Guns N’ Roses after fifteen hours filming the Sweet Child O’Mine video in Los Angeles 1988 (Photo: Robert John)
THATNIGHT, in early 2012, at a Los Angeles hotel, Jeff Isbell patiently waited for his old friend. There's something he wanted to talk about with his old buddy since high school in Lafayette, Indiana. He sat alone in the lobby for hours, but his long-awaited friend has never arrived. As blowing winter breeze started piercing his skin, he has bored of looking at his watch that he decided to go back home.
Jeff Isbell or better known as IzzyStradlin, arranged that meeting with his pal, Bill Bailey, to discuss their group reunion, Guns N 'Roses. The band they formed in Hollywood twenty-seven years ago, will accept the Rock N 'Roll Hall of Fame award in a few more months, and Izzy wanted to be there to perform along with his former band mates and thank the fans.
But Bill Bailey, orAxl Rose as everyone call him, had different opinion. In a letter he sent to the committee of the Rock N 'Roll Hall of Fame, he firmly declared that he would not be present at the evening ceremony of the most prestigious award in the world of rock music.
The classic lineup line up of Guns N 'Roses didn’t last for long. After Steven Adler was fired in 1990, Izzy decided to leave in the following year after the Use Your Illusion album was released. A few years later, Slash and Duff also decided to quit the group that had raised their name.
When the name Guns N 'Roses was announced as an inductee of Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame, millions of Guns N 'Roses fans all around the world were so enthusiastic and hoped their rock n' roll hero could reunite in that honorable moment.
Guns N’ Roses at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2012 (Photo: PA Images / Pinterest)
Only three personnel from the original lineup were present that night at the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame ceremony in Cleveland, Ohio on April 14, 2012; Slash, Duff, and Steven. Guns N 'Roses personnel from the next formation, Matt Sorum and Gilby Clarke, were there also to take the credit.
One by one they stepped onto the podium to give some words, thanking the people who had helped Guns N 'Roses from their early stages, and to the fans for their support all along.
For Guns N 'Roses personnel who came that night, recalling the moments, twenty-seven years ago, while they were still living on the streets of Hollywood, pursuing their rock n’ roll dreams, until the band they founded finally could stand side by side with the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, their idols, is a heartfelt moment. Slash’s guitar solo in Sweet Child O'Mine at the closing ceremony show sounded like weeping.
*Guns N’ Roses Sweet Child O’ Mine video in Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:*
The Rock N 'Roll Hall of Fame award is bestowed to musicians who have dedicated their music for more than twenty-five years, since the first album was released, and their work has extensive influence around the world.
If the sales of 100 million pieces of albums made a benchmark, then Guns N 'Roses has pocketed it. Since their last album, Chinese Democracy, was released in 2008, that number continues to grow. And to date, Guns N 'Roses albums are still on display on CD shelves at music outlets around the globe.
Every day, on any different sides of the world, there will be young people who feel connected to Guns N 'Roses music. There will be a group of teenagers who enthusiastically discuss the Appetite For Destruction album as if they have just found a treasure. There will be young aspiring guitarists who are playing guitar in their room while chanting that one day he would become the next Slash.
Even in flea market far above the mountain, in the most remote place on the planet, people could find Guns N’ Roses concert video among pirated DVD rows.
Guns N 'Roses has stolen the hearts of young generation, or those who have ever felt young. Their raw and honest music makes young people feel comfortable finding themselves. And for the bands from later generations, Guns N 'Roses is considered as the elderly rock state men, who became their source of inspiration in playing music.
Guns N’ Roses, 1987 (Photo: Mark Weiss)
One thing that can be learned from Guns N 'Roses, since they started in Hollywood three decades ago, is they never intended to become a teen idol by selling syrupy ballads and pinup images. They play music and write songs as a manifestation of their own integrity, not to make hits and become famous.
Duff McKagan, the bassist, in his speech at the Rock N 'Roll Hall of Fame that night, recounted the first time they gathered on the rank back alley in Hollywood.
"We learned how to write songs together. We created brutality and beauty, and tell the truth, all at once. We’re writing these songs for ourselves. We had no audience. We played our first gig and suddenly we have people showing up to see us play. As we progressed, more and more fans coming in. I don’t know if they related so much to us but the songs spoke to them. "
Meanwhile, in a villa in Ojai (read: ou-hai), a small town in California, at the foot of the Topatopa mountains, 80 miles north of Los Angeles, Izzy Stradlin was busy browsing the TV channels looking for weather reports, waiting for the right time to surf.
IzzyStradlin (Photo: Pinterest)
Bless Indeed Come Along with Peace
In a dark room with dimly light, two men sat down. The air was filled with cigarette smoke and a gentle old blues played through a set of stereos at the corner of the room.
The old man was sitting on the couch, while he quietly watched the young man who sat in front of him. The shimmering lights felt on his face revealed all those lines and wrinkles, the reflection of his long and winding journey.
A few moments passed in silence until the old man opened up his mouth to begin the conversation. From the pocket of the old jeans that wrapped around his slim legs, he pulled out a butterfly knife. His thin fingers skillfully played the knife, while the eyes behind his wrinkled face sharply glare the young man before him.
