I'd like to preface what I'm about to say about Guns N' Roses with the fact that nobody had low expectations about the rock 'n roll Hall of Famers coming to San Diego and completing the North American leg of their 2016 Not In This Lifetime Tour. I most certainly had the tiniest of doubts in that I wasn't sure how the sound was going to come across at Qualcomm Stadium and if the fans were truly going to get their money's worth.
Boy, was I proved wrong and anyone else who had their doubts.
The only drawback to this show was the lack of staffing and coordination from the stadium to accommodate the number of people attending the show. Lines were ridiculously long, not only to get into the parking lot, but let alone getting into the stadium itself. Unfortunately, due to standing in an hour-long line just to enter the venue, I, along with many others, missed the whole set from The Cult, who opened for GNR.
After getting to my seat about 20-25 minutes following the completion of The Cult's set, everyone's expecting GNR to kick off their set shortly. Well, up until shortly after 9pm, nobody knew when Axl, Slash, Duff and the gang was going to show up. All of a sudden, the band threw down from "It's So Easy" to start the night.
Three of the first four songs were from their iconic "Appetite for Destruction." Once they completed "Welcome to the Jungle," I started to question whether Axl Rose was going to have enough left in the tank to play a two-and-a-half-hour set. After a couple more songs, the duration of three straight songs with "Live & Let Die," "Rocket Queen," and "You Could Be Mine" showed me and everyone else at that concert that Axl had kicked it into this 5th or 6th gear and brought us down to our proverbial knees.
There was a slight moment when Slash broke out into a riff from Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Child" and we thought there was going to be even more awesomeness, but he only teased us with a couple licks from that. After Coma from Use Your Illusion I, Slash continued shredding beyond everyone's imagination and threw together a 3-to-5-minute guitar solo, only to segue into the theme song from The Godfather. It was as if he was serenading everyone on the day of the Don's daughter's wedding. Absolutely incredible.
From there, he took us into "Sweet Child O' Mine," inserted a few others, including "Out Ta Get Me," also from "Appetite for Destruction." That song really got me amped up and through me into this awesome spiral of adrenaline. Again, just when I thought the show couldn't get any better, Richard Fortus (formerly of Nine Inch Nails) and Slash collaborate together for a sweet rendition of Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here." This song takes me back to my younger days when I first learned how to play guitar. (I don't play anymore, but I digress.)
You knew they were going to play "November Rain," but you weren't sure how they would intro or segue into it. I originally thought (and perhaps this still is the case, though I'm uncertain) the band played the theme from Top Gun as a segue into "November Rain." However, I'm seeing reports that there was an piano intro from Derek & the Dominos' "Layla" leading into it. Either way, it was so great. "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" was this elaborate 10-minute piece that was stretched out from its original 5-minute-plus studio version.
Even when no band member was singing, their instruments were singing to us. It was serene. It was exciting. It was cathartic. Following an awesome set finale of "Nightrain," not one single fan knew it was over. Merely 2-3 minutes went by with the majority of fans cheering for more music. After opening with "There Was a Time" from their "Chinese Democracy" record, it was a near-picture perfect encore with "Patience," a kick-ass cover of "The Seeker," and closing it out with "Paradise City," upon which confetti cannons, fireworks, flames, and more were shot into the sky for an amazing experience.
I think this is most definitely in my top ten concerts of all-time, and could quite possibly be in the top five. I will debate, until the cows come home, that Slash is one of the absolute best guitarists of all-time. He proved to me that he's certainly the best guitarist I've seen live in concert. I have to hand it to Axl for staying true to form and hitting those high notes almost as well from his days back in the '80s and '90s. Duff, Dizzy, Richard, and the rest of the band were an incredible supporting cast.
This show was promoted as perhaps one last hurrah for the band. If that holds true, I'm thrilled that I got to see them for the first and the last in my lifetime.
Listen to Dan Noon on KFM-BFM on Saturday nights between 6pm - 10pm.