Guns N’ Roses & The Cult Snake Dance & Riff at New Orleans’ Superdome (SHOW REVIEW)

The lines were long, the seats were packed and $40 t-shirts were flying off the shelves. GNR fans of all ages were ripe for this show, which brought Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan back onstage together after many, many years apart. Playing a venue the size of the Superdome in New Orleans might have seemed daunting to some bands but to Guns N Roses, and opening band The Cult, this was a magical place. Pyro exploded, drums pounded, Axl snake-danced and Slash did what Slash does best – playing his guitar like a hellion.

For all those who have spent the last 20 years plus hollering for a reunion of the original five, this was pure satisfaction – although drummer Steven Adler and guitar player Izzy Stradlin were nowhere in sight. But the core was there and that brought the fans out into the Louisiana humid heat like moths to a flame. Even though in recent years two of the original three have ventured out on their own, forming bands, writing books, recording music and touring, Rose has kept Guns N Roses firmly in his grip, finally releasing new music via Chinese Democracy in 2008 and solidifying a group of musicians that worked hard and were never really given the recognition they deserved. In 2012 and 2014, they did two extremely popular residencies in Las Vegas. But timing was almost perfect for the reunion to happen at this time, as Slash’s solo band’s singer Myles Kennedy was about to go back to work with his other band, Alter Bridge, in 2016.

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So the reunion rumors started and eventually proved to be true. Thunderchucker Frank Ferrer and guitar player Richard Fortus remained in the line-up from the “new era” incarnation of the band; Dizzy Reed, with twenty-six years as a member, was on piano; and new keyboardist Melissa Reese filled out the reunion tour brigade. The tour began with a “secret” show at the Troubadour Club in Hollywood – where Axl broke his left foot and ended up in Dave Grohl’s throne to continue upcoming shows with GNR and AC/DC – two big shows in Las Vegas and headlining slots at Coachella. Seventeen shows in, they hit New Orleans.

The stage was huge with massive screens on each side, with Rose and Slash getting the most face time, which is only natural. Fans wanted to see Rose side-by-side with his past partner in rock and find out if there was still some musical chemistry between them. McKagan had been onstage with Rose numerous times since leaving the band in the late 1990’s but Slash has not. And yet it almost seemed like old times up there. Slash ran and stutter-stepped across the length of the stage, playing his solos with his faithful Gibson propped on his leg, the top hat never wavering. But the big interactions between him and Rose were minimal, each concentrating on their own thing. McKagan was the solid rock, looking extremely comfortable, his voice sounding better than it did in the nineties.

gnr55And Rose? Let me put it this way: the smile looked real, he was playful and energetic, doing his slithery dance like he was still the hayseed kid from Indiana with barely enough food to survive on but enough rock dreams to give 110% each night on a Hollywood stage. This reunion tour has given Rose a new regeneration and it certainly looked good on him. He was in shape, physically and vocally, and he singed the crowd with screams that almost blew out their eardrums.

There were numerous highlights during the night. Slash did his “Godfather” theme to mere perfection, just changing something slightly on the tail end of it before kicking straight into “Sweet Child;” Rose playing the coda to “Layla” on the piano to segue into “November Rain,” which was kept low on extravagance (a la in Vegas with the piano going out over the crowd), allowing the core of the song to shine through;” McKagan bringing his punk roots out on The Damned’s “New Rose;” “Rocket Queen”s double guitar solos between Fortus and Slash, who was on a talk box; as well as their fret-duet on “Wish You Were Here;” “Double Talkin’ Jive” and “Estranged.”

It was a little strange seeing Slash play the solo in “This I Love” after hearing Dj Ashba own it so many times (but the song really belongs to Reed and his lovely piano work). The same with “Better” having had Bumblefoot on the double-neck. But Fortus kept everything real and played them both with passion alongside Slash and McKagan. It was also puzzling to see some of the crowd sit down during “Coma,” as if disinterested. But they were over-the-top from the first notes of “Live & Let Die,” “Welcome To The Jungle” and “Sweet Child.” And Rose still brings out the rebellious inner teen in all of us with his flurry of “naughty” words and middle fingers, a la “It’s So Easy,” “Out Ta Get Me” and “Nightrain.”

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The Cult was also reborn last night, proving they need to be on the big stage instead of in clubs. Ian Astbury came alive like he hasn’t in the last few years and just lit up from the inside out, with Billy Duffy not far behind him. John Tempesta was a force on the drums, as always, Damon Fox did double-duty on guitar and keys, and Grant Fitzpatrick kept everything rolling in a rhythm. At one point, before launching into “Sweet Soul Sister,” Astbury told the crowd, “I can’t see you but I can feel you,” and reminded everyone, “This ain’t for memories, this is for now.” “The Phoenix,” “Love Removal Machine” and “Lil Devil” were especially energized, with Duffy soaring away on guitar.

At the end of the night, when the pyro smoke had cleared and the confetti had drifted down to the floor, I encountered a dome full of happy people, all of them talking about “kick ass” guitar solos and Rose “killing it” on vocals. How long this celebration of music will continue is still up in the air but more dates will probably come about, if the comments of those in the Superdome are proof enough to keep them going. How could you not keep giving the fans what they have so desperately wanted all these years. And doing it so damn good.

 

Live photographs by Katarina Benzova

Guns N’ Roses Setlist Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA, USA 2016, Not in This Lifetime

 

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8 Responses

  1. The Cult were absolutely fantastic. They’ve been dinged over the years for changing their sound and style but they always rocked. I thought they were especially good and really did a fantastic job in advance of one of the most anticipated main acts in many, many years. A fantastic show with two kick-azz bands.

  2. Rewind 30 years, and I was at the San Diego State University amphitheater watching Guns ‘n Roses open for The Cult!

  3. I saw this band years ago, and this was a far better show. The music was solid, the crowd was rocking with them. I don’t believe I have ever seen a better show.

  4. I went to DFW show last night and I did not sit once… not even to Coma… which is my second favorite song after Civil War. I also noticed the crowd messed up Knockin on Heavens Door…. and didn’t chant Guns N Roses prior to the Encore. Also, “fans” began leaving by the hundreds prior to the encore (Patience and Paradise City). Gun N Roses rocked it but the crowd was disappointing.

    The only beef I have is GNR not playing “Don’t Cry”… but I just listened to it on the way home. Show was way better than the 1992 tour with Metallica. Axl was just having fun and enjoying the moment!

  5. I’ve waited 23 years for them to come back to the big easy. and damn if it wasn’t worth the wait.. They sounded better live than recorded. they hit the stage at 9:30 sharp and rocked non stop through midnight. There was no faking the funk. everybody felt it. bring on the next album. ABUSE YOUR ILLