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Concert Reviews:
Guns N' Roses plays long and late at the Fillmore Detroit

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Wednesday, February 22, 2012

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DETROIT -- The question before a Guns N' Roses concert is usually what time Axl Rose will finally lead the group on stage.

On Tuesday night (Feb. 21) at the Fillmore Detroit, it was whether he would make it to the stage at all.

Rose -- the sole remaining member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-bound hard rock band's original lineup -- raised a red flag early Tuesday evening when he tweeted he was "sick as a dogg!!" He didn't indicate the show was at risk, but a fissure of doubt ran through the Fillmore nonetheless.

The concern was unnecessary, however. Rose and the band -- though unconscionably late, as is its habit -- rocked the Fillmore well into the wee hours of Wednesday morning, delivering a slamming, 25-song set that had all the impact of an arena show and the sense of event that comes from seeing a group like that in such an intimate venue.

It was, in fact, the smallest place GNR has played in the metro area since it performed at the then-State Theatre in May of 1988. The group's debut album, "Appetite For Destruction," went stratospheric shortly after that, and GNR moved on to places like the Pontiac Silverdome and the Palace, where the group played on Dec. 1.

That Tuesday's show did not sell out in the 3,000-capacity Fillmore was surprising, and it was certainly the one that got away for anyone who missed it -- even in a big week for rock shows that also includes Van Halen, Korn and Jane's Addiction. Even if he was feeling "drowned in the gutter," Rose rose to the occasion, his larger-the-life Rock Star persona even more pronounced in the smaller environs and his vocal swoops and banshee wails intact, if a bit hoarse at times.

GNR's production jammed a flashy, arena-sized light-and-sound rig into the Fillmore, with a short ramp jutting out from the front of the stage so Rose could press the flesh with fans beyond the front row. Guitarists Richard Fortus, Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal and DJ Ashba -- the latter sporting a top hat ala original GNR guitarist Slash -- exchanged lead and rhythm roles smoothly, while the set list, nearly identical to the December show at the Palace, wove together hits such as "Welcome to the Jungle," "Sweet Child O' Mine," "Patience," "Don't Cry" and the show-closing "Paradise City" with six selections tracks from GNR's 2008 album "Chinese Democracy" and covers of Wings' "Live and Let Die" and Bob Dylan's "Knockin' On Heaven's Door."

The only damper on GNR's electric, and electrifying, show was, as usual, the hour. Rose's penchant for late starts and long shows is pretty much accepted at this point; certainly a chunk of the Fillmore faithful didn't even bother showing up until homeboy opener Sponge was into its 25-minute set. But plenty of folks also trickled out GNR's show wore on, and by the time the confetti flew during "Paradise City" a good one-third, and probably more, were already out the door. Could be why GNR only drew 8,000 to the Palace and still had tickets left to sell on Tuesday.

It truly was, as Rose tweeted afterwards, "a f***ing Blast!!" But it would be a better time for more of the faithful if his unique internal clock could become a bit more fan-friendly.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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