ST. LOUIS - “Seems like just yesterday we were here!” came the booming voice from the public address system, generating a roar from the crowd at the Dome in St. Louis.
Everyone was in on the joke – 26 years ago was the "yesterday" being referenced.
It's a date known well to fans and stars alike.
But that was in the past, and Thursday night, Guns N' Roses showed that's where they were going to keep it. And the crowd answered in a like fashion, welcoming back Axl, Slash, Duff and all their friends.
Right up front, I would like to address the fact that some people are saying this isn't a “real” reunion because Izzy Stradlin and Steven Adler aren't there on guitar and drums, respectively.
That particular incarnation of the band lasted for one full-length album and one EP that was released before changes started. To be fair, Guns N' Roses has always had a fluid line-up. But the core – Axl Rose, with Duff McKagan on his right and Slash on the left – is what the reunion is about. That's not to devalue the contributions of anyone in the band, past, present, or future, that's simply what the “Not In This Lifetime” tour is all about.
All on the same page?
One other disclaimer – I was there to shoot photos for the show, which meant I was there for just three songs, then it was on the road home. I would have loved to have stayed, but that's not what I was there for last night.
So this review covers those opening songs, and not the other 27 (THIRTY SONG SET??) that came after.
With all of that out of the way, what a return to the Gateway City this was.
Right out of the gate, no punches were pulled, with “It's So Easy” kicking things into the highest gear from the get-go. These guys played like they'd never spent a day apart.
Slash, along with Richard Fortus on rhythm guitar, bring that killer two-guitar sound to every inch of the venue, while Duff and drummer Frank Ferrer hold everything together as the monstrous rhythm section. Rounding everything out are Dizzy Reed on piano, keyboards, and percussion, and Melissa Reese with more keyboards, synthesizers and sub-bass.
These six are joined by the master of ceremonies himself, Axl Rose. After more than 30 years, Rose still sings these songs like they're fresh and new.
There has been some concern that his vocals might not be up to par for such a long set, but that doesn't seem to be an issue. While he definitely doesn't sound like Pavarotti or Ol' Blue Eyes, he never has. That's not his style, not his sound. He sounds like Axl, and he sounds like he did on the legendary album 30 ago – gritty, grimy, and, well, like Guns N' Roses.
“Mr. Brownstone” followed as the second number, with “Chinese Democracy” next at the plate. From the first album to the latest, both songs sounded great with this band.
Rose's vocals and Slash's six-string are what Guns N' Roses fans have longed for over the last couple of decades, and they still make a perfect pair. Even on songs that aren't his (“Chinese Democracy”), Slash plays every note like it may be the last he'll get out of the strings, and he shows them no mercy. Trading in his signature Les Paul for a wicked BC Rich for the third song, he showed that if it has a few strings, he can make anything sing.
With pyro blazing and the crowd roaring, there was no doubt at all that St. Louis is still a Guns N' Roses town. They came in to bury the hatchet, and the audience welcomed them back with open arms.