Is this really what it's come to? Guns N' Roses—my favorite band of my lifetime—performing in a bowling alley? Technically that's what happened, but it was much more exciting than it sounds.
As a warm-up for their headlining slot at this weekend's Governors Ball Music Festival, Axl Rose & Co. played a last-minute gig at Brooklyn Bowl. It's an intimate venue that holds just 600 people, making this one of the smallest audiences GnR has played for in the past 25 years. So going in, I knew this would be a memorable night.
But it was also memorable for another reason. Four songs into the set, Axl told the crowd that he was under the weather… or in his words, suffering from "truck stop revenge." An hour later, during a relatively subdued version of "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," he apologized for his lack of energy, claiming he's "never felt so f-cked up onstage" (which, given the band's reputation in their heyday, is a highly dubious statement) and saying he was doing everything in his power "not to throw up." His sickness led to an abbreviated set: 20 songs in an hour and 45 minutes, pretty short by Gunners' standards. It also may have finally given a logical excuse for Axl's frequent trips offstage during every instrumental break.
Given his condition, you might expect that the concert was a bust. Well, you'd be wrong. Haters often complain that this line-up can't touch the original. But Axl is no dummy. He's surrounded himself with master musicians—seven of them, barely fitting on stage together—and they attacked every song with an intense ferocity that kept the audience screaming for more. They also rewarded long-time fans by focusing on older material: eight songs from Appetite for Destruction versus just two from Chinese Democracy. As for Axl, stomach issues or not, his voice sounded amazing. He hit every high note, screeched every screech, and even found the power for a patented snake dance or two.
This isn't to say the concert wasn't without its faults. Axl insists on giving every guitarist their own mid-show solo (Richard Fortus' was the best of the night), which wreaks havoc on the pacing. His stomach issues led to some glaring omissions to the setlist, including "November Rain," "You Could Be Mine," and "Don’t Cry," which are live staples. And his fiery temper briefly bubbled to the surface during the encore when the stage crew couldn't find an acoustic guitar, forcing the band to skip "Patience."
But overall the show was an undeniable success, and when the band closed out the night with a frenzied version of "Paradise City," every single body in the room was thrashing along. All anyone could ask for was a few more songs.
Assuming Axl is back to full health by Saturday night, anyone going to Governors Ball would be a fool to miss GnR's set.
On a final note, one of my clever co-workers inspired me to come up with a Truck Stop Revenge-themed Guns N' Roses playlist. Did I miss any?
- Mr. Brownpants
- Paradise Shitty
- Poo Could Be Mine
- Knockin' on Bathroom's Door
- It's So Queasy
- Chinese Demo-crappy
- Live and Let Diarrhea
- Welcome to the Bunghole