Speaking to the Irish Examiner several months ago, former Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash seemed ambivalent about his upcoming arena tour. He had enjoyed performing in small sweaty clubs: in stepping up to larger spaces might some of the backstage drama which had ultimately led to his departure from Guns N’ Roses manifest once again?
At 3Arena you initially shared his misgivings. Where Slash’s 2013 show at the more intimate Olympia was rollicking and electric, here the yawning dimensions initially resulted in a slightly flat atmosphere. It didn’t help that, though Slash was undoubtedly the star, he wasn’t the frontman: that job was filled by Myles Kennedy, a journeyman who, while he could approximate the live-wire shriek of Guns leader Axl Rose, lacked his dark charisma.
The song choices felt iffy too. The band were promoting their satisfying new album, World On Fire. And yet, though justifiably proud of a very solid LP, initially there was too much of a focus on Slash’s post-Guns N’ Roses output. He teased with a zesty reprising of ‘Night Train’, GNR’s irresistible valentine to a brand of cheap wine. However, that was just two songs in: thereafter there was lots (and lots) from World On Fire and 2012 forerunner Apocalyptic Love. The indulgence reached a nedar on ‘30 Years of Life’, an odyssey which, or so it felt, went on longer than a Peter Jackson Middle Earth movie.
Happily that was the turning point. Soon afterwards, the group reached for ‘Rocket Queen’, a standout from Guns N’ Roses timeless debut LP, Appetite For Destruction. This was followed by the excellent title track from World On Fire and then, to the palpable joy of those in attendance, ‘Sweet Child O Mine’, surely one of the finest headbanger anthems committed to vinyl (the song achieves the difficult feat of feeling simultaneously aggressive and vulnerable).
Here Slash was in his element. In his iconic metal-rimmed top hat, he strode back and forth, preening but never crassly exhibitionist. His playing was immaculate – at once bombastic yet, in the flesh, curiously sensitive and nuanced. You could understand why he is regarded as one of the greatest axe-men in the history of heavy rock. Underneath the noise and bombast, he’s a guitar hero with soul – a quality that sets him apart and ensured that, despite an underwhelming opening, this was ultimately a performance to remember.