SAN FRANCISCO — “Not in this lifetime,” eh?
Guns N’ Roses brought its tour with that name Tuesday to San Francisco’s AT&T Park, a title referencing singer/pianist Axl Rose’s quote just four years ago about the possibility of a reunion.
But, of course, GNR lies.
For more than two-and-a-half hours Tuesday, Rose, guitarist Slash and bassist Duff McKagan joined forces with keyboardists Dizzy Reed and Melissa Reese, guitarist Richard Fortus and drummer Frank Ferrer for a triumphant gig that found pockets of strength while soothing squabbles that have marked much of Guns N’ Roses’ 31-year history.
Tuesday’s gig took around 45 minutes to find firm footing, but Guns N’ Roses lifted itself up with its cover of Wings’ “Live and Let Die.” On the song, Rose helped GNR find another gear, wailing as the song lurched into one of its “chase” sections. At the song’s end, he rode tall astride a pair of ramps, brandishing his mic stand above his head in triumph like a barbell.
While Rose’s passion helped kick GNR into gear Tuesday, so, too, did the sun fully setting. That emphasized the band’s stage setup, which involved a bevy of lights and moving video screens.
This year has felt like a redemption for Rose, who was dogged for years by a reputation as an irascible, unpredictable perfectionist. He is simultaneously leading this GNR reunion tour while taking over singing duties for Australian hard blues rock legends AC/DC.
Given Rose’s past, Tuesday’s show and the tour so far seem organized. (The loud and repeated simulated gunshots for minutes before the band took the stage Tuesday were unnecessary, however.)
The AT&T Park show marked GNR’s first Bay Area appearance since a pair of 2012 acoustic sets at the annual Bridge School Benefit, which found Rose off-key and uninterested. This time, he prowled the stage, waving and twirling his mic stand and gesticulating with gusto. His voice shows more quaver than its younger days, lifting from a war cry into a sneer.
The show was the first headlining, electric guitar-wielding Guns N’ Roses show in the Bay Area in nearly a decade, with a Chinese Democracy prep appearance coming in December 2006 at the Oracle Arena, according to Setlist.fm. It also was the first Bay Area GNR gig to feature Slash and McKagan since Day on the Green in September 1992.
While Rose was ever-intriguing, Slash played it cool all night at AT&T Park. Beneath his mountain of dark curls and sunglasses, GNR’s guitarist unleashed a torrent of impressive and speedy fretwork on a cover of the theme from “The Godfather” or hit his knees to rip a solo on “Out Ta Get Me.” When Rose left the stage for costume changes — he wore at least seven different T-shirts — Slash kept the party going with solos and covers, including a take on Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.”
Rose also changed shirts during McKagan’s center stage moment as the bassist took lead vocals on a cover of Misfits’ “Attitude.” Seeing Slash and McKagan perform songs from 2008’s Chinese Democracy is not unexpected, but still curious given its the very material that caused the split between them and Rose.
Seeing them unite on GNR’s newest material might feel awkward, but watching Slash, McKagan and Rose together again performing classics such as “Welcome to the Jungle,” “Sweet Child o’ Mine” and “Paradise City,” on the other hand, well, that felt just right.
It’s So Easy
Welcome to the Jungle
Double Talkin’ Jive
Live and Let Die
You Could Be Mine
You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory/Attitude
This I Love
Band intros into Slash solo – Speak Softly Love (Love Theme From The Godfather/Andy Williams)
Sweet Child O’ Mine
Out Ta Get Me
Jam (“Wish You Were Here/Layla”)
Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door