Suddenly the young man gasped when the old man stabbed his knife to the small table in front of him. The young man said awkwardly, "Ummm ... okay."
The night was passing by and the chat went on to a bar. The young man looks confused and restless that he was not so amused when the old man began to ramble old glory of his youth, about drugs and jail.
Finally the young man managed to express what had been burdening his heart lately. He said to the old man that he wanted to quit his band. He has tried so many ways to stay together and he met nothing but a dead end road. There was no more harmony with his band mates, the friendship they had intertwined for so long began to fade away.
On the other hand, he also admitted that he would not be able to bear the harsh reality if he really ever quit the band, it’s like selling his own soul.
Axl Rose and Slash, Rock in Rio 1991 (Photo: Kevin Mazur)
The old man patiently listened to the outpouring words from the young man's heart. He sipped his drink deeply as the young man finished talking. Then with confidence, he tapped the young man's shoulders and looked into his eyes. "Look," he said wisely, "There's only one thing you'll never do ... you’ll never leave."
Both of them, the old man and the young man, are both lead guitarists from two most important bands in the history of rock n 'roll, the Rolling Stones and Guns N' Roses. Yeah, they are Keith Richards and Slash.
Keef's (as anyone close to Keith Richards called him) advice couldn’t help Slash to make up his mind that he was drowning deeper and deeper in an endless dilemma. Until one morning in September 1996, he was out of bed with weary eyes from a nightmare that restrain him to sleep. Cold sweat began to drip from his body as he dialed the phone number of Doug Goldstein, the Guns N 'Roses manager at that time, and said that he was done.
Slash, 1995 (Photo: Robert M. Knight)
Many would regard that the Use Your Illusion tour era was Guns N 'Roses at their peak performance. A series of long tour dates, starting from their historic performance at Rock in Rio II on January 20 & 23, 1991 and ended two and a half years later in Buenos Aires, Argentina on July 16 & 17, 1993. In total, Guns N 'Roses has summed up 194 shows in 27 countries during the seemingly endless tour.
Two awards in 1993 from World Music Award as World's Best Selling Hard Rock Artist of the Year and World's Best Group also highlighted their successful career in the music industry. At that time, perhaps there’s no teenager on this planet who doesn’t know who is Guns N 'Roses.
Guns N’ Roses live at EstadioUniversitario de Monterrey, Mexico, 27 April 1993 (Photo: monterreyrock.com)
But then, nothing would last forever in this world. Glory will shuffle from one hand to another, victory and defeat always come and go. As the stage lights at their last show from their final leg in Argentina's River Plate stadium off, the star which has been shinning upon the band titled The Most Dangerous Band in the World was starting to fade away.
Going back to Los Angeles and living a domestic life which is a common thing for most people was a big challenge for the gunners, who have been used to live in the midst of frenetic rock n 'roll stage life. "Suddenly there's only wind and tumbleweeds," Slash explained about the drastic change in their life rhythm.
To fill the vacuum, Geffen Record then released the album The Spaghetti Incident? on November 23, 1993, which contained cover versions of Guns N 'Roses personnel favorite old songs. Actually, some of the songs on this album have been recorded since the making of Use Your Illusion with Izzy Stradlin.
Guns N 'Roses then re-recorded Izzy's track and replaced it with Gilby’s on the fly from 1992 through 1993, between the hectic schedule of Use Your Illusion tour.
Entering 1994, Guns N 'Roses has started writing and collecting material for their new album sporadically. At the same time, internal conflicts started to heat up again. The situation may be almost the same as it happened during the making of Use Your Illusion album. But the tempest that rocked Guns N 'Roses this time lasted greater.
And instead of creative ends (as they usually do) with the creation of an album, this time the storm really ravaged Guns N 'Roses.
One by one Guns N 'Roses personnel began to split. Starting from Gilby Clarke whose contract was no longer renewed, then the departure of Slash in 1996, followed by Duff and Matt in the following year. Besides Dizzy Reed, the keyboardist who joined the band since the Use Your Illusion era, practically it’s only Axl Rose, the founding member who’s still left.
Entering the 21st century, the music world map began to experience a shift and rock n 'roll is no longer the center of its gravity. But the gunners are real musicians, being a headliner or not, they keep playing music, which has been their choice since the very beginning.
They don’t care if it should be a gig in a small club, indoor arena, or at a venue that may not be as grandeur as in the heyday of Guns N 'Roses. They care less if their albums would be selling well or not in the market, they keep pouring creativity through music, in their own old fashion way.
After more than seven years of absence, Guns N 'Roses finally re-performed on stage at the House of Blues, Las Vegas on January 1, 2001. With the support of Dizzy and the newly recruited personnel, Axl resumed his dream to make a new Guns N 'Roses album.
Not an easy job indeed, especially when looking back, where all of the previous Guns N Roses albums have scored dozens of platinum and considered as rock n 'roll masterpieces. He admitted it or not, the course has becomes a tough challenge for Axl Rose.
For many, the process of making the Chinese Democracy album seemed like taking forever. Even the release date had been rescheduled several times. On March 26, 2008, Dr. Pepper announced through the media that they will give a can of Dr. Pepper free to all Americans, except Slash and Buckethead, if the Chinese Democracy album will be launched that year.
