Sunday, July 17, 2016
Guns N’ Roses Rock Toronto With Reunion Gig
And when mercurial rocker Axl Rose is involved, you might expect even a few more hiccups than usual.
But surprise, surprise, Guns N’ Roses 2016 reunion trek, the cheekily-titled Not In This Lifetime tour, landed at Rogers Centre on Saturday night for its only Canadian stop with classic lineup members Slash on lead guitar and Duff McKagan on bass joining frontman Rose for the first time since 1993, and it pretty much went off without a hitch.
OK, there was that little matter of a gun discovery at the border that the sold-out audience of 50,000 didn’t find out about until close to the end of GNR’s two-hour-and-45-minute performance.
“Not that we were arrested, more like we were detained,” joked Rose, 54. “Hey, sometimes you forget you have a gun.”
Then he added with a smile: “It wasn’t my gun.”
Otherwise, the tight-sounding group - rounded out by rhythm guitarist Richard Fortus, drummer Frank Ferrer and keyboardists Dizzy Reed and Melissa Reese - began their marathon set just ten minutes after their scheduled start, which is a miracle by the notoriously late Rose’s standards, launching the night with It’s So Easy.
“Look at all these Canadians,” said the singer, who was downright chatty.
The emphasis was on the music, with the production a relatively simple if striking affair that included an enormous stage dominated by large video screens on each side, a staircase in the middle and the occasional firework or fireburst.
Rose made the most of a simple platform at the front of the stage, jumping up on top of it often so the crowd, made up of many Rose and Slash imitators (women included) right down to the bandanas, top hats, long afros and sunglasses, could see him strut his stuff.
He certainly had a penchant for black T-shirt changes, while donning many an unusual hat - everything from a black sombrero to a straw cowboy hat with a red bandana underneath - and black leather jackets that had both studs and fringe.
Rose even went for the classic look of torn jeans and a plaid flannel shirt wrapped around his waist, but had a near Liberace moment while he played the ballad November Rain on the piano with those video screens providing closeups of his oversized diamond ring.
All that was missing were the candelabra.
November Rain was eventually saved by Slash’s guitar work and a big finish that included the extro of Derek and the Dominos’ classic Layla.
Much more successful were such highlights as Mr. Brownstone, Welcome To The Jungle, Sweet Child O’ Mine, Night Train, Patience and the show ended Paradise City, plus covers of Wings’ Live and Let Die and Bob Dylan’s Knockin' on Heaven’s Door (with Rose asking Toronto to “represent Canada” in a singalong).
Major kudos to Slash, a superstar on guitar all night long, doing The Godfather Theme solo en route to Sweet Child O' Mine, and both he and Fortus handling a instrumental cover of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here.
Opening for the Gunners were local rock heroes Billy Talent, whose frontman Ben Kowalewicz was clearly stoked about the opportunity.
Joined by Ian D’Sa on guitar, bassist Jon Gallant and Alexisonfire’s Jordan Hastings filling in for drummer Aaron Solowoniuk, who is dealing with an MS relapse, Kowalewicz said: “If you’d told me 23 years ago in our Mississauga basement that we’d be here opening for Guns N’ Roses, I’d have had a fit.”
Instead, Billy Talent, who release a new album, Afraid of Heights, on July 29, rose to the occasion and even managed to give The Tragically Hip’s frontman a shout out in the process.
“We’d be remiss to not keep Gord Downie in our thoughts!” Kowalewiz said of The Hip’s singer, who has been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer but will head across Canada this summer for one final tour.
It’s So Easy
Welcome to the Jungle
Double Talkin’ Jive
Live and Let Die
You Could Be Mine
Attitude (with You Can’t Put Your Arms…)
This I Love
Civil War (with Voodoo Child outro)
Coma (with band introductions)
Speak Softly Love (Love Theme From The Godfather)
Sweet Child O’ Mine
Out Ta Get Me
Wish You Were Here
November Rain (with Layla …)
Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
Patience (begins with a bit of Angie)
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