“Matlab ab agar koi pooche toh bol sakte hain, Guns N’ Roses ko dekh hi liya”.
The other person part of this exchange of sentiment with me was a local popular radio personality in Delhi, someone whose taste in music matches mine. Both of us are well into our thirties. With long hair that refuses to pay heed to receding hairlines with salt-and-pepper streaks. With paunches that have made themselves such a permanent fixture of our physique, that wearing any fit of denim other than “regular” stopped being an option at least half a decade ago. With bones and muscles which, at the slightest exhibition of an intent to mosh, start showing signs of age, which are blatantly disregarded and are worn with a pride filled grimace the next morning.
We are the generation that could righteously stake claim to having grown up on Guns N’ Roses.
Going by the mix of people at the Leisure Valley Grounds in Gurgaon on Wednesday evening, there must have been a sizable number of exchanges of a similar nature. Despite the fact that we formed a minority, we were the ones who were screaming our throats hoarse when songs that had got less airplay were played to an audience mumbling imaginary lyrics. We were also the ones who looked with a disdain evident in the upturned corner of our lips at the same clueless audience when it started to air-guitar and yell the chorus of the usual suspect songs.
C’mon, we deserved those moments to ourselves, and ourselves alone.
After all, we were hatching plans on how to get our first “grown up” crush into the sack when we first heard “Use Your Illusion”. Unlike most others who can only recall G N’ R’s latest release “Chinese Democracy”. Well, to be fair, maybe even “The Spaghetti Incident?” but then both the albums hardly deserve a mention against the backdrop that the earlier albums set.
For most of us, “Chinese Democracy” is what went wrong with G N’ R. Given the public animosity that Axl Rose shares with the original members, it wasn’t surprising that he’d be making songs from “Chinese Democracy” a staple part of his live sets. (Note the usage of “his” as a substitute for the band. For good reason, yes). The setlist in Mumbai, a few days earlier was made of exactly that. Absence of the original lineup notwithstanding, there just didn’t seem to be enough reason to make it for the concert.
The potbelly was exceedingly evident. So was the thinning growth of that signature blonde straight hair. A handlebar moustache had made way to a face that was always either shaved clean or sported a stubble. Puffed up bags under the eyes were hard to conceal beneath layers of paint. This was the guy who could whisper into a microphone and make shivers run down womenfolk. This was the guy who wouldn’t look obscene while gyrating to a microphone stand in an act of supposedly making love to it or running bare chested around stage wearing designer boxer briefs and sneakers. This was the guy who brought the sex into the trinity of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll during the 1980s and 1990s.
This was the guy whose blood curdling moan of a banshee on the intro of Welcome to the Jungle could probably make any kid jizz in his pants.
A pale shadow of his former self. But that voice still had enough meat in it to have given most folks a hard-on.
Starting the set (unsurprisingly) with Chinese Democracy wasn’t the best move on his part. That’s just plain block headed ego when you open a set with that and immediately follow it up with Welcome to the Jungle. But then when you’re Axl Rose, you consider yourself entitled to such massive delusions of grandeur
“Man, you know what? This is a perfect case of wanking off. And I mean it in a good way.”
I looked at my friend trying to figure what he meant. I would’ve agreed, with the wanking off bit (the original lineup, most importantly Slash, wasn’t there, yada yada). But what did he mean when he said, “in a good way?”
“See, I don’t give a fuck about this guitarist who looks like a cheap knock off of Slash (DJ Ashba). Why the fuck would you go by the name DJ if you were a guitarist? EVEN IF YOUR INITIALS SPELLED THEMSELVES AS DJ?!”
I still don’t see “the good way bit”.
“The thing with wanking off is that you don’t get a piece of the real deal. You just sit back, close your eyes, and immerse your senses in induced erotica. That’s exactly what I do when I close my eyes now. The bugger’s voice is still the same. As for the rest, I can imagine them to be in place even if they aren’t here. It’s still better than Axl Rose singing on a fucking karaoke, and I really hope he doesn’t end up there.”
It was only after the mid of their set, around You Could Be Mine that the gig started picking up energy that could be seen resonating across the grounds. Hitting 50 and Axl Rose could still give stiff competition to any musician half his age. Changing wardrobes with a frequency that could only be paralleled with the recklessness that he’s changed the band’s lineup over the years, he changed into Stetsons of different colours and sizes, more than a couple of bandanas, an plastic Elvis wig, even an ex-President mask.
While Axl Rose changed clothes, Ashba and Bumblefoot got their chance to showoff some bit by playing a guitar solo and self-composition respectively. The solos were fillers while Axl Rose dolled-up in the green room. Bumblefoot did a neat job on his solo composition Objectify, but the number of times both the guitarists botched up their timings did make the absence of Slash and Izzy Stradlin felt.
Thankfully, “Appetite For Destruction” got a place in the set that was truly deserved. Thankfully, even “GnR Lies” got a place with Patience.
The set came to a resounding end with Paradise City and in a display of behaviour uncharacteristic of the band (“We usually don’t do this”, said Axl Rose), the band went into an encore with Nice Boys.
Not so nice boys. But nice enough.
Welcome to the Jungle
It’s So Easy
Richard Fortus Guitar Solo
Live and Let Die
This I Love
Dizzy Reed Piano Solo
Catcher in the Rye
Street of Dreams
You Could Be Mine
DJ Ashba Guitar Solo
Sweet Child O’ Mine
Another Brick in the Wall Part 2
Axl Rose Piano Solo
Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
Don’t Let It Bring You Down
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