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Guns N’ Roses rocked MSG again (night 2 review & setlist)

GNR MSG
GNR at MSG – 10/15/17 (photo via @tomlee718)

Since Axl, Slash, and Duff got together for the current iteration of Guns N’ Roses, they’ve been tearing a flaming swath of destruction across the planet and delivering audiences some of the most riveting, satisfying, and critically lauded rock n’ roll reunion onslaughts ever. Last night (10/15) at Madison Square Garden was their second of three shows at the venue, and their fourth area show since 10/11. Joined by Dizzy Reed, Richard Fortus, Frank Ferrer, and Melissa Reese, GNR’s prodigiously executed mix of classics, semi-deep cuts, and covers had all in attendance at MSG on their feet and scream-singing along to an extent that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. Based on the reviews that have been left in their wake across this Not in This Lifetime Tour, I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed. What I didn’t expect was a show that will have your man Klaus reeling for days to come.

Within my personal musical context, Guns N’ Roses played a very important role in the formation of my musical identity, which really started taking shape in the 5th grade in 1986/1987. Having grown up on a strict diet of the Rolling Stones specifically and classic rock in general, I was a pre-pubescent rocker obsessed with guitar based and drug addled rock music (much to my parents’ chagrin and vexation). With the purchase of my first cassette, Look What the Cat Dragged In by Poison, I began to dabble in glam metal’s prolific second wave; a genre that wore its lust for drugs, guitars, and women on its ironically androgynous sleeve. Cassettes by Poison, Bon Jovi, Enuff Z’Nuff, Mötley Crüe, Ratt, Cinderella, Extreme, and more were in constant rotation in my room. It was an amazing, heady time, even if drugs terrified me and I didn’t know what penises were for.

Then one day GNR’s “Welcome to the Jungle” flashed across my TV screen and it literally changed everything. Although Axl attempted a sort of glam metal bouffant in that video, it was obvious that the music was greasier, sleazier, darker, druggier, drunkier, STDier and heavier than the shit I was currently subjecting myself to. I was hooked. To this day, Appetite for Destruction and Lies are part of my library and get frequent play. Unfortunately, after Lies, my musical tastes became hungrier for heavier, more brutal stuff which led me down the paths of death metal, grindcore, punk and hardcore. Consequently, I never really got into subsequent GNR releases. Throughout high school I always found their anthemic and operatic songs and music videos insufferably pretentious. I also never got to see them live.

Flash forward a few decades to last night (10/15), and there I was witnessing GNR decimate MSG with a whopping 30 song setlist. If I am being honest, I wanted nothing more from this show than to hear the hits. And on that front, they not only didn’t disappoint, but they blew my mind into micro bits. Classics like “It’s So Easy”, “Welcome to the Jungle”, “Mr. Brownstone”, “Rocket Queen”, “Sweet Child O Mine”, “Nightrain”, and “Paradise City” were absolutely shattering. Slash’s (and Duff’s) riffs in these tunes are utterly timeless, and to finally see and hear them in an arena setting was a true thrill. Even songs that used to bore me to tears like their cover of Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” achieved a new level of dynamism to my ears, as did “You Could Be Mine,” a song that historically annoyed the crap out of me, but which in this instance rocked harder than I ever could have imagined. Their ballad “Civil War” not only sounded fresh and gorgeous, but it also found itself being unbearably relevant to our current life and times. They also unleashed some incredible covers including “New Rose” by The Damned, “Black Hole Sun” by Soundgarden (which they’ve been doing to pay tribute to Chris Cornell), and a blazing rendition of “The Seeker” by the Who. They also dared to tread on Holy Klaus ground by covering Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here,” which I will let slide. Check out (what I think is) the complete set list below

It goes without saying that Slash is one of the greatest guitar players of our times. No, he’s not a fretboard gymnast like Joe Satriani or Steve Vai, but his chops, his style, his feel, and his grooves are all his own and truly peerless. His solos are mesmerizing to see and hear in person. And you can’t miss with bassist Duff McKagan’s swagger. He’s a little bit Sid Vicious and a little bit Paul Simonon, and seeing him live made me realize that he too is responsible for some unbelievably signature and crucial rock licks.

What probably surprised me most about the show was frontman Axl Rose. At 55, he not only showed a surprising amount of athleticism, but his pipes were unbelievable. Song after song, he seemed to be having a genuinely raucous good time; lots of smiles, boundless enthusiasm, and an energy that defied what I’ve seen as decades of angsty curmudgeonliness. He seemed ecstatic to be alive and utterly appreciative of every single person who showed up to watch the gig.

GNR’s gig last night was a triumph. It looked and sounded as though decades of bitterness, infighting, and rockstar BS is simmering on a back-burner somewhere and that bygones are, for now at least, bygones. I urge anyone with a Rock n’ Roll bucket list to make an effort to witness GNR at this very moment in their career. They were incendiary.

GNR’s NYC-area run began on 10/11 at MSG (surprise Pink appearance included), and also hit Prudential Center on 10/12. It wraps up at MSG tonight (10/16).

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GUNS N’ ROSES : MADISON SQUARE GARDEN : OCTOBER 15, 2017
It’s So Easy
Mr. Brownstone
Chinese Democracy
Welcome to the Jungle
Double Talkin’ Jive
Estranged
Better
Live and Let Die (Wings)
Rocket Queen
You Could Be Mine
New Rose (The Damned)
This I Love
Civil War
Yesterdays
Coma
Speak Softly Love (Love Theme From The Godfather)(Nino Rota cover)
Sweet Child O’ Mine
Wichita Lineman (Jimmy Webb)
Used to Love Her
My Michelle
Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd)
November Rain
Black Hole Sun (Soundgarden)
Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan)
Nightrain

Encore:
Patience
Madagascar
Don’t Cry
The Seeker (The Who)
Paradise City

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