Guns N' Roses - review

The O2, London

Guns N' Roses's last venture to this part of the world was not an unmitigated success. Headlining Reading festival six weeks ago, they took to the stage an hour late and suffered the ignominy of having the power cut off as they careered through the festival's curfew. Failing to learn from this error, they were equally tardy in Dublin a week later, where Axl Rose was bottled by a hacked-off crowd.

Such is the degree of concern at Rose's timekeeping that tube staff warn the punters arriving at this show that they are likely to find tumbleweed blowing through the station if they stay until the evening's bitter end. The upshot is that the audience feels perversely grateful when the house lights go down a mere 45 minutes after Guns N' Roses were billed to appear.

The band are still promoting Chinese Democracy, the notorious 2008 album that took 17 years to complete and saw every single member except Rose quit the group. It's a half-decent heavy rock album buried under layers of production and gratuitous faffing, which is an entirely apposite description of this show. Guns have stellar moments, but they don't half go on. My Lord, do they go on.

In their planet-bestriding 80s heyday, the band wrote raw, thrilling, venal rock songs about sex and violence, powered by mercurial, quicksilver riffs from guitarists Slash and Izzy Stradlin. That pair are now long gone, their places taken by a tag-team of three guitarists whose fiddly fills and frills suffocate the life even out of such undeniable pop-metal classics as Welcome to the Jungle and the hard-edged Mr Brownstone.

Wrapped in a bandana and sporting a mildly camp trucker moustache, Rose now resembles a bizarre hybrid of Mickey Rourke, Mick Hucknall and Fu Manchu rather than the baby-faced rock god of yore – but he remains a magnetic frontman. His strangulated yowl has withstood the ravages of the years, and sounds powerful on the Nine Inch Nails-influenced electro-metal of Shackler's Revenge and 80s anthem Sweet Child O' Mine. Yet even Rose notably absents himself from the stage as his sidemen widdle their way through their countless between-song solos.

Put simply, there's way too much filler, not enough thriller – and midnight has long passed by the time Axl Rose, two-and-a-half hours into a seemingly interminable set, caterwauls his way through the closing song, Paradise City. Guns N' Roses, the band who don't know when to start their shows, also have no idea when to end them.


Ian Gittins

The GuardianTramp

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