- Guns N' Roses
- November 2, the Joint
- More shows November 9, 10, 14, 17, 18, 21, 23 & 24, times vary, $41-$111
Where does he go/Where does he go now/Where does he go? Even before Guns N’ Roses played “Sweet Child o’ Mine” Friday night, I found myself paraphrasing its lyrics in my head. More than 30 times during the band’s third of 12 nights inside the Joint, frontman Axl Rose disappeared through a curtain at stage left and returned moments (or minutes) later. Which obviously left me wondering: What the hell was the 50-year-old frontman up to when he was out of sight?
One popular theory had Rose heading off for hits of oxygen. That’s plausible, but it doesn’t explain Friday’s real mystery: how, after sounding so weak for half the show, Rose’s voice suddenly recaptured its late-’80s power and glory. Oxygen tank? More like fountain of freaking youth.
However it happened, the intensity of the back half of GNR’s “Appetite for Democracy” Vegas residency made up for the mediocrity of what came before. Mostly. Nothing could truly erase the horror of five momentum-killing solo numbers (no one paid to hear keyboardist Dizzy Reed cover “No Quarter”). And it was borderline sad hearing the early-show Axl bark his way through some of the band’s best-loved songs, “It’s So Easy,” “Mr. Brownstone” and “Estranged” among them. By comparison, Rose’s lyrical butchering of “Sweet Child o’ Mine” merely seemed silly.
But my most indelible memories from Friday night (which stretched way into Saturday morning, by way of an 11:40 start and three-hour run time) were of Rose, Version 2. He found his voice during “Don’t Cry”—working his full range, sustaining long highs and looking, for the first time all night, like he relished being onstage—and from there, he conquered everything placed before him, from slower stuff like “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” and a cover of Neil Young’s “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” to such up-tempo tunes as “Out ta Get Me” and “Nightrain.” As Rose and his band raged at the height of “Civil War,” I even found myself questioning the popular notion that he might sound better with Slash, Duff and Izzy beside him.
Afterward, a friend floated the possibility that Rose had pulled the musical equivalent of boxing’s rope-a-dope, intentionally sandbagging half the show to weed out all but the most supportive fans, then rewarding die-hards with the good stuff. A crazy idea, sure, but not as weird as the one involving the Michael Keaton movie Multiplicity that popped into my head later that night. What if Axl Rose has a team of human-cloning scientists behind that side-stage curtain …