(Photo by John Major, the Ottawa Citizen)
"Is he an only child," the 20-something woman asks about Axl Rose, who by this point on Sunday at Scotiabank Place has kept 8,000 fans waiting for almost 90 minutes. "Hurry the f-ck up man, people are waiting," says the young woman, who, like her mother standing next to her, has a sloshing cup of frothy draught beer in her hand. “I’ve wanted to see this show for 20 years,” her mother says. So what’s another half hour?
Axl Rose has made such a business of keeping fans waiting that they'd probably be disappointed if he did show up on time. It was almost midnight when he took the stage here a few years ago. It was 11:15 p.m. Sunday when he finally appeared with his latest version of Guns N’ Roses – though calling it that seems silly, liking watching Paul McCartney and pretending you saw the Beatles. Not that the fans seem to mind, as they often roared “GUNS-AND-ROSES!” during the two-hour-and-45-minute set, a performance so long that it started in one month and ended in another.
It began with Chinese Democracy, and the song, like the album of the same name that was 13 years or so in the making, hardly seemed worth the wait. None of the songs that Rose has written since Slash and Izzy Stradlin left the band can stand with the earlier work. No better evidence was needed than the skittering guitar line that told the crowd the next song was Welcome to the Jungle, the monster from their 1987 breakthrough album Appetite for Destruction.
This was the trade-off that fans got all night long – a song from 2008’s Chinese Democracy and then a song from the back catalogue. Next came 1987’s It’s So Easy, complete with chest-constricting explosions on stage, and then another vintage GNR track, Mr. Brownstone. “The show usually starts around seven/
We go on stage around nine,” the song goes. Who says Rose has no sense of humour?
Rose seemed in high spirits, running full-out from one wing of the large stage to the other, rather impressively for a 47-year-old man who’s had his share of decadent living. He was talkative, too. After one of many wardrobe changes he told us he’d ripped his pants. “I blew my ass out.” This knowledge made it a bit scarier when he tried that serpentine shuffle he used to do so well back in the day, when he was younger and more limber.
They played Sorry and Better, two more from Chinese Democracy, before guitarist Richard Fortus kicked into Live and Let Die. This cover of McCartney’s song has long been a highlight of any GNR show, but the limitations of Rose’s voice were uncharacteristically apparent. He can still twist out that raspy howl, but his vocal cords, which serve an intensely demanding master, were crapping out on the high end, and elsewhere.
Sweet Child o’ Mine was his greatest test. Rose, in yet another new shirt, audibly clipped the first “whooaaaaaa, sweet child o’ mine,” but the crowd picked up the vocal slack quick enough.
The crowd was into it, though by 12:30 Monday morning it was a long way from 8 p.m., when most fans had arrived to see openers Danko Jones and Sebastian Bach. By 1:00 some fans were putting on their coats and leaving, thinking about work in a few hours, no doubt. Too bad. They missed Bubbles, from Trailer Park Boys, and they missed Guns’ classics such as the ballistic You Could Be Mine, Patience, and Paradise City, which closed the show at 2 a.m.
Rose stuck around and served shots of booze to a couple of fans down front. It was like he didn’t want to leave, and why would he? He’s a classic rocker, and if there’s one thing Ottawa loves more than politics, it’s classic rock.
(Photo by John Major, Ottawa Citizen)
Set list, Guns N' Roses, Scotiabank Place
Welcome the the Jungle
It's So Easy
Live and Let Die
If The World
(I had to leave the bowl for 10 minutes, missed a couple of songs)
Sweet Child of Mine
You Could be Mine
Pink Panther theme
Out to Get Me
Knocking On Heaven's Door
Liquor and Whores (with Bubbles)
This I Love
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