Guns N' Roses Use Classics, Commentary To Impress At Rock In Rio  

The amassed crowd of 200,000 at the Rock in Rio on Sunday (Jan. 14), which waited until the late hour of 2 a.m. for confirmation that reclusive Guns N' Roses singer Axl Rose is indeed among the living, got more than it bargained for.

Not only did Rose appear, but throughout the two-hour and fifteen-minute, 22-song set, he quite possibly reclaimed the rock and roll crown he abandoned eight years ago as well as used the time to make several speeches. "Welcome to the Jungle" commenced the band's triumphant return to Rock in Rio, a festival they also played in 1991, sparking a crowd eruption rarely rivaled in rock and roll today. Clad in trainer pants and an open shirt, Rose didn't skip a beat from his control-freak Use Your Illusion days.

Midway through the song, Rose demanded of security, "Get that guy out of here. Are you listening to me Mr. Security guard? That guy. Out." It wasn't clear what sparked the outburst, but clearly one man's Guns N' Roses dream ended after a mere two minutes. For the rest of us, it went on until nearly sunrise. Rose's revolving-door band -- currently consisting of Buckethead, Robin Finck, Tommy Stinson, Paul Tobias, Dizzy Reed, Chris Pittman, and Brain -- was spot-on musically, proving that the band's triumphant Las Vegas show was not a fluke.

After "Mr. Brownstone," Rose enlisted the use of a translator for first of many speeches on the evening in which he addressed his former bandmates, the Internet, his new band, and his life in general for most of the '90s. "I know that many of you are disappointed that some of the people that you came to know and love could not be here with us here today," said Rose.

"Regardless of what you have heard or read," he continued, "people worked very hard -- meaning my former friends -- to do everything they could so I could not be here today. I say fuck that. I am as hurt and disappointed as you that unlike Oasis, we could not find a way to all just get along... so much for the past. This is "Live and Let Die."

Guns played five new tracks on the night, one of which was not included in their New Year's Eve warm-up show in Vegas ("Madagascar"). The first, "Oh My God," appeared five songs into the set. The live version scaled back the industrial feel of the recorded version and featured a heavy, crunching guitar line courtesy of Buckethead. After "Think About You" and "You Could Be Mine," Finck took center stage, addressing the crowd in Portuguese, and grinding through a take on Brazilian funk-soul legend Tim Maia's "Sossego." As Finck wreaked funky havoc on the guitar, his vocals on the song were overshadowed by the crowd's own singing. It was a gesture much appreciated by the band's Brazilian fans.

The highlight of the set came next, as "Sweet Child O' Mine" sounded as fantastic as it did the day it was recorded. "Madagascar" followed, the best of the new tracks. A subtle electronic backbeat and keyboard-produced horn section propelled the mid-tempo ballad, which featured Rose lamenting, "I can't find my way back anymore..." before succumbing to a flood of movie and speech samples. If the new tracks maintain this level of aptitude, he won't need to go back anywhere.

Before another new track, "Chinese Democracy," Rose explained the band's stance on the old material. "We've done one show before this and already we have been criticized for playing old songs," he said. "But I have no intention and I never did of denying you all something you enjoyed. And I thought it was only fair for you to see that this new band can play the fuck out of these songs. It's very hard to ask a musician to learn to play the part or parts played by other musicians before that. These guys here have worked very hard."

As the set winded down, "The Blues," another new track (the closest of the new efforts to the Use Your Illusion era), saw Rose hop on top of the piano where he sang the respectable rock ballad. Before "Nightrain," Rose lashed out at the Internet. "I used to go on the Internet but the Internet seems to be the big garbage can so I don't read the things that they say on the Internet anymore," he said. Rose's vocals faded in and out of the mix during the song, which ended the main set.

The band returned for "My Michelle" and another new track, "Silkworms." An unworthy electro-funk jam featuring a near-rap by Rose, the song fell flat and is probably a good example of the kind of electronic rock Rose has been working on for the past eight years. Altered from the version played in Vegas on New Year's, the song did not work in the context of an encore for a show of this magnitude.

As the band departed once more, fans were oddly treated with a Brazilian dance interlude courtesy of several traditionally dressed rump shakers. Now pushing past the 4 a.m. mark, Rose and Co. appeared for one last song, "Paradise City," which began with onstage pyrotechnic explosions and fireworks and followed suit sonically.

When it was over, Rose introduced his Brazilian assistant, who he credited with holding down the Axl Rose fort for the last seven years. In tears as his assistant translated the speech into Portuguese, the moment was a truly genuine streak of humbleness for the singer, as the weight on his shoulders throughout the '90s had surely, after his reception in Rio, been lifted.

"Peace," said Rose in closing. "I love you. I will be back here next summer with a whole bunch of new songs. Be good to each other and we'll see you later."

-- Kevin Raub







Copyright © 2001 Jarmo Luukkonen