Friday Night: Guns N' Roses At Toyota Center

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Photos by Marco Torres
Let's get it all out in the open.

Axl Rose, we've been told, is a head case who ran off Slash and Izzy and the rest of his former bandmates with his increasingly erratic and dictatorial behavior. The delays behind "Guns N' Roses" latest album, Chinese Democracy, became the music industry's longest running joke before it was finally released in 2008, some 14 years after initial work on the album began.

Oh, and he's fat.

Not to dredge up old, tired material, but it's impossible to review GnR's first Houston show since 1992 without viewing it in the context of the past 20 years. It may not matter if Axl is a whack job, or if his retinue of support players are mostly hired guns (heh) brought on board to staff this latest incarnation of the band. What matters is if Rose and company can still deliver the goods. After a 3+ hour set on Friday night at the Toyota Center, Rocks Off thinks the answer would have to be: pretty much, yeah.

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Oh, Axl.
Our first (and last) experience seeing GnR live was in 1991 at the Starplex in Dallas, the first post-St. Louis riot show, when it seemed eminently plausible there might be a repeat of the previous date's mayhem. There was a two-hour gap between openers Skid Row and the band's appearance, leading to much consternation (a situation not helped by the fact we were in Dallas, outdoors, in July).

By comparison, the Gunners took the stage Friday at 10:30, a modest 90 minutes after the end of opener Buckcherry's set. Worse, to some, they opened with the title cut off Chinese Democracy, which doesn't seem like the best way to win the crowd back, but then public relations have never been Axl's specialty.

"Democracy" was followed by "Welcome to the Jungle," and they were off. Axl and crew didn't disappoint those anticipating a trip down memory lane, offering up "Mr. Brownstone," "Rocket Queen," and of course, "Sweet Child O' Mine" from Appetite. There were also a few choice cuts from the Use Your Illusion albums, including one of our person favorites, "Estranged."

We admit, we were expecting a train wreck, and ended up pleasantly surprised. The band, consisting of *three* guitarists, ex-Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson, drummer Frank Ferrer, and longtime Guns keyboardist Dizzy Reed, were on the money most of the night. And if Axl's voice is no longer the keeing wail we remember from the Appetite for Destruction/Use Your Illusion days, it was still powerful enough to hit most of the notes.

As far as we could tell, that is. The vocals at Toyota Center were terribly muddy from where Rocks Off was sitting, with large sections dropping out entirely.

The set relied heavily on Appetite -- much to the delight of those attending -- and Democracy -- much to the delight of those needing a bathroom break. We kid, mostly. The new stuff sounded fine, it was just apparent few in the audience were familiar with songs like "Better" and even their quote-unquote singles like "Shackler's Revenge."

For all you read about the man, we were expecting some drama Friday night, but Axl seemed loose and at ease on stage. The only odd thing we noticed was how he kept ducking into an tent near the back of the stage to change hats and/or jackets every couple songs. Frankly, we'll take Axl going all Stevie Nicks over him storming off after three songs.

Though it was perhaps telling that he and Dizzy Reed, the only other holdover from the Use Your Illusion days, never got closer than 50 feet to each other all night.

Location Info

Map

Toyota Center

1510 Polk, Houston, TX

Category: Music

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13 comments
Bruno-79
Bruno-79

w.axl rose slash izzy duff steven son los mejores que vuelva esa maquina y le decimos 'adios' el pasado, son mi sueño verlos en argentina vamos axl.

Bruno_79
Bruno_79

vuelve gn'r original seria fabuloso lo mejor no pierdan mas tienpo monter'fukers'

james perkins
james perkins

Excellent review and yes, I agree, the show was surprisingly strong.  Ultimately, however, it was a lot like sex w/o love-or watching someone you used to love have sex w/ a  loser; take your pick.  Either way, watching Axl and his hired (yes obviously gifted, at least technically) guns is a sorry excuse for what they brought to the stage back in the day.  Anyone who says different just wasn't there-back in the day.  Would it have ever worked for Steven Tyler to go out w/ a new band and call it Aerosmith?  For trivia sake, he couldn't make it work replacing just 2 of the 4 and that's w/ a strong record to promote.  (Chinese  Democracy is a very mixed and borderline souless bag)  Has it ever worked for anybody?  Would it ever work for anybody?  The answer, even after last friday, remains a very stale no.  Most likely "G n R's" last arena show w/o reuniting and/or adding a couple other market relevant bands to the bill.  I'm sure the show lost money, as it most likely is in every market and w/o Buckcherry's fans it would be painfully obvious to even Axl's most dedicated cheerleaders that the promoters are getting hammered.  Axl's performance was proof he's still got the goods, but w/o Slash, Duff, Izzy and preferably Steven; it's just a revolting reminder of how cruel time/ego and money can be to things we once held dear. 

