Axl keeps his cool and Slash burns red hot as Guns N’ Roses slay Vancouver



By Steve Newton

The first time I saw Guns N’ Roses perform, the band was opening for Iron Maiden at the Pacific Coliseum, shortly after the release of 1987’s Appetite for Destruction debut. This was several months before tunes like “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Sweet Child o’ Mine” would become radio and video staples, and well before singer Axl Rose would claim his notorious reputation as a riot-inducing, show-cancelling bad-ass. But even at that stage I remember a ticked-off Rose threatening the nonchalant Coliseum crowd with a walk-off if it didn’t “make some fucking noise!”

With all the highly publicized problems that have dogged the band’s touring schedule in the last couple of years, it came as somewhat of a surprise that Tuesday’s (March 30) show at B.C. Place went off without a hitch. As far as I could tell, there was no riot. Rose didn’t assault anyone, and Slash didn’t fall off the stage trying to look through his hair. All in all, it was just a very consistent and impressive performance by an explosive hard-rock band at the peak of its career.

“Do you people feel like screamin’ a little?” hollered Rose, after the opening tune, “Nightrain”, had dug its savage hooks into the 20,000-plus crowd. Sporting a pair of black bicycle shorts and the ever-popular Charles Manson tank-top, the tattooed millionaire was a whirling dervish of rock energy, leaping about the stage and spinning around whenever he damn well felt like it.

But the real star of the show was guitarist Slash, whose skills never faltered, whether he was tearing out raunchy lead riffs, laying down bluesy lap-steel slide, toying with a talk-box, or tackling Spanish guitar. Slash’s talent kept the show rolling on a high note—while Rose may be the visual focus of the band, Slash is undoubtedly its musical heart. Without him Guns N’ Roses would be nothing special, sorta like Van Halen without Eddie.

Thanks mostly to a poor sound mix, opening act the Brian May Band didn’t fare nearly as well as expected, but by tossing in the occasional tune by his old band Queen, guitarist May still managed to win over the masses by set’s end.

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