September 26, 2019
According to scientists, it’s widely believed the sense of smell has the strongest link to memory retrieval. However, the crowd’s reaction to the sound of Slash’s iconic opening riff from Guns N’ Roses “Welcome to the Jungle” would give that theory a run for its money. No amount of Aqua Net hairspray fumes or musk cologne spritzes could immediately energize and inspire memories to nearly 14,000 Spectrum Center fans like that Guns N’ Roses classic and, trust me, there was a lot of both in the air.
After a nine-month breather, the Rock & Rock Hall of Famers performed the second show of the Not in This Lifetime Tour in Charlotte. Essentially touring since 2016, Guns N’ Roses has made nearly 150 stops around the globe. At times, it looked and felt like the second show, with early carpentry work on the runway and audio hiccups. Even lead singer Axl Rose said “we got more bugs than a cheap New York motel,” and later joked about his earpiece sounding like “chipmunks in his ear” during the set. It was almost a humorous evolution from a frontman that used to be considered highly temperamental many years ago.
Regardless, the majority of the show went off like a well-oiled, thirty-four-year-old machine. The sprawling, multi-leveled stage itself was an homage to arena rock. It had the token fireworks, gigantic video screen with effects, and grand piano cameo that you would expect from the ‘80s rock lords. Keeping with arena rock tradition, multiple guitar swaps and outfit tweaks happened seamlessly after nearly every other song.
Axl’s outfit consisted of ripped skinny jeans, cowboy boots, several T-shirts and hats, plus plenty of accessories. Sorry, Axl, but it had a very strong Bret Michaels vibe. Meanwhile, Slash and Duff McKagan looked the part. Both sported the textbook guitar rock-god all-black dress code. Slash was timeless. He appears exactly like the pop culture icon you envision, almost withstanding the actual physical and social erosion that comes with entertainment giants.
Several Guns N’ Roses songs themselves have also stood the test of time. This was visible by the age range represented in the audience. Sure, most of the crowd was middle-aged and specifically there to relive their glory days of skin-tight leather pants and big hair. However, it also appeared to be a fair amount of younger concert-goers. Perhaps they recognized GNR from guitar video games or cool thrift store logo’d shirts, or maybe it was just that youthful rite of passage when your parents take you to your first concert. Whatever the circumstances, all parties involved actively sang along to crowd favorite “Sweet Child O’ Mine.”
Guns N’ Roses made sure to play all of their most recognizable hits (and their awesome cover of the McCartney’s “Live and Let Die”). Axl fantastically belted his signature screech while Slash added lengthy guitar solos during classics such as “You Could Be Mine,” “Civil War,” and obviously “November Rain.” Just as Slash sounded brilliant, weaving in and out of complex riffs, Axl still had his piano chops. Overall, the curated playlist was familiar and well performed.
Following a really good 40-minute performance from opening act Shooter Jennings, GNR played for nearly three hours. Toward the end of the night, the crowd did seem to lose some steam during the band’s encore performance of “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.” However, the energy picked right back up for “Night Train” and then clearly peaked during the confetti-shooting finale, “Paradise City.”
The opportunity to relive the ‘80s and see the original Guns N’ Roses with Axl Rose, Slash, and Duff McKagan was the draw. As the tour continues and their fanbase evolves, its clear the focus is no longer on hell-raising unpredictability as much as providing a quality performance for all ages. So, in ten or more years, when that opening riff to “Welcome to the Jungle” starts, several generations will have inspired memories.
It’s So Easy
Welcome to the Jungle
Double Talkin’ Jive
Live and Let Die (Wings cover)
Slither (Velvet Revolver cover)
You Could Be Mine
Shadow of Your Love
Attitude (Misfits cover)
Slash Guitar Solo (w/Maggot Brain)
Sweet Child O’ Mine
Wichita Lineman (Jimmy Webb cover)
Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd cover)
Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan cover)
The Seeker (The Who cover)
Far Away Eyes (The Rolling Stones song)
Check out the remaining 2019 dates for Guns N’ Roses.