Through their official website, Axl Rose expressed his surprise for the' support 'of Dr Pepper, adding that he would share his Dr Pepper with Buckethead, as there were several samples from the eccentric guitarist's used on the Chinese Democracy album.
Axl Rose (Photo: Pinterest)
And when the album was finally released on November 23, 2008, Dr. Pepper has tried to fulfill its promise until they found out that it’s extremely difficult to distribute the coupons to all Americans. A few days later, the Guns N 'Roses lawyers has prepared their litigation process.
Axl Rose is quite heartened in addressing the issue. In an online question and answer forum with fans, he said that he has ordered his lawyers troops to forget about the Dr Pepper's issue, and considered it as a ‘non-issue.’ He said that Guns N' Roses was better to focus on the launching of the Chinese Democracy album.
It took almost eleven years, since Axl Rose entered Rumbo Recorders studio in early 1998, until he was absolutely convinced that the 6th studio album of Guns N 'Roses, Chinese Democracy, was ready to hit the market. He would do anything to get what he wants in the album production, at any cost (literally). When Chinese Democracy finally could see the light in November 2008, Guns N’ Roses has spent nearly US$13 million, making it one of the most expensive albums of all time.
Meanwhile, the lives of the other former Guns N 'Roses personnel were also no less exciting. Steven Adler, after years of drowning in drugs and going to rehab for so many times, finally revived and make peace with himself. He also founded his solo band, Adler.
Izzy Stradlin, who’s living a free schedule life, was even way more creative in writing songs. Unmitigated, he has released eleven albums since he quit Guns N 'Roses. From time to time, he also toured clubs in Europe and Japan with his solo band.
Together with Steve Jones, Sex Pistols guitarist, Duff McKagan formed Neurotic Outsiders. Only two years the band survived, then with his new band Loaded, Duff has released three albums and gigs in various countries. He also joined Matt Sorum's supergroup project, King of Chaos, with veteran rockers, ranging from Steven Tyler (Aerosmith), Joe Elliott (Def Leppard), Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top), to Gilby Clarke and Slash
Slash, the relentless guitarist, after found his way out of Guns N 'Roses, reinforced his name as a virtuoso, aligning himself among his idols; Jimmy Page, Joe Perry, Jeff Beck, and other legendary guitarists.
His source of inspiration was like never stops flowing that he’s always active in many projects. From his first solo band, Slash's Snakepit and Slash's Blues Ball, his collaboration with dozens of different musicians from different genres, movie scoring, his reincarnation with Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum in Velvet Revolver, to partnering with top musicians to perform on his solo album.
And in the midst of his busy world tour with Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators (his latest solo project), Slash also still took the time to produce horror movies.
Axl Rose and Slash onstage during Use Your Illusion tour 1991 (Photo: George Chin)
A band can be likened to a molecule, the compounds of atoms that make it up, each person carries his own element and finally forming the band's own color.
But no one can denied that the Guns N 'Roses image is centered on the two central figures, the front man Axl Rose, and the lead guitarist Slash. They both have strong characters, but at the same time they actually need each other.
The story behind the broken relationship between Axl and Slash can be trace in hundreds of articles scattered on the internet or in many Guns N 'Roses history books out there. But like any relationship, it’s only Axl Rose, Slash and the closest circle who knew exactly what was really happened. Beyond that, people can only guess and throw their own comments.
And over time, the sentiment for reuniting the two continues to blow. A utopian hope (at the time) which coming from the purists, loyal supporters of the classic lineup from Appetite For Destruction to The Spaghetti Incident? album.
While those who can move on, they quite satisfied to see Axl Rose and the newly recruit personnel bringing back to stage their favorite Guns N 'Roses songs.
There is nothing wrong between the two camps of loyal fans. Each one has opinions and tastes that are equally valid. And nothing worth to argue over, because since when do human agree on something in unison?
Guns n' Roses performed at The Music Machine, Los Angeles, 20 December 1985. “Nightrain” was performed live for the first time that night(Photo: Marc Canter)
Weeks before the Guns N 'Roses induction event in Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame, dozens of reporters swarmed Axl Rose when he came out from Chateau Marmont, a quaint and luxurious hotel in Hollywood, along with Lana Del Rey. A reporter ventured to ask Axl if there was any possibility of a reunion tour with his former band mates. Without the slightest hesitation, Axl Rose replied nonchalantly, "Not in this lifetime."
Axl's spontaneous response made the dream of millions of fans for the classic formation of Guns N 'Roses to reform buried even deeper.
Since the official statement from Axl Rose that Slash was no longer with Guns N 'Roses on October 31, 1996, practically there was no more (direct) contact between them.
But Axl and Slash, including the other personnel, still share the same interests in Guns N 'Roses, in terms of album royalties and merchandise sales. They are still connected indirectly through their respective lawyers.
The 'cold war' between the two began to melt when both; Guns N 'Roses and Slash, were producing their live videos; Appetite for Democracy 3D and Slash Live at the Roxy 9.25.14 in the middle of 2014. At that time, lawyers from both sides contacted each other for approval from Axl Rose and Slash, as each had copyright in classical songs Guns N ' Roses.
In the eyes of the music observers, it was business as usual. But not many people knew that a major event in the band's history was flowing under the water.
