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Concert Reviews:
Guns N' Roses better late than never at The Palace

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Friday, December 2, 2011

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AUBURN HILLS -- "You guys ready for a long night?" D Generation's Jesse Malin asked the crowd at the Palace during his band's opening set on Thursday night (Dec. 1).

Clearly the man has been to a Guns N' Roses concert before.

Fortunately, the relatively small -- just under 8,000, with the entire upper level curtained off -- and late-arriving crowd knew what it was getting into. GNR's reputation for tardy starts and wee-hours finishes precedes it, and any ticket buyer is well aware that it's likely to be a bleary-eyed next morning if they stick out the entire show.

But when frontman Axl Rose and his latest incarnation of GNR does hit the stage, it's usually worth the wait -- as was the case on Thursday (and Friday morning) after a blistering two-hour and 50-minute romp through the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-nominated group's small but impactful catalog.

As it happened, Rose and company hit the stage at a "reasonable" 10:52 p.m., following a solid hour-long set by the reunited D Generation. GNR clearly came to play, too, with prodigious pyrotechnics accompanying whipsaw renditions of "Chinese Democracy," "Welcome to the Jungle," "It's So Easy" and "Mr. Brownstone." Fans will always pine for the original GNR lineup, but in this eight-member version of the band Rose showed off a corps that proved capable of capturing the raw, rough and tumble spirit of 1987's seminal "Appetite For Destruction" as well as the more sophisticated epics from the two "Use Your Illusion" albums and 2008's "Chinese Democracy." In particular, guitarists DJ Ashba, Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal and Richard Fortus traded lead and rhythm parts with easy precision, while keyboardists Dizzy Reed and Chris Pitman provided the textures and sonic layers that were crucial to epics such as "Sorry," "Madagascar," "Estranged" and "November Rain."

And Rose himself was in fine form, performing vocal acrobatics and working the stage in dervish fashion -- while also hopping in and out of a booth located in one corner of the stage, where he changed coats, hats, sunglasses and shirts more than a dozen times. His swoops and upper-register howl -- including a falsetto during the bluesy "Sorry" -- was fully intact, and his screams competed with the pyrotechnic explosions during Wings' "Live and Let Die."

GNR tossed in a few other covers during the night -- a furious spring through the Dead Boys' "Sonic Reducer" sung by bassist Tommy Stinson," AC/DC's "Whole Lotta Rosie" and "Riff Raff," and the group's signature take on Bob Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," which finished with a lengthy call-and-response game with the audience. Some instrumental interludes, meanwhile, found Fortus leading the group through the James Bond movie theme, Reed playing a grand piano rendition of the Who's "Baba O' Riley," Bumblefoot teasing out Henry Mancini's "Pink Panther" theme and Fortus and Bumblefoot slinking through Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall."

But the crowd was really there for the favorites, particularly from the early years, and GNR didn't disappoint as it dished out the likes of "Rocket Queen," "You Could Be Mine," "Don't Cry," "Nightrain," "Patience" and "Sweet Child O' Mine." The energy level stayed high all night, from the band at least; there was no hiding the fact that significant numbers of folks slipped out as the show went on, and by the time GNR let the confetti fly during "Paradise City," the crowd had been trimmed by at least half.

That, of course, is where Rose's nocturnal habit does his band, and his audience, a disservice. GNR proved on Thursday night (and Friday morning) that it's still capable of galvanizing, exciting performances. It just makes it more than a little too hard for those who want to witness them.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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