Last night I saw the concert of a lifetime. In fact, it was called “Guns N’ Roses: Not in this Lifetime.” Damn. It was good. Really good. The concert took place at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL. Last week I saw Phish at Wrigley Field. Something you should know about me, I only go to sporting arenas for the concerts and liquid cheese. Also, I don’t like Phish, only if it’s dead… to me.
I love Guns N’ Roses, but didn’t buy tickets when the show was first announced. I thought it was too rich for my blood and honestly wasn’t sure it would actually happen. It didn’t seem real and I have commitment issues. I once had tickets in 2006 to see Guns N’ Roses with only Axl from the original lineup. The show was canceled.
When the reunion show was announced this year, a friend bought tickets that cost him one month’s car payment as he would say. At the time, I thought it was best to experience the concert through him. A few months had passed and it was GnR weekend. As it got closer and closer, the more I wanted to go. I watched GnR videos and recent live performances with my pal who was going to the show. The idea of seeing a (mostly) reunited GnR was becoming a reality, a reality I was going to miss. Friends started posting pictures and videos from the show on Friday, 7/1 at Soldier Field and my jealousy grew even more. I had to go.
I went to the ol’ Ticketmaster page and scoped out nosebleed seats, tickets were still available for the July 3rd show. Sure, I have other things to pay off, but that can be put on hold, right? Don’t answer that because I already put it on hold and went to the concert. I am not good with my money at all. I waste tons of money on photo booth pictures, David Lee Roth shirts, conventions where I’m going to pay money to stand in line to “meet” washed up celebrities including THE Luke Perry, you name it. GnR however was a great fucking way to spend my money.
I loved every single moment of this concert. I bought 1 ticket because it was a spur of the moment decision that I definitely wanted to go. I’m approaching 35 in a month and didn’t have it in me to try to find someone to go with or plan to meet up or any of that jazz because in the end I knew the person who I was going to have the most fun with at the show was myself. At first, I felt a little weird about going to this mass arena concert by my lonesome and joked with friends that I couldn’t tell if this was one of my prouder or sadder moments. Turns out it’s one of my prouder moments.
Unfortunately, I didn’t actually get to see the opener, Alice in Chains. I only heard a few of the songs as I was walking in. They sounded pretty good, though. Oh, I should mention that part of how awesome this experience was is that I’ve never been to Soldier Field before. I’ve lived in Chicago for 6 years now and haven’t been there so I got to knock that off of my list along with seeing Guns N’ Frickin’ Roses. I went to my section which I affectionately referred to as Austin 3:16. I sat in Section 316, guys. The stage was forever away, but still awesome. That’s why they have those big ass screens.
Obviously, it would have been even better to have a closer seat, but I actually enjoyed sitting where I did because I got to look over the whole concourse and watching the people file in on the ground level reminded me of the video for “Paradise City.” Surreal, man. As I sat down, Alice in Chains just wrapped up. In between the bands, they played the funky beats of Rick James. This was heaven. I have a wide taste in music. I like funk, rock, funk rock, smooth rock, some rap, some crap.
Although I was there with all of these people, it still didn’t seem real that I was about to see Axl, Slash and Duff together on stage. I grew up with these people on my TV screen. I have my brother and MTV to thank for turning me onto GnR. As a kid, I liked a wide variety of music then too, but I LOVED hair metal. Poison’s “Look What the Cat Dragged In” was the first cassette tape I bought by myself. I wore that tape out gang raping my Barbies to only the finest songs about well, date rape and Jimmy’s Bar n’ Grille. I had a moment at the show thinking about how many times I’ve seen Poison at various state fairs and know all of the songs. I know a lot of GnR songs, but not all of them. And even though I liked GnR growing up, their pin didn’t make my jean jacket. One side of my jean jacket was dedicated to Poison only with individual band member pins and album cover pins. The other side of my jean jacket was pins of Bon Jovi, Nelson, Skid Row and a few others bands from that era. I can’t pinpoint why I didn’t have a GnR pin. Maybe it’s because I felt like my brother really liked them and I only kind of liked them or maybe it was because they didn’t wear enough makeup. I don’t know why I didn’t love them as a kid because as an adult I can say I really love them.