Guns N 'Roses are still the same as they once were, no matter how big and popular they are today, the band is always surrounded by mystery. Guns N 'Roses always try to shy away from the media spotlight, paparazzi, and appear like celebrity on the red carpet. Axl Rose prefer to roll off the red carpet on stage, as in the Estranged video. What's going on behind the stage, just the inner circle who knew exactly what’s going on.
It took more than a year until the puzzle that compiled the road to reunion revealed completely.
At the end of 2014, Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal, the guitarist who has joined Guns N 'Roses for eight years said at a press conference, that he was focusing on his own music project.
"I'm sure it will be an exciting year - for Guns, for me, for everyone. Let's see what happens in 2015. "A vague message that suggests that he is no longer with Guns N 'Roses
On February 6, 2015, Slash wished Axl Rose a happy birthday via twitter. A simple tweet, “Happy Birthday @AxlRose iiii]; )',” Which shook the music world, remembering that the two was not in speaking term for nearly twenty years.
Later in an interview with CBS This Morning in early May, Slash explained the rumors about him having made up with Axl, "Well, we haven’t really talked in a long time, but a lot of the tension has dissipated. We don’t have all those issues any more. It’s not a lot of controversy. It’s something that is more perpetuated by the media, more than anything.”
The presenter was then immediately interrupted with the most eagerly awaited question, the reunion of the classic line up Guns N 'Roses, and Slash answered diplomatically, “I got to be careful what I say there. I mean, if everybody wanted to do it and do it for the right reasons, I think the fans would love it. I think it might be fun at some point to try and do that.”
"Until July, when DJ Ashba and Bumblefoot officially declared their resignation as Guns N 'Roses guitarist, still no one dared enough to claim that the classic formation of Guns N' Roses was reuniting. Many fans were anxious, held back their comments, fearing Axl Rose will immediately issue a statement that will shut their hopes forever.
A month later, Slash gave a confirmation to a Swedish media, Aftonbladet, that he and Axl Rose had already spoken to each other. "It was probably way overdue, you know. But it’s, you know, very cool at this point… dispel some of that negative energy that was going on for so long.”
But he still dodged when answering the possibility of a reunion, "Oh, I couldn’t answer that one. Let’s get off the subject ‘cause that’s an old one.”
When it comes to scrutiny the fact, the diehard fans of Guns N’ Roses would come first. They would still remembered that the Guns N 'Roses camp was the first one to flip the sign of Axl Rose and Slash reuniting on their official facebook account, when Slash photos appeared next to Axl Rose photos (something they have never done before) and DJ Ashba in a post for the New Year’s greetings of 2015.
Later in the same month, they reposted Del James's tweet featuring Del James photo in the pit and Slash on stage during Guns N 'Roses concert at the Tokyo Dome in 1993. The admin also wrote the caption, "#DoYouSeeWhoISee," on that #tbt (throw back Thursday) post.
Del James himself, as Axl Rose’s longtime confidant and road manager of Guns N 'Roses, loudly shouted a happy birthday’s wishes in twitter to Slash on his fiftieth birthday. At this point, of course, the sign of the ending feud between Axl and Slash has clearly visible.
Happy birthday @Slash May you enjoy 50 more!! (Photo: @deljamesgang / Twitter)
But after that, Guns N’ Roses camp closed back the big secret that was going underway. Frank Ferrer, the drummer, only gave a "standard" leak to the US radio host, DJ Mitch Lafon, "Guns definitely has a lot moving parts, and there’s a lot of things in the work. And once we’re ready to announce something, the whole world will know.”
The bassist, Tommy Stinson, who also officially quit from Guns N 'Roses, told The Current website that he hoped the classic formation of Guns N' Roses can be reunited. "It’s a good thing. And I hope it works out for them, if it actually happens.”
In November, the Motley Crue's bassist Nikki Sixx answered a fan's question on twitter, whether Axl Rose and Slash has reunited, "They are. Everyone knows." Given that Nikki's close relation with DJ Ashba who is also the guitarist in his band, Sixx: A.M., many people respond to this statement as a ‘trustworthy’ inside information.
The biggest signs of the reunion became clearer in December when the Guns N 'Roses website re-installed the guns and roses logo whose original image was designed by Slash and became a classic trademark of Guns N' Roses. And at the same time, Welcome to the Jungle trailer was screened in American cinemas. There was no information in the black and white snippets showing the fanfare at Guns N 'Roses concert.
*Guns N’ Roses official 2016 tour teaser video:*
Axl Rose's distinctive shriek on Welcome to the Jungle sounds so gripping through the cutting-edge Dolby Atmos 3D sound system, conjuring the whole audience in the movie theater, "D'you know where the f @ # k you are ?? !!? ... You're in the jungle baby. Wake up !!! Time to diiiiieeee ... " Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, the trailer was deliberately screened before the Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens began. Like the movie title, Axl wanted to 'wake up' the American public that 'the force has awaken,' Guns N 'Roses has revived.
And the last piece of the road to reunion puzzle was of course flipped by Guns N 'Roses itself. On January 4, 2016, Guns N 'Roses released a press statement confirming their position as headliner at Coachella.