James PerkinsHouston

April
April

Excellent review, it is pretty dead on everything we were discussing when leaving the show. I think he was going into the tent to get drinks and rest his voice, hence the need for all the  bullshit solos from the THREE guitar players. I think they contributed to alot of the shitty sound and drowned Axl out sometimes. But he sounded fantastic, was in a great mood, looked great (hes not fat at all, hes turning 50 in February and he never stopped moving). Overall, I thought the show was amazing, i have literally been waiting all my life to see them and they did not dissapoint. and It's So Easy 3rd song in? yea they didnt need to do anything else in my opinion. 

GotNoName
GotNoName

I would have enjoyed the show much better at a better venue like Cynthia Woods or even Reliant stadium.It was a great show, really no musical difference from old members 1992 performance in Astrodome to this past show. In fact, the music in comparison was so similar that you could only tell the difference when the cameras did a close up on the members faces.Enjoy and remember it, Axl will never return to Houston again and if you missed this show, sorry, you missed a great one.

Markus C
Markus C

The show Friday night was amazing. The worst part of the entire night was Josh Todd, lead singer of Buckcherry trying to play a part that was done decades ago by Jim Morrison. Props to Axl for being an original. Buckcherry finished about 9:30 and Gn'R took the stage about 10:30. 3 hour set. I can't believe some people are complaining it was to long. It was well worth the money spent. Good mixture of new and old. They wouldn't play something from"Chinese Deomcracy" without following it with something from Appetite or UYI. Was the smoke that bad or are some of the reviewers being a little dramatic? I was sitting in Section 121 to the left of the stage.

Ace
Ace

Looking a bit like Sam Kinison these days, no?

Bob124
Bob124

The GNR show on Friday night was nothing short of incredible.  The wait between the opener and GNR was only 1 hour and then Axl killed it for 3 hours!  I can't believe people would complain about a band playing for 3 hours, the crowd got their money's worth and more.  The guitarists that replaced Slash and Izzy can shred and played the classic GNR great, nobody is the arena was missing Slash.  And Axl sounded great, he was in a good mood and even told few funny stories.  This was probably one of the best concerts I've ever attended, it was that good.

"Screamer"
"Screamer"

but Civil War is such a bad ass song and warrants screaming in the hopes of deviating from the "grind" of a setlist....see "Born on the Bayou" Foo Fighters...CWMP September 2005

GotNoName
GotNoName

For rock concerts, the Toyota Center is is not the place to attend. The acoustics are not thoroughly researched to make the sound differentiate from static noise or music. The old Summit was far superior in leg room for the seats and sound quality. The Cynthia Woods is even a better venue for rock concerts. This place is not for Rock concerts.The drink prices are more then the cost at a Texans game.The food, is pricey too.Buck Cherry royally sucked, the noise was deafening.GNR only complaint, set was long, due to unneeded solos but also the acoustics in the Toyota center  is crap and people were leaving just after 1230am not only from a long set but the fact that something caught fire which filled the arena up with smoke. During encore beginning, people were coming out choking and complaining due to heavy burning smoke 

p-man
p-man

good review.  but they went on pretty much 1 hour to the minute after buckcherry finished at 9:30, not an hour and a half.  and they took the stage at 10 in dallas, which surprised most everyone in attendance.

yes, there are lots of solos and interludes.  think that's probably to help the 'new' members get some time for the fans to get to know them and to allow axl to do whatever he needs to do to sing like this on a consistent basis 3-4 times a week.

oh and the pyro show was great!

Markus C
Markus C

and there was a decent amount of pyrotechnics and smoke, but I heard no complaints. "November Rain" had an amazing fire shower durin the guitar solo. The only strange thing I noticed it what the original author pointed out. After every few songs Axl would run of stage for a moment and then reemerge with a different hat/bandana/ sunglasses on or off. I turned to my sister-in-law and said "Wouldn't that be funny if he had a body double and someone to lip-synch on certain parts." Some of Axls behaviors were, well, different. There was a fight during November Rain in the front of the pit by the stage and He kept playing. Also, someone threw a glow stick on stage after one song.Axl simply picked it up, twirled it, and didn't miss a beat.Much better than the Roger Waters "The Wall" show a year ago. Talk about a has-been.At least Axl still has the voice and passion to do what he does best and that is to deliver a five-star performance that is well worth every dollar you will spend.

p-man
p-man

ha, yeah that's really not a very flattering picture up above.  but the reviewer is right, he's not fat at all.  looks good and sounds even better.

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