They said it would never happen in this lifetime, but seeing is believing as Axl Rose, reunited with original members Slash and Duff McKagan and rolled back the years as if it was 1993 on the ‘Use Your Illusion’ tour all over again.
For many younger fans this was a once in a lifetime occasion, having been too young to see the classic line up first time around. Bangkok, the city of angels where the grass is green and the girls are pretty, was well up for this gig on Feb. 28. Fans were arriving by the thousands early in the afternoon to beat the notorious rush hour traffic jams. The Singha Beer was flowing from the stalls set up outside in this hot and humid metropolis and the atmosphere surrounding the stadium was bordering on euphoria.
The hysteria created by the world’s most dangerous band was still highly evident here in Bangkok some thirty years after the release of the classic debut ‘Appetite For Destruction’.
Queues for the merchandise snaked in all directions, the demand for a souvenir t-shirt was extremely high, especially for the three special Bangkok only designs. In fact every t-shirt was completely sold out before the end of the show.
The show was held in the SCG Stadium, home to Thailand’s leading premiership football club Muang Thong United and Guns N’ Roses put on a knockout performance which will be talked about for years to come.
An intro of the theme from ‘Looney Tunes’ was followed by the announcement of, “Bangkok, from West Hollywood, the ladyboys of Rock n’ Roll…. Guns N’ Roses”. There were no cartoon capers though and the place went nuts as the band ripped into opener ‘It’s So Easy’ – just like the way they did back in their early club days.
It was a magical site seeing Axl, Duff and Slash side by side again, all still looking the epitome of coolness and swagger. Gone is the kilt, but Axl Rose looked the complete wild man in ripped jeans with lumberjack shirt hanging from his waist and leather cowboy hat replacing the bandana. Duff McKagan still has his punky edge with short blonde spiky hair and Slash still looks his usual trademark self in top hat and shades, wearing one of the prized Guns N’ Roses ‘Live in Bangkok’ t-shirts featuring a bright green elephant. Only a cigarette hanging from his mouth was amiss.
The venue danced with ‘Mr. Brownstone’ before Slash teased the audience with that recognizable riff as Axl Rose barked, “You Know where you are? You’re in the jungle baby…. “. The venue was totally rocking with the fun and games of ‘Welcome To The Jungle’, even Axl raised a smile at its climax.
Slash was well on form and seemed perfectly content to be back in the band where he belongs as he cranked out a fabulous metal flamenco riff to the steam rolling ‘Double Talkin’ Jive’.
This is by no means just a nostalgia tour either as four songs from the controversial ‘Chinese Democracy’ album were performed with both Duff and Slash adding some extra welly to these great, often overlooked songs including the title track and the synth-laden ‘Better’, which included added vocals from second keyboardist Melissa Reese.
Despite having two keyboardists in the band they are not over imposing and only make themselves heard when need to be, like Dizzy Reed’s spine-tingling intro on ‘Estranged’, one of a few epics that were totally spellbinding, with Axl Rose dominating both presence and emotion.
McKagan sang his Misfits favourite ‘Attitude’ while Slash added little bits of his influences here and there, including attaching the intro to Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Voodoo Child’ to the end of a stunning ‘Civil War’ and later giving us a snatch of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You’ before the ballad ‘Don’t Cry’. That’s what makes the return of Slash and Duff back to Guns N’ Roses with Axl so special, a special chemistry that is more than just skin deep in the roots of rock n’ roll and makes their own material come alive with brutal honesty.
The mind bending and complex ‘Coma’ was magnificent, highlighting the band as a live unit that really knows how to work together with cutting sharpness.
Slash and rhythm guitarist Richard Fortus joined for a striking instrumental duet take on Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’ which bled into a swirling segment of Clapton’s ‘Layla’ while Axl Rose appeared on the grand piano with a ring larger than Liberace’s for a monumental ‘November Rain’.
Taking breathers with ‘Yesterdays’ and ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’, Guns N’ Roses ended the main set with an absolute knockout version of ‘Nightrain’.
A raucous version of The Who’s ‘The Seeker’ in the encores was rounded off with a storming ‘Paradise City’, ending a jaw dropping and at times disbelievingly excellent show that clocked in at just under three hours long.
If you have the chance to catch this tour then make sure to get in the ring, because you’re guaranteed to be knocked out by this comeback.
(Review by Mark Taylor/Photos by imc Live and VIJI CORP)
It’s So Easy
Welcome to the Jungle
Double Talkin’ Jive
Live and Let Die
You Could Be Mine
This I Love
(with “Voodoo Child” outro)
Speak Softly Love (Love Theme From The Godfather)
(Nino Rota cover)
Sweet Child O’ Mine
Wish You Were Here
(Pink Floyd cover)
(“Layla” piano outro)
Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
(Bob Dylan cover)
(with Led Zeppelin’s “Babe I’m… )
(The Who cover)
Far Away Eyes