GNR Rock NYC
Mon, 15 May 2006 10:58:09
Welcome back to the jungle, motherf**kers!! A surprisingly gracious and energetic Axl Rose led the latest version of Guns N' Roses through two sold-out shows at New York's Hammerstein Ballroom over the weekend, in the band's first live appearances in over three years. And by all accounts, the new GNR did rather well, especially considering that these were billed as mere "warm-up shows" for a larger European tour beginning later this month.
"You can hold your breath a lot longer than David Blaine. I want to thank you for that," Axl told the Sunday night crowd at one point, in a sly reference to both the New York stuntman's recent failed attempt to set the world record for underwater breath-holding, and for the notoriously long-delayed Chinese Democracy album, which the GNR frontman now insists will be out this fall.
The 44-year-old Axl, who infamously went from scrawny to bloated over the course of the '90s, was looking trim and fit during both two-plus-hour shows. He wore his trademark cornrows tied back in a ponytail, and his leather shirt was unbuttoned to reveal a large crucifix necklace. He shook hands with some of the 3,300 enthusiastic fans at both shows, and dedicated Sunday night's concert to his mother and to former Skid Row frontman Sebastian Bach, whom he later invited up onstage for a duet of "My Michelle."
GNR circa 2006 features only one longtime member, keyboardist Dizzy Reed, who's been in the lineup since the Use Your Illusion days. The other six band members included ex-Nine Inch Nails guitarist Robert Finck, guitarist Richard Fortus, keyboardist Chris Pittman, ex-Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson, and ex-Primus drummer Brian "Brain" Mantia. Replacing guitar pyrotechnician Buckethead, who played briefly with the band in 2002, was a new colorful character called Bumblefoot, who laid down lots of fancy arpeggiated riffs on several oddball guitars, including one designed to looked like a cross between a bumblebee and a foot.
The band played several songs from Chinese Democracy on both nights, but it was the old classics that dominated each set and got the biggest crowd response. In addition to obvious fan favorites like "Sweet Child O' Mine" and "Paradise City," the crowd went conspicuously wild for the old ballad "Patience," a song that's taken on new meaning for GNR fans.
The band plays two more sold-out night at the Hammerstein tonight (May 15) and Wednesday (May 17) before heading off to conquer the European summer festival circuit.
--The ARTISTdirect Staff