Not just any musical event, Coachella is considered one of the biggest music festivals in the world. Taking place in Coachella Valley, Indio, California, the festival attracts no less than 200,000 spectators annually.
Here's the sound of the press release that tens of millions of Guns N 'Roses fans around the world have been waiting for years, “Upholding a three decade tradition of breaking ground, creating trends and forever changing the face of rock ‘n roll, Guns N’ Roses announce the most significance and anxiously awaited musical event of this century. Founder Axl Rose and formers members Slash and Duff McKagan will regroup to headline the Coachella Music & Arts Festival…”
Guns N’ Roses, Coachella 2016 (Photo: Reduto do Rock)
As it used to be, there was no press conference to celebrate the return of Slash and Duff, although news of the Guns N 'Roses reunion is perched on top of the trending topics around the world. Axl Rose was scheduled to appear on Jimmy Kimmel Live's show! Tonight the next day, to discuss the appearance of Guns N 'Roses in Coachella and the stadium tour schedule during the summer in North America, but he failed to show up and sending out an excuse message, "due to unforeseen circumstances."
Let the music speak for itself, that's been the principle that Guns N 'Roses holds. Without much ado, they immediately announced the tour schedule in 20 cities in North America in a concert called Guns N 'Roses Not In This Lifetime.
The premiere show of the Guns N 'Roses reunion tour, announced only by words of mouth, at the Troubadour on April 1, proved that they still have the same chemistry and the stage presence, which made Guns N' Roses a rock n’ roll champion in the 90s.
Guns N Roses April Fool’s Show, Troubadour 1 April 2016 (Photo: Katarina Benzova)
So excited to perform with his old friends, Axl broke his legs after slipping onstage during the April's Fool concert at the Troubadour. But with the heart of a knight, he kept singing until the concert finished despite having to endure the pain.
Not wanting to frustrate thousands of fans who have bought tickets for their upcoming concerts , Axl posted a video link on his twitter account showing a doctor's record explaining the condition of his broken leg and ensuring that he can still perform in concert as scheduled.
"This is what can happen when you do something you haven’t done in nearly over 23 years," Axl tweeted on his twitter.
As a result, Axl was forced to walk with gypsum-clad legs for the first six Guns N 'Roses Not In This Lifetime concert, which made him has to sit almost throughout the concerts. Luckily, Dave Grohl, the Foo Fighters frontman, who once had the same experience kind enough to lend his throne, so that Axl Rose still looks dashing on stage.
The year 2016 can be spelled out as a shining year for Guns N 'Roses, especially for Axl Rose. He was again the subject of conversations when his name appeared as a substitution for Brian Johnson, vocalist of AC/DC, who had to withdraw from the music world to avoid more serious hearing problem.
Shortly before the Guns N 'Roses concert started in Coachella, AC/DC issued an official statement that Axl Rose will replace Brian Johnson to complete the remaining of AC/DC Rock or Bust tour schedule.
Guns N 'Roses concert attendee in Coachella also got a special surprise when Axl Rose invited Angus Young, the AC/DC guitarist, to take the stage and performed with Guns N’ Roses. With his old school costume regalia, Angus leads Slash and his friends accompany Axl to sing Whole Lotta Rossie.
One doesn’t need to wonder how did Axl Rose’s vocal feels so fittingly right to fill the old AC/DC number, originally sung by the late Bon Scott. Yes, Guns N 'Roses often brought this song during their club days. This song also had printed in the vinyl single of Welcome to the Jungle for UK edition in 1987.
"Should we do another?" Axl asked toward the audience when Whole Lotta Rossie was over, which was instantly answered in unison by thousands of spectators who were delighted to see Guns N 'Roses performed with Angus Young, "Yeeaahhhh." He went on joking, "Your wish is our command."
Angus Young's decision to accept Axl Rose's offer to fill the position left by Brian Johnson has proven to be right. AC/DC needed a vocalist with the same caliber of Axl Rose to save their twenty three concert dates in the last two leg of Rock or Bust tour.
AC/DC with Axl Rose performing at the Olympic Stadium in London, June 4, 2016 (Photo: Wikipedia)
It’s not an easy thing to be a front man in two bands like Guns N 'Roses and AC/DC, let alone both have a tour schedule that rolls in almost at the same time.
Doing a cover version was not a new thing for Guns N 'Roses. Anyone must remembered of how awesome the song Knockin 'on Heaven's Door or Live and Let Die is when recycled by Guns N' Roses. These songs became more popular with Guns N 'Roses, that many people forgot who was the original singer or writer.
Axl Rose did not change a lot of notes when singing other people's songs because he wanted to pay homage to the original singer, but the way he sang the songs makes them more special, more powerful. His vocal character added new life to the songs.
Axl Rose's next performance with AC/DC was so stunning, especially after his leg injury recovered. His stage charisma and his vocal quality show his class as a rock n 'roll superstar, one of the best front man to ever to touch a microphone.
Approximately 7,000 fans reportedly withdraw their money back because they did not want to see the 'karaoke' show of AC/DC with Axl Rose. But that number was probably just like a drop from the bucket from the hundreds of thousands audiences who were satisfied watching the AXL/DC show.