Anyway, back to the show. The Rick James stopped and up came the GnR logo on the screen with spinning guns accompanied by various gun sounds. The first time it happened, the crowd went wild. By the 5th time of these gunshots, people started to wonder how long we had to listen to it. I don’t think it was much past 5 because all of sudden the lights went a flicker and there they fuckin’ were. God damn. Do you know how exciting this moment was? Axl! Slash! Duff! All of them right in front of my very own eyes. We were all in the same giant football stadium. Together. They opened with “It’s So Easy” off of Appetite for Destruction. I don’t remember the full order, but “Mr. Brownstone” wasn’t far behind. Then came “Welcome to the Jungle.” Hit after hit. The excitement grew watching Slash spin around in a circle while playing his guitar and then he would saunter across stage while bending those strings. God damn.
Now, Axl gets a lot of flack for the weight gain and all of the plastic surgery, but he didn’t look all that bad. Sure, he didn’t look how he did at the height of GnR, but he’s also in his 50s with a bum leg. The man can still move. At first it did kind of look like I was watching the real Axl do a character of himself as he slowly slithered side-to-side singing, “My, my, my serpentine,” but that didn’t stop my giddiness. Did I mention that I loved every single moment of this concert? I was sitting by myself in an arena full of people oohing and aahhing over little moves the band members would do, just laughing to myself having a grand ol’ time.
Since I was sitting so high up, no one was really standing in my section which kind of sucked. It wasn’t until after Slash was introduced and played a solo that went into “Sweet Child O’ Mine” did the people in my section stand up. I love this song too, but how did they not stand to “Welcome in the Jungle?” I wasn’t about to start the wave so I just heavily head bobbed in my seat until others stood up. One of my favorite parts of this show was hearing everybody sing along to all of their songs. In case you didn’t know, Axl has an incredibly unique voice that not too many people can replicate. Now imagine a stadium full of mostly white, mostly drunk, off-tune people singing along to these songs. It was fucking great.
As the show went on, they brought out a grand piano and Axl played a little ditty. Then he went into a big ditty, “November Rain.” I absolutely love this song and video so much. I think it’s a beautiful song and brings back so many memories of trying to figure out what even happened in the video that plagued me for over 20 years. Then I Googled the answer, it’s part of a 3-part video series with “Don’t Cry” and “Estranged.” The creepy mirror casket was because Stephanie Seymour was a gunshot-to-the-face victim, not acid-November-rain-to-the-face victim like young minds might think. Again, I oohed and aahhed as images of Slash playing the guitar appeared on screen, then there was that pause we all know and love. The big screens flashed to an image of sausage fingers adorned with a buttload of rings and Axl drove into that piano part followed by Slash’s epic solo. God damn. It was so good.
GnR played for close to 3 hours. Other highlights were “Civil War,” “You Could Be Mine,” “Live & Let Die” with more of those sweet gunshot noises and “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” Even with a bum leg, Axl ran the fuck out of that stage wearing a “The Bitch is Back” shirt. I giggled a little when I saw him slow-step onto an amp, but I can’t tell you the last time I ran around a stage under beating stage lights while singing for 3 hours. Today, I rode my bike home from work at a mediocre pace and that’s it. Cut the guy some slack.
Throughout the night, Axl would check in with the audience asking if everyone was having a good time. I for one, can say I was having a GREAT fucking time. Holly holy. This show had it all, pyrotechnics, fireworks on top of pyrotechnics, Axl, Slash and Duff (who almost looks younger than he did when they were in their hey day), guitar solos, bass solos, a cool lady keyboard player with funky blue hair and more. God damn. This show was so good.
The main set wrapped up and they came back for an encore. GnR played “Don’t Cry” where two people in my section slow danced together with the tiniest foot moves in their aisle. The section can’t stand, but they can apparently slow dance. The concert ended with the perfect stadium anthem, “Paradise City.” Finally, the whole crowd stood up and sang along with flashing lights. Axl was still hitting all of those high notes, but he wouldn’t/couldn’t sing “Please” in “Paradise City.” He sang those words that everyone knows, but left the crowd to sing the “Please” part in “Please take me home.” This moment was like seeing your parents do something a little slower and their age really sinks in with you. Maybe the note is too high, maybe he just wants to make everybody part of the show. Who knows? All I do know is that this show was so god damn good. Seriously. I almost let this slip past me. What a fool. If you get a chance, please see this show. You will not be disappointed. The grass was green, the girls were pretty, there were 3 original members of Guns N’ Frickin’ Roses. It really was Paradise City. Thanks GnR for the lifetime of memories instead of the lifetime of regret. God damn.