April 17, 2016


Guns N’ Roses with Immobile Axl Rose Still Shines at Coachella

Kevin Mazur / Getty Images
Kevin Mazur / Getty Images

Have you ever watched a rock star sit and sing for two-and-a-half hours? Does the thought of it exhaust you? That's what the Coachella crowd experienced during Guns N' Roses' headlining set at the festival in Indio, Calif. on Saturday night (April 16).

And yet, they still somehow managed to be riveting. Just a few weeks back, the iconic hard rock band—now consisting of Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan, minus Izzy Stradlin and Steven Adler—played its first reunion show at Los Angeles' Troubadour, where Rose fractured a bone in his foot, rendering him unable to walk. To compensate, the 54-year-old borrowed the throne from Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl to sing from, never leaving his perch for a considerable amount of stage time.

On paper, it's a high-risk situation. As as lively collective with a lot to prove after an extended hiatus, Guns N' Roses faced astronomical odds. The crowd at Coachella's main stage wasn't teeming to the back as it was earlier in the day for Disclosure and Ice Cube. In fact, it mirrored the surprisingly low turnout for headliners LCD Soundsystem the night before, maybe reaching half-capacity—and served perhaps as a testament to the nostalgia booking that back-loaded the first two nights, with acts geared towards a more mature crowd.

But if anything, they showed how a night-ending performance should be done, even with limited resources. Rose remained seated for the entirety of the show, changing outfits throughout, somehow. They started just a few minutes late, much to the snide predictions based on past tardiness, and ripped into "It's So Easy," the first of a long line of hits.

Together, the group is unstoppable. Slash mercilessly shredded his guitar as he traded off solos with Rose; McKagan took the lead on "Attitude," relieving Rose of his vocal duties; Rose led their shattering cover of Wings' "Live and Let Die." The hits were plenty: "Sweet Child O' Mine," "Welcome to the Jungle" and ballad "This I Love," off 2008's Chinese Democracy, were in mint condition.

Oddly enough, in the few hours before the group took the Coachella stage, AC/DC announced that Rose would be joining them on tour as their lead vocalist for their upcoming tour, from May through June. Angus Young backed the claim by emerging to duet on "Whole Lotta Rosie” and “Riff Raff."

It doesn't really make sense. Together, Guns N' Roses is a white-hot force of nature; not even a foot injury slowed them down. To separate Rose from his home team, particularly when they're so clearly in sync (at least musically), seems like a grave misstep. The band is as fine as it's ever been, as evidenced by the merit of one of their first shows back together after being apart for so long. Not even a bum foot could keep the their energy from waning, and clearly, they have a lot more to give.