After the COVID-19 pandemic postponed the 2021 Guns N ‘Roses tour that was originally scheduled to begin in Milwaukee, WI on July 4, 2020, the legendary hard rock band postponed it for a full year. After Summerfest rescheduled its weeklong schedule in July, revamping the festival to run over multiple weekends in September, they revealed that Guns N ‘Roses would close the festival.
Guns N ‘Roses – whose original members Axl Rose as lead vocalist, Duff McKagan as lead bassist and Slash as the band’s lead guitarist – took the stage on September 19, after an opening performance by Mammoth , a new group founded by Wolfgang Van Halen, son of Eddie Van Halen.
From the start, it was clear that Axl’s vocal cords are not what they once were. He had little ability to hit any of his famous high notes, let alone hold them for as long as he could.
McKagan’s voice and ability on the guitar was as precise as ever, and Slash, speaking objectively, still played like the greatest guitarist of all time. Slash received no less than five guitar solos throughout the show and what he could do on guitar as a 56-year-old man with a pacemaker was just superhuman.
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One thing Axl excelled at throughout the night was the sheer number of outfit changes. Whenever Slash had a guitar solo, Axl would disappear from the scene, only to return a minute or two later with bigger rings, a different black t-shirt, and a series of wide-brimmed hats.
No moment of the night deserved more praise than the performance of November Rain’s group. Axl’s performance on mic and piano was by far his best of the night. The song’s lower range allowed for a much more precise rendition of the song than any other on the setlist. And as always, Slash’s guitar solo – potentially the greatest guitar solo of any rock song – was as impressive as it sounds on the record.
Watching these aged performers play some of my favorite songs ever recorded made me start to wonder. I thought about how this life must be impossible to escape. Throughout their lives, they all struggled with drug addiction and alcoholism. But as they’ve aged and become sober, there can’t be such a sensational stimulus as performing live. Hearing decades of fans of all ages screaming your name must make performers more eager than almost anything else in the world. But when does it get too much?
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At what point in your performing career do you decide to hang up on the style and look that you have been associated with for decades? Whether it’s Axl Rose at 59 still wearing baseball-sized rings, a red bandana, dazzling cowboy boots and a sash hanging from his belt, or Angus Young still dressed like an Australian schoolboy in the ‘age 66, clinging to a character he created as a rockstar in his twenties must be exhausting, at least I thought, watching the show live.
My mom had a much more positive opinion, believing that dressing like they did in 1985 was a way to keep them young and as manly as they once were. This character is all they need to cling to when they think back to their glory days. Even though Axl can’t sing the way he once could, he can still play the character of Axl Rose, one of the greatest singers of all time.
After hearing my mother’s point of view, I saw the performers from a different perspective. What I saw was a scene filled with people who looked really happy. They didn’t seem like they were there to make the headlines or make more money. On the contrary, they looked like a bunch of old friends who had their issues sorted out and performed because that’s what they love to do.
So maybe Axl won’t hang up his patented red bandana, or cut off his top hat. And maybe they can’t play as flawlessly as they used to be, but as long as they’re touring and enjoying it, fans will keep buying tickets as quickly as possible to witness a truly amazing performance by one of the greatest rock bands. all time.