Guns N’ Roses hit the mark in Vancouver by playing covers better than their own

photo by the Newt

By Steve Newton

I wasn’t that excited about going to see Guns N’ Roses at BC Place last night, mainly because I wasn’t sure if they were still gonna have what it takes to pull off killer rock shows like they did back in the nineties. There were concerns about Axl Rose’s voice, mainly: had he worn it out screaming “Back in Black!” too many times on the last AC/DC tour?

But my nephew from Kelowna had a spare $250+ ticket for Row 12, Centre, on the floor, and he was looking to offer some payback for all the times I took him backstage to meet Dio, Metallica, and Iron Maiden when he was a teenager in the ’80s. So I took him up on it.

Plus, it was Friday night on a long weekend.

Turns out it was (his) money well spent, because the Gunners did not disappoint. Sure, Rose’s vocals were nothing to screech about, but who cares when you can focus on the still-amazing guitar histrionics of Slash. I never get tired of hearing that top-hatted rascal rip up the fretboard. And thanks to three huge, state-of-the-art video screens, there were constant closeups of his muscular digits doing the damage on an array of gorgeous Les Pauls. Heck, you could even see the glowing green eyes of the skulls on the rings inhabiting his picking hand. Emeralds, I’m gonna guess.

And when Slash’s shit-hot playing wasn’t making every guitar freak’s day, the six-string shenanigans of Richard Fortus were. I always thought previous GNR co-guitarists Izzy Stradlin and Gilby Clarke were great, but this guy–who was good enough to play alongside Scott Gorham in a post-Lynott version of Thin Lizzy–really makes every note count.

And talk about a wicked drummer! Yeah, let’s talk about Frank Ferrer. I’d never heard the name until last night, but what a monster behind the kit. No wonder they call him “Thunderchucker”.

As for the setlist, it included all the big hits you’d expect–like “Welcome to the Jungle”, “Paradise City”, and “Sweet Child O’ Mine”–but what most impressed was the cover material. For me, the real highlights of the show were when the band was playing Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here”, the theme from The Godfather, and the piano part from Derek and the Dominos’ “Layla”. I enjoyed those more than Guns N’ Roses’ well-known covers of Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” and Wings’ “Live and Let Die”.

Also appreciated were the timely tributes to the late Glen Campbell and Chris Cornell, “Wichita Lineman” and “Black Hole Sun”.

Who knew that one of the biggest hard-rock bands of all time had a heart to match?

photo by Jet Sutherland

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