Those who followed Axl Rose's journey after the reunion must have found one thing so different between Axl Rose 'now' with Axl Rose in the 90s. There is no more wild tantrum mood swing that used to make people around him anxious. What is often reported now is the cheerful Axl Rose, who often throws fresh jokes, be it on stage or out stage.
Never again we hear ‘ranting’ that used to be Axl Rose’s trademark in Use Your Illusion tour era, when he shot a curse or swearing from the stage to anyone who happened to make him upset him at the time.
And Axl Rose now was almost always on time to get onstage, be it with Guns N 'Roses or with AC/DC. The fans won’t have to worry about having to wait two to three hours like it used to be.
Well, it might be true to say that time can grow one's heart. Like a piece of Axl Rose's own lyrics on November Rain;
But if you could heal a broken heart
Wouldn’t time be out to charm you
Axl Rose (Photo: Katarina Benzova)
It might not be an exaggeration to call Guns N 'Roses Not In This Lifetime concert as the most awaited concert of the century. Almost at every concert that they passed always sold out, even in some cities they had to gig twice in the same venue because of the overwhelming demand.
According to box office, the tickets sold from the 74 concerts in North America, Latin America, Asia, Australia and Europe have grossed $340 million. Guns N 'Roses name was then included in the top 10 artists with the largest concert revenue of all time. And they only went half way through the whole dates.
Until their final concert, scheduled to take place at The Forum, Inglewood, California on November 29th, Guns N 'Roses will sum a total of 130 shows in twenty months.
Guns N 'Roses Not In This Lifetime is not a concert to boost album sales, considering their last album was released eight years ago. Guns N 'Roses does not require new hits to invite audience to fill stadiums. Appetite for Destruction ranks second as the most streaming of the 80’s albums in Spotify, while Sweet Child O'Mine alone has been streamed for 250 million times.
All they need is Axl Rose and Slash to get back together to present their magical rock n 'roll acts like they used to perform onstage during the Use Your Illusion tour two decades ago, nailing their classic numbers which have earned classic rock songs status.
Axl Rose and Slash, New Era Field Orchard Park, NY, 16 August 2017 (Photo: Katarina Benzova)
The reason why the Guns N 'Roses Not In This Lifetime was a huge success was that the reunion concert is the moment most eagerly waited by millions of fans around the world. The fans who had not had the chance to see Guns N 'Roses concert live in their heyday in the 90’s, who could only enjoyed their rock n’ roll hero performance through beta video, VHS, or laser disc.
Plus fans from the next generation, who fell in love with Guns N 'Roses after seeing and listening to their parent's DVD or CD collection. It's amazing to see so many teenagers, some even weren’t old enough to have their own ID, so excited to witness Guns N’ Roses live performance. They were not even born when Sweet Child O'Mine played every day on MTV.
But behind the joyous success of the Not In This Lifetime tour, a question still lingered in the minds of Guns N 'Roses fans. What is the story behind the reconciliation between Axl Rose and Slash?
A Brazilian television program, Fantastico Globo, became the only media that land themselves an exclusive interview with Guns N 'Roses. In the footage recorded before the Guns N 'Roses concert at the Camping World Stadium, in Orlando on July 29, 2016, the presenter asked Axl Rose about what was the driving force that got them (Axl Rose, Slash, and Duff) back together.
Axl Rose began to talk about the conversation with Paul Tollett, the founder of Coachella festival, to discuss the possibility of Guns N 'Roses being the headliner for that biggest music festival in the United States. Jokingly he told how he had initially made contact with Slash.
"I told my people that they could go ahead and start talking to people (Coachella promoter, show agencies) and see what’s going on. And then as it became more real (the possibility for a reunion concert) I texted Fernando to ask for Slash's (phone) number. Fernando texted mom (Beta Lebeis), and she’s like, 'if this is just a joke, I'm gonna kill you.' "
Paul Tollett's prediction proved to be correct. The first four shows of Guns N 'Roses Not In This Lifetime in Las Vegas and Coachella were a huge success. Words spread around that Guns N 'Roses got paid up to USD26 million just for their first four concerts.
With such fantastic figures, negative comments have sprung up, saying that there is financial motivation behind the Guns N 'Roses reunion concert.
Tom Zutaut, Geffen Record’s number one A&R, who has been escorting Guns N 'Roses since Appetite for Destruction to the early moments of the recording process of Chinese Democracy, expressed his opinion to Classic Rock magazine.
"Axl Rose has never done anything for money in his life. Nor has Slash or Duff. But when the entire music world is clamoring to see you, the rush of that experience is hard to resist, especially when AEG is waving all those large wads of money at you. Coachella is considered one of the biggest and most influential festivals in the world. Suddenly it might have felt right for all of them to test the waters.”
Let's put it this way, what Guns N 'Roses earns now is a reward for their hard work they were supposed to have picked after they reached their peak in the 90’s. Something that has been enjoyed by legendary bands that have passed their prime time but still around like the Rolling Stones, U2, and Metallica. What happened with Guns N 'Roses was that they ‘broke up’ before they made the victory lap and take the podium to take the winning trophy.
Regardless of the successful reunion concert or the fantastic paycheck, the most important thing for the Guns N 'Roses personnel is, of course, for them to get back together again, especially the improved relationship between Axl Rose and Slash. As expressed by Duff McKagan to American radio station, Wind FM, in June 2015.
