When you see that iconic duo of Slash and Axl Rose back-to-back belting out a long-loved hit it’s like no time at all has elapsed.
Guns N’ Roses might have trashed hotel rooms and tour buses over the years since their Appetite for Destruction album seared its way to number one back in the late 1980s but they were all about the fans at Slane.
Kicking off the European leg of their Not in this Lifetime tour to a sold-out crowd at Slane Castle the band gave the fans exactly what they wanted — the soaring highs of rock anthems such as ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ and the reined-in energy of ‘Patience’.
I must admit that my heart broke a little bit when I saw Axl first — the snake-hips and manic energy have given way to a heavier and older version of himself. But, thinking rationally, a lot of the fans at Slane on Saturday wouldn’t look too hot in the school uniforms they wore when they bought their first Guns N’ Roses cassette either.
And when Axl took in some of the thrilled reaction from the 80,000-strong crowd lining the natural amphitheatre that is Slane, he seemed to relax back into the swaggering, raspy-voiced star people had travelled to experience for themselves.
A GnR show is so much more than Axl’s distinctive voice — they served up hard rock hits with a superb mix of showmanship and strut. Leather, check shirts, bandannas — and of course Slash’s trademark top hat and mop of jet black hair.
We expect our rock stars to party hard and live life to excess — and then act surprised when some of that drip-feed of Jack Daniels takes its toll on one of the world’s best-selling bands of all time.
But the years of hedonism and rebellion seem to have actually suited lead guitarist, Slash. He delighted long-time fans with aggressive solos on his lizard-green guitar and wrung the intoxicatingly gritty notes of ‘Paradise City’ and ‘Mr Brownstone’ out into the warm night air with an ease that showcased his genuine skill.
Duff McKagan, who was the band’s bassist from 1985-1997 is back in a more confident role — one time he was in danger of imploding in a burst of liquor abuse, eyeliner and teased, bleached hair. Now, he’s lean and weathered-looking and definitely pulling his weight onstage.
There was a particularly poignant rendition of Soundgarden’s ‘Black Hole Sun’ as a tribute to singer Chris Cornell who died earlier this month.
Drummer, Frank Ferrer, guitarist Richard Fortus, drummer Frank Ferrer, and keyboardist Melissa Reese weren’t in the original line-up but fitted in flawlessly and looked the part too. The band didn’t spend a lot of time on banter with the crowd and instead served up hit after hit.
Though Axl did salute ‘Lord Henry’ — Slane Castle owner, Henry Mountcharles — who couldn’t attend due to illness.
‘You Could Be Mine’ and ‘Nighttrain’ were spot-on and fans revelled in the three-hour gig.
Some had even travelled from the US for this concert — booking tickets before American dates were announced.
While there were lengthy delays getting into and out of the concert venue and security was tightened — the crowd was genuinely appreciative of the style and talent of one of the quintessential big rock bands of the past four decades.
Many Slane veterans opted for one of the two campsites located next to the venue rather than face the queues heading for the main road — and were delighted that the heavier rain of earlier in the day held off for the duration of the gig.
In true rock tradition, Axl flung his mic into the crowd after the final song and then a pyrotechnics display brought the epic concert to a close — leaving fans satisfied that Guns N’ Roses served up a performance of a lifetime.
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