Axl Rose has been and always will be a “miva” (you know: male diva). And with that label comes the accompanying adjectives of controlling and selfish and difficult and hyper-sensitive. But here’s one thing the Guns N’ Roses frontman/CEO doesn’t get credit for being: a rock ‘n’ roll historian who respects his forefathers. Regular visitors to The Joint over the past 2½ years know this to be true, as Axl and his band of hired hands—very talented hired hands, I might add—have peppered a repetitive, near-three-hour set list of classic hits, Chinese Democracy misses and guitar and piano solos with covers from rock’s royalty. AC/DC, Pink Floyd, Neil Young, The Who, Led Zeppelin—Rose has paid tribute to all of them in recent years.
On this night—the second performance of a nine-show residency that runs through June 7—GNR gave a packed house what they came to hear: “Welcome to the Jungle”; “Sweet Child O’ Mine”; “November Rain”; “You Could Be Mine,” etc. And they once again also provided some frosting on the cake by covering Zeppelin (“Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You”), The Who (“The Seeker”), the Stones (“You Can’t Always Get What You Want”) and the Sex Pistols (“Holidays in the Sun”). This, of course, in addition to Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” and Paul McCartney & Wings’ “Live and Let Die”—two covers off 1991’s Use Your Illusion that are regular staples of GNR shows. By the time the confetti stopped falling after perennial show-closer “Paradise City”—at well past 2 a.m.—GNR had ripped through more than 25 songs/jams. For that, nobody could’ve complained he didn’t get his money’s worth.
Still, is it frustrating that Rose, who has almost doubled the size of his band, refuses to mend fences with Slash and the rest of the original lineup? Of course (again, though, credit for finding very capable replacements). Is it disappointing that one of rock’s greatest singers no longer has the same vocal range and at times gasps for air? No question (although by no means did Rose shortchange the crowd in terms of energy and effort). And would it be nice if he dumped a couple of Chinese Democracy songs and perhaps a guitar solo in favor of some seldom-played deep cuts (“Get in the Ring,” “My Michelle” and “Think About You” come immediately to mind)? Absolutely.
Then again, one thing we’ve learned about divas and mivas is you must never tell them what to do. Much like a resident Vegas frontman of yesteryear, Axl Rose does things his way. And more than a quarter century after slithering onto the scene, he’s still doing them quite well.★★★★✩
Welcome to the Jungle
It’s So Easy
Guitar Solo (Richard Fortus)
Live and Let Die (Paul McCartney & Wings cover)
This I Love
Holidays in the Sun (Sex Pistols cover)
Piano Solo (Dizzy Reed)
Catcher in the Rye
You Could Be Mine
Guitar Solo (DJ Ashba)
Sweet Child O’ Mine
Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You (Led Zeppelin cover)
Used to Love Her
Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan cover)
You Can’t Always Get What You Want (Rolling Stones cover)
The Seeker (The Who cover)
Photos by Erik Kabik/ Retna/ ErikKabik.com