by Russ Allsup
When Guns N’ Roses announced a few months back that the original members Slash and Duff McKagan had rejoined the band after a 23 year absence and their big comeback show would be at the massive Coachella Music Festival, the Los Angeles area had been buzzing with rumors of a warm up show at a club before the festival show.
Fast forward a few months to Friday evening,March 31st, where I saw a mysterious post on Facebook that said there was some noteworthy activity going on at the old Tower Records building on the Sunset Strip. Elton John had staged a free concert at that location about a month before that, so the rumor was that maybe Guns N’ Roses would play a free show there, or maybe sell tickets there for a club show somewhere else.
After I saw the post (at 1 am while lying in bed), I thought about it for about a half hour and made the decision to get out of bed, make the 30 minute drive, and go get in line. At this time nobody knew if anything was going on for sure, or if something was going on, what was it? Word was spreading fast, so my timing was good- I got there around 2 am and was the 60th person in line. Nobody in line knew for sure what was going to happen so we were all hoping for the best. There were rumors between the people in line that maybe tickets would go on sale for a show at the Troubadour, that tickets would either go on sale at the Tower Records building or at the Hollywood Palladium, or that it would just be a press conference by G n’ R inside the Tower Records building. As night turned into morning, the line grew and eventually word came down around 8 am that tickets would be going on sale for a show that evening by G n’ R at the Troubadour.
By around 10AM, the line grew to be around 300 or so. It was then we were informed that indeed, tickets for a Guns N’ Roses show at the Troubadour that evening would go on sale at noon to the first 250 people in line. We were then led in by groups of ten at a time and made a line in front of the store in the parking lot. They had a couple of food trucks along with soda and water, free of cost, to the people in line. Then they started letting people inside the building, two people at a time, to buy one ticket each for only $10. Once the ticket was purchased, you could go to the next room, where it was set up like an old rock n’ roll bar. They had a full bar with drinks for sale, 3 stripper poles with dancers, Old Guns N’ Roses stage outfits and memorabilia (awards, guitars, old show fliers), and G n’ R music. We were told the doors for the Troubadour would open at 10PM, but ticket holders could line up as soon as they wanted.
I went home and took a quick nap followed by a shower, then headed to the show. I got there and was surprised that there weren’t many people there yet. I ended up being the 45th person in line. When everyone was let in, around 10 pm, I found a great spot against the stage directly in front of where Slash would be playing. As people waited for the show to start, anticipation was very high for this so called “Show of the Millennium”, as it was being hyped. Just before midnight, the celebrities started rolling in. Looking up at the balcony, I saw Jim Carey standing next to Andrew ‘Dice’ Clay and Nicholas Cage. Three or four people down from them were Lenny Kravitz and actor Bradley Cooper. As said to be in attendance were Kate Hudson, Chris Brown, and Kelly Osbourne.
There was a strict no camera or phone rule for those that were there, and for me it was a pleasure to be at a concert where people weren’t taking pictures with their phones blocking the view for the whole show. Those that were there enjoyed a rare spectacle, no distractions or worries about getting a photo of the event to post on their social media account. When Guns N’ Roses took the stage at midnight, the audience went crazy! They went on to play a ninety minute set that completely destroyed the Troubadour.
At one point in their history, G n’ R had three backup singers and a full horn section. For this show, it was a back to basics approach with no frills and not much talking between songs. It really was only about the music.
Many in the crowd were younger and never had a chance to see the original members of Guns; Axl, Slash, and Duff, play together except on video clips.
The band launched into “It’s So Easy” from their first album, “Appetite for Destruction.” Most could hardly believe their eyes and ears! Here were most of one of the biggest bands in the world at one time, who hadn’t played together in 23 years, sounding as powerful and dynamic as they did back then. There were smiles on the band members faces so you knew it would be a good show… and it was. They ripped through a 17 song set that concentrated mostly on material from the “Appetite For Destruction” and “Use Your Illusion” albums. In addition to their classic older songs, they also played 2 songs from “Chinese Democracy”, a Who song “The Seeker”, a Damned song “New Rose” that bassist Duff McKagan sang, along with the theme from the film ‘The Godfather‘. Vocalist Axl Rose appeared to be in good shape, and his voice sounded brash and powerful. The rest of the band sounded great together; bassist Duff McKagan, guitarists Slash and Richard Fortus along with drummer Frank Ferrer and keyboardists Dizzy Reed and Melissa Reese.
The band was firing on all cylinders and chugged along like a freight train. They sounded like they were at the top of their game and honestly surpassed any expectations I had for this show. I’d first seen the band in 1987 and it was the best performance by a rock band I’ve ever seen, to this day. Because of that I was hoping I wouldn’t be disappointed by them at the Troubadour. They not only exceeded my expectations, but actually blew all expectations away. I was amazed during this show at the sheer power this band displayed. Having seen the band ten times during the ’80’s and 90’s I can say that it’s almost like original members Duff and Slash never left- they picked things up right where they left off. It’s hard to put into words just how good this show was. Based on this performance, these guys can hold their own on stage with any band out there right now and then some. Guns N’ Roses are indeed back, and playing like they have something to prove. On one hand they appear to be a band on a mission, and on the other , they seem to really enjoy being a band with great musicians and a catalog of songs that most bands would kill for. At this point, the future looks bright for the band and they seem to realize that destiny lies in their hands. They look ready to return to their spot at the top of the rock n’ roll mountain.