Axl Rose Soars and Slash Shines as Guns N’ Roses Turn Madison Square Garden Into a Rock ‘Paradise’ [Photos + Recap]
Guns N’ Roses played their second of three Madison Square Garden shows on their "Not in This Lifetime" tour Sunday night (Oct. 15) in New York City, and the crowd was treated to a marathon three-plus-hour concert.
The fact that singer Axl Rose, guitarist Slash and bassist Duff McKagan are all playing together on one stage again is likely enough to fill up any arena, but GN’R are not resting on their laurels. Instead, they’re pouring their sweat and blood (yes, blood! — more on that later) on the stage as they deliver song after memorable song throughout the night.
How seriously are Guns N’ Roses taking this reunion? First off, they took the stage just before 8PM, so cast all your “What time is Axl gonna show up?” jokes aside for this tour. The band came roaring onto the stage with the one-two punch of “It’s So Easy” and "Mr. Brownstone," two songs that exemplify the raw and gritty side of their masterpiece Appetite for Destruction. Fans immediately rose to their feet and stayed there for the entire night. "Welcome to the Jungle" would come shortly thereafter, with Slash playing that familiar riff and Axl letting out his trademark wail.
Let’s just pause here to say that Axl Rose hasn’t sounded this good in years. Prior to this classic reunion, Axl was hit and miss, often straining and struggling to hit those high notes that made him one of rock’s most dynamic vocalists. This time around, Axl is on point, none more evident during his soaring performance of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” a tune that has seen Guns N’ Roses’ version become as much of a classic as the Bob Dylan original.
As great as Axl was, Slash deserves equal praise, as the spotlight shone on him throughout the night. Incredibly gifted guitarists played in Guns N’ Roses during Slash’s absence from the band -- including Buckethead, DJ Ashba and Bumblefoot -- but there’s nothing like seeing Slash play the riffs and solos that helped propel GN’R to superstardom. In a show filled with highlights, one of the biggest was an extended Slash solo in which he incorporated the theme from The Godfather and eventually led into a rousing rendition of “Sweet Child O’ Mine.”
We told you earlier there’d be blood. During an instrumental cover of Pink Floyd’s "Wish You Were," guitarist Richard Fortus’ hand was bleeding profusely as he traded licks with Slash. Fortus soldiered on, never missing a note on his blood-stained guitar. That performance led into the outro to the Derek and the Dominos classic “Layla” followed by “November Rain,” a show stopping moment in more ways than one. With Axl behind the piano and Slash on a raised platform high above the stage, the song was a spotlight moment for both musicians despite a timing hiccup that caused Axl to stop the band for a moment before picking it back up again.
As for the length of the show, a good 45 minutes could've been shaved off and fans would've still left more than happy. A few solos and instrumental passages ran a bit too long, and perhaps four songs off Chinese Democracy were a bit much, considering Slash and Duff weren't part of that album. A cover of Jimmy Webb's "Wichita Lineman" seemed extraneous, too.
However, those moments weren't enough to slow down the juggernaut that is Guns N' Roses. Among the other standout moments was a stirring rendition of Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun," which GN'R has polished nicely since first performing the song in the wake of Chris Cornell's passing. The encore, meanwhile, was highlighted by the sing-along classic "Patience" and set-closing anthem "Paradise City."
Guns N' Roses' fall North American tour runs through the end of November. If you wanna see Axl, Slash, Duff and the rest of the band in fine form, catch GN'R at one of their upcoming dates. And check out our exclusive photos from the band's Madison Square Garden gig above and below.
Guns N' Roses Set List - Madison Square Garden, Oct. 15, 2017
01. It's So Easy
02. Mr. Brownstone
03. Chinese Democracy
04. Welcome to the Jungle
05. Double Talkin' Jive
08. Live and Let Die - Wings cover
09. Rocket Queen
10. You Could Be Mine
11. New Rose - The Damned cover
12. This I Love
13. Civil War
16. Slash Guitar Solo
17. Speak Softly Love (Love Theme From The Godfather) - (Nino Rota cover)
18. Sweet Child O' Mine
19. Wichita Lineman - Jimmy Webb cover
20. Used to Love Her
21. My Michelle
22. Wish You Were Here - Pink Floyd cover
23. November Rain
24. Black Hole Sun - Soundgarden cover
25. Knockin' on Heaven's Door - Bob Dylan cover
29. Don't Cry
30. The Seeker - The Who cover
31. Paradise City
Guns N' Roses at New York's Madison Square Garden