082117 Guns N’ Roses, Ottawa, ON

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When Guns N’ Roses announced a stop at Lansdowne Park on their Not In This Lifetime tour I decided to give it a pass, despite the fact that the show would be happening just a mile from my front door.  I might have looked for cheap tickets when they went on sale and not found any, or I might not have checked at all, I don’t recall.  But I do remember saying something along the lines of, “I’m not paying $200 to have the world’s biggest whiner keep me waiting for two hours.”

But on August 21st, 2017, as my regular morning bike ride took me past the stadium it occurred to me I had only seen these guys once, and that had been twenty-five years before.  So when I arrived home and saw that ticket prices had dropped to just $50 for the cheap seats (+40% in fees) I bit.

(Though I hadn’t been following the tour by any means, I figured if Axl was up to his old tricks and had been regularly keeping his audiences waiting I would have heard about it through the entertainment grapevine and I hadn’t, which helped me make my decision.)

M’lady and I arrived early and had dinner at a restaurant across from the venue.  Of course the place was packed and service was slowed down, but still we lingered over post-dinner drinks with confidence.  And so it was pretty ironic that we ended up arriving late to the show, missing the first few songs and arriving at our seats (after one more quick beerstop) during the iconic Welcome To The Jungle.

The stage was big, and was flanked with even bigger screens that afforded vertigo-inducing closeups as the cameras struggled to chase the four shaggy frontmen as they raced around the stage like aging parkour artists.

Man, these Guns N’ Roses dudes do a lot of running.

It must be particularly hard on puffy old Axl – especially wearing that girdle – but I have to admit he seemed to be trying pretty hard.  But c’mon, we can all agree that his minor-league talent will forever be overshadowed by his Olympic-sized ego.  Really, when you weigh it all out, Axl just plain sucks.

Duff was dramatically better that the time I saw them back in ’92, back when the guy was so messed up that his bass playing sounded like a pair of aluminum sneakers bouncing around inside a rubber dryer, a performance(?) that rocketed him to the top of my worst-bass-players-of-all-time list.  He hardly redeemed himself on this night, but at least he didn’t do anything noticeably wrong.

Izzy wasn’t there, though they had a sharpshooter-lookalike rocking in his place that did an admirable job.  The band played quite a few songs from Chinese Democracy, and every one showed more and more how much Izzy brought to this band (which is to say that without him the band’s songwriting just plain sucks as much as Axl’s singing does, and Chinese Democracy was done without him).  Frankly, I can’t think of a single memorable song that the band has released since he left.  Izzy was one of the principal songwriters and really, without him all that keeps them going is Slash.

But Slash alone is a heck of a lot more than most bands have.

The guy is just out-and-out monstrously good at what he does.  The rest of the band are passably good at what they do (to varying degrees) but Slash (and Izzy’s great old songs) pulls them all along and keeps them firmly in the realm of arena-level rock stars.  He is their only remaining ace-in-the-hole, but the guy is an incredibly powerful trump card.

Quite simply, he’s far-and-away the best in the world at what he does, and what he does is consistently deliver the most searing, soul-crunching Les Paul-signature guitar solos since Jimmy Page was in his prime, and here he is, still 100% on top of his game.  Slash stood under his big black hat and sweated through one mind-ripping solo after another, commanding much more screen time and immeasurably more respect than his bandana’d freakshow lead singer.

And he single-handedly saved the concert*.  

More than that, he made it a great show.  If he wasn’t involved I would have left long before the encore (which included The Who’s The Seeker, Wish You Were Here, and a Dark Side Of The Moon tease that was likely a nod to the major eclipse that stole the continent’s attention earlier that afternoon).  Heck, if Slash wasn’t involved in Gn’R anymore I doubt that I would have paid anything to have been there.

It’s a shame that somebody so talented is stuck with a band that sounds so dated.  Guns N’ Roses ages about as well as a Shawn Cassidy movie.

Overall I would say it was a much better concert than the last time I saw them, but I enjoyed that show back in the ’90’s a lot more.  Back then the music hadn’t yet staled, and the endless pyros that accompanied the Paradise City closer were a complete surprise.  They did the same thing again at this show – same closer, same over-the-top pyros – and while it was no less spectacular this time around it was completely predictable and seemed much smaller and less impressive than it did all those years ago.

Which is to say: they basically ended the concert with an analogy.

*Yes, pun intended.

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