"(Reunion concert) it could happen and it could not. And I think it will be wonderful, one day, if we reconciled, first and foremost. That alone would be cool.”
Singing is a work of art that deals a lot with heart and feeling. The raspy screaming power house, which became the trademark of Axl Rose and in the 90s has made the other rock vocalists in all over the world flat footed, now it’s echoing triumphantly in every stadium the Guns N 'Roses Not In This Lifetime tour passed.
Guns N’ Roses Not In This Lifetime, Olympic Stadium London, 16 June 2017 (Photo: Katarina Benzova)
Axl was reported doing vocal exercises as preparation to face the Not In This Lifetime tour as well as his performance with AC/DC. But where did he get the energy to be able to sing like that if it was not for his newly found spirit after getting back and performing again with old band mates.
So far, it’s clear that money is not simply the sole driving force behind the Guns N 'Roses reunion concert Not In This Lifetime.
Axl Rose is just as human as anyone else, who would have missed his old buddy after years of separation. The hatred that might have filled his chest would eventually vanished as the time goes by.
In celebration of the Revolver Golden Gods Awards event in April 2014, Axl Rose received the Ronnie James Dio Lifetime Achievement Award from the leading American rock magazine Revolver. With glittering eyes, Axl Rose recounts his reconciled friendship with Duff McKagan, who also performed with Guns N 'Roses that night.
"He (Duff) work really hard on the parts and he liked playing the newer songs from Chinese Democracy. And, you know, it’s pretty funny because we ‘d go talk about certain things from Illusions (album), and there’s things he doesn’t remember, there’s things I don’t remember. We kind of finish some of each other’s memories sometimes.”
Since leaving Guns N 'Roses in 1997, Duff practically has never met Axl Rose, until the strike of fate writes that they will meet again by accident at a London hotel thirteen years later.
Duff who had gone to London for a business meeting with his Wall Street partners did not know that Guns N 'Roses would be performing at the London O2 Arena. The manager of the hotel where he was staying had asked Duff if he would perform with Guns N 'Roses, which of course was answered, “No,” by Duff. The manager then told Duff that Axl Rose's room is right next to his room.
The news of Duff's presence in the hotel finally came to Axl Rose's ears. The next day, the phone in Duff's room rang. It was from Guns N 'Roses tour manager who told Duff that Axl wanted to see him. These two old buddies finally meet and hugged each other.
Axl Rose also invited Duff to come to watch Guns N 'Roses show. And the shock of meeting with Axl Rose has not eased yet, Duff was again stunned in the middle of the gig when a crew thrusting bass toward him while delivering a message from Axl Rose to get him onstage to play some songs.
The punk rock soul was still flowing profusely inside Duff’s blood. Without hesitation, he stepped onto the stage, albeit a bit clumsy as he had not played Guns N 'Roses songs for a long time. He also had to peek at Bumblefoot to see the chord he was playing during You Could be Mine.
Since then, Axl Rose and Duff's relationship began to improve. Four years later, when Guns N 'Roses toured to South America, Duff was asked to replace temporarily Tommy Stinson, who was busy touring with his former group, The Replacements.
Duff McKagan and Axl Rose, Werchter Festival Park, Belgium 24 June 2017 (Photo: Katarina Benzova)
What happened with Duff was different with Slash, the dissolved of his relationship with Axl Rose may be more complicated that it would take longer time to fix.
Perhaps many people do not realize that something that makes 'miracles' happened when Axl Rose and Slash collaborate together, either in the studio or on stage, was also what makes them have to split in the first place.
Anyone who witnessed for the first time when the two entered the studio for rehearsal in Hollywood, could feel it… as if there was a lightning strike at the spot when Axl Rose started to open his mouth in front of the microphone and Slash began to shred his guitar.
Axl Rose and Slash perform onstage for the second time with the "Appetite for Destruction" lineup at the Stardust Ballroom, Los Angeles, 28 June 1985 (Photo: Marc Canter)
Like the thunders in the clouds when a storm comes, both carry a different charge, positive and negative, which are gravitate to each other until they collide and finally release the lightning. That's the energy reactor of Guns N 'Roses (now let that one ringing for a while in your ears ...)
The storm never lasted for so long. It’s been eight years long the world was hit by the storm of Guns N 'Roses, ever since they first appeared in Hollywood in 1985 until the Use Your Illusion tour ended in 1993. And what happened next is history ...
Slash is the person who first realized this. In an interview in 1988, Slash explicitly explained how the chemistry between himself and Axl Rose was created.
“The relationship between most lead singers and most lead guitar players is very sensitive, very volatile. It’s just very, very intense. It has major ups and major downs, there’s always big mood swings and arguments. Singers and lead guitar players are very temperamental, everyone wants to have their own way.”
“ To be a lead guitar player or a singer you have to have a real big ego! But somewhere within all this intensity and this friction, there’s a chemistry. And if the chemistry is right, as with Axl and me, then there’s something… a spark, or a need… that holds it together. But you fight too…”
Then in 1991, Slash also revealed about the 'secret' chemistry between himself and Axl Rose that makes Guns N 'Roses great. “Me and Axl are so unalike that we attract each other. The biggest fight (in Guns N 'Roses) are between me and Axl. But that's also what makes it happen. "
Skin N’ Bones Tour, Stockholms Stadion, Sweden June 12th 1993 (Photo: Pinterest)
As the numbers of age keep growing inevitably, both, Axl Rose and Slash, must have corrected themselves. Farewell, although bitter, sometimes makes people more wise in dealing with something. And when they separate, people would have time to explore what really had happened in the past.
One thing that is praiseworthy of Slash, in times of 'the cold war' when he never had any direct contact with Axl Rose, is he tried not to throw inappropriate words to Axl, which the media can use to aggravate the situation.
Slash also objected when someone outside of Guns N 'Roses gave their negative comment to Axl Rose. If he criticizes Axl Rose in his autobiography, it's because he has dealt with Axl for years. He also emphasized that whatever thing Axl has been done before, he must have his own reason, which is 'as valid as his.'
Slash may have been disappointed when he was once 'expelled' by the hotel security from his room when he wanted to see Guns N 'Roses concert on New Year's eve party at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas in 2002.
Or in the dark moments of his life, when he was drunk, accompanied by his wife (then), he decided to go to Axl Rose's house in Malibu and leave a piece of paper to Axl's assistant that read, "Let's work this out. Call me - Slash. "
But in his deepest heart, he still has a speck of belief that his friendship with Axl Rose will not just disappear easily. "I had a strong bond with Axl. So just a few of mudslinging shots will not erase that.”
Axl Rose and Slash in LA, August 1987 (Photo: Jodi Summers)
In public, what more often heard was Slash's praise addressed to Axl Rose. "Anything about Axl as a performer and vocalist comes from his personality. So the things that drive him crazy or the things that make him difficult, at the same time, are also what make his talent. "
He also tried to describe how unique the character of Axl Rose, as he told Teamrock.com in May 2015.
“My relationship with Axl was always testy but interesting. The thing with Axl is that he’s creatively explosive. The problem, though, is that means his personal life has its difficulties. What you hear in his voice, and what you read in his lyrics of his song, is honest to the f@#king bones. As extreme as that is, that’s also how his life is.”
"I'm different, when I’m playing (guitar) I'm pretty hardcore; when I’m not playing, I’m pretty laid back. I express myself with the guitar and that’s the only time I really have anything to say. But Axl is Axl 100% of the time. He’s always that extreme. But we managed to make things happen. “
"Izzy was very important because he and Axl had a long history. Basically, it worked like this: I was close to Izzy and Izzy was close to Axl, therefore I could deal with Axl through Izzy.”
No one knows exactly what really happened between Axl Rose and Slash, except the two of them, when they split twenty years ago, that Axl seemed to hate Slash so much during those 'cold war' period. In an e-mailed interview with Billboard in 2009, Axl Rose even swore that one of them (he and Slash) has to die first before a reunion.
But this steel-hearted vocalist also has a gentle side in his heart. It was Axl Rose who wrote a line of beautiful lyrics which immortalized in the song November Rain,
'Cause nothin' lasts forever
And we both know hearts can change ...
There's nothing wrong to 'lick your own spit' if it's for a good cause. A few years later, the fires of hatred started to cooling down, though not completely. Guns N 'Roses fans would certainly remember the Axl Rose footage with some fans in 2011 which posted in YouTube, when Axl told a joke about him and Slash in the heyday of their youth.
Ricky Warwick, Thin Lizzy vocalist, who befriended with Axl when Thin Lizzy was supporting for Guns N 'Roses in 2012, told Classic Rock magazine that Axl was quite realistic in addressing the possibility of a reunion.
It took eighteen years for the two opposing poles to get back together again, 'till the dust settle off completely. Too long indeed the most famous bad blood in the history of rock music took place.
As Slash himself said, "it was probably way overdue." But maybe this is the right time. As talented musicians, both have proven their respective existence. Although officially Chinese Democracy is a Guns N 'Roses album, but many say that the phenomenal album was more like Axl Rose's solo album.
Same thing goes with Slash. It might be countless of how many hits were born out of his hands after he left Guns N 'Roses, in various group formats as well as his collaborations with other artists. Various awards have also been pinned on Slash for his dedication in the music world.
If they ever felt something was still missing from their achievement, of course that is the time has come for them to reconcile their long-lost relationship.
Axl Rose and Slash, Mercedes Benz Superdome, New Orleans, 31 July 2016 (Photo: Katarina Benzova)
The reunion concert is a logical consequence of the meltdown friction between Axl Rose and Slash. The world is again hit by the Guns N 'Roses Not In This Lifetime storm. But unlike before, this storm was tailed with 'blessing'. Blessings for Guns N 'Roses and for the millions of fans who have been waiting for so long to see the reunification of these two classic rock pairs. The wait is over ...
With the reunite of Axl Rose and Slash, unintentionally, The Most Dangerous Band in the World has delivered an unspoken message of peace to the whole world. History does never lies when it has written that hatred and hostility will always bring disaster, while peace will always carry on blessing ... Bless indeed come along with peace.
Special thanks to Rossie Borrelli (Slash News) for her awesome GNR photo collection
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