stage like a madman. Now, let's disspell another media myth: Axl Rose is NOT fat. Not at all. In fact, a very chipper Mr. Rose even did a gag about everyone thinking he'sas big as a house.
Throughout the night, he took a few shots at the media, promised an 18-song album (that would be the years-in-the-making "Chinese Democracy") and just generally looked like he's ready to rule the musical world again.
Now, you probably can imagine, I'm just like crying and giddy and freaking out through like the first four songs. (Note: The leather pants were in effect for the show. They now have been to Vegas, Pittsburgh and London. Wheee!) Here's the set list (in pretty close to the right order):
Welcome to the Jungle, It's So Easy, Mr. Brownstone, Live and Let Die (all the crowd did the little "Ya know ya did, ya know ya did, ya know ya did" part), Think About You, Knockin' On Heaven's Door (quite good for a song I don't like), You Could Be Mine, Out Ta Get Me, Sweet Child O' Mine, three new songs of which I don't know the names but they were OK songs (though not super-great), November Rain (with Axl at the piano), another new song with Dizzy on piano and Axl whailing (this, whatever it is, is a great friggin song), Rocket Queen, Patience, My Michelle, Night Train (unbelievable. They absolutely ripped this song to shreds. It was amazing.).
Night Train closed the show, leading to the inevitable encore of "Paradise City."
Now, here's the thing (and I confess, this is pretty nitpicky): Paradise City is not a good encore song. "What?!" you ask. Well, see, to borrow the analogy from Spinal Tap, you want an encore song to be a 10 that you can turn to 11.
Thing is, Paradise City is already at 11. There is no way to play that song louder, faster, better, whatever, than it already is. Because the original is perfect. I mean, they had plenty of pyro and fireworks and all kinds of things, but Paradise City cannot be improved upon. So oddly, it's a strangely anticlimactic encore tune. Really, Night Train might have been better, b/c they really took that song and just blew it up, which was great.
That said, absolutely no one pays to see GNR so they can hear Night Train as the last song. This I realize.
Ok, so you're all wondering: What's the band like without Slash? Well, the question you SHOULD be asking is: What's the band like without Duff? That's right. You don't so much miss Slash, honestly, as you miss the brilliant bass-playing of one Duff McKagan. You Could Be Mine and Sweet Child O' Mine are spectacular songs in large part b/c of the bass line sustaining them. They were still REALLY good at the show, but those songs are where the GNR Rainmen of the world (read: me and probably six other people) really notice a difference.
So, in a nutshell, the show was awesome. The first 45 minutes were like the best of my entire life, pretty much. And I have to say -- and I don't care how silly this sounds -- I've sung Patience in my car about 987298732093 times. On this night, I was singing it, and AXL FRIGGIN ROSE was singing it back to me. Unbelievable. The moment my little brain sort of processed that was like the highlight of my existence.
I know it's not cool anymore to actually like anything. And I'm sure I'm talking like I just saw the Beatles or something, so this probably doesn't make a ton of sense to a lot of you. But I wanted to tell you all about it anyway, because it was so cool!
I stayed in London until Thursday and did a bunch of other stuff, but that was all just gravy, really. After Monday night, it was all downhill....
So, hey, thanks for reading if you made it this far!
And remember: With your bitch slap-rappin' and your cocaine tongue, you get nothin' done ...
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