Guns N' Roses plays classics that fans can sing along with

Music Review

November 15, 2006|By Rashod D. Ollison | Rashod D. Ollison,Sun Pop Music Critic

The rise and fall of Guns N' Roses is a classic tale in rock history. After abundant acclaim and mind-boggling sales (more than 90 million albums sold worldwide), clashing egos and manic behavior ruined a good thing. With such ubiquitous late '80s and early '90s smashes as "It's So Easy," "Welcome to the Jungle" and "November Rain," Axl Rose and the gang were the only hard rock band in the world that mattered.

Their legacy is cemented today - even if Rose is the only original member in the lineup and Chinese Democracy, GNR's long-anticipated new album, has been 15 years in the making. And still no release date has been set.

At 1st Mariner Arena on Monday night, the current group, fronted by a seemingly sane Rose, eschewed delving into any new material. Instead, the band delivered the old hits with fire - literally.

Booming, eardrum-splitting bursts of flames announced the entrance of GNR's famously erratic focal point. Looking slimmer and sporting shorter braids these days, Rose howled through the opening cut, "Welcome to the Jungle." Though he wore the same fitted, distressed jeans and firetruck-red boots during the two-hour set, he left the stage four times to change into stylish shirts. (The black leather one he sported during the first two numbers was especially sharp.)

There was surely an air of divadom about the wardrobe changes, but Rose undoubtedly needed the breaks to give his slightly frayed voice a rest. Sweat dripped from his reddened face as he screamed through "It's So Easy." The seven-piece band behind Rose was faithful to the original arrangements, replicating all the guitar licks from the records.

Despite recent reports of drinking onstage (Guns N' Roses canceled a show in Maine this month when authorities wouldn't allow group members to swig beer and wine during the show), there wasn't any flagrant use of alcohol at Monday's show. Rose often sipped from a red cup between songs. But it's a safe bet that it was something to help soothe his throat after delivering larynx-shredding screams during "Mr. Brownstone."

On a high-octane "Live and Let Die," the flames returned, shooting in the air as the song's tempo accelerated and Rose ran across the stage shouting. Smoke lingered long after the song was done.

To break up the full-force takes on the classics, band members flexed their musical muscles during lengthy interludes. His long, stringy brown hair falling in and out of his bearded face, Robin Finck, on guitar, paced the stage, delivering a focused, blues-drenched solo. It smoothly segued into the familiar riffs of "Sweet Child O' Mine," which got the full house rocking and singing along.

The crowd - an almost-even mix of teens and middle-age folks - didn't seem to mind hearing the old hits and no new material. As Rose sat at the grand piano and pounded out "November Rain" in a natty printed sports jacket, the house sang along with every word. It seemed as if it missed hearing such a soaring rock ballad on the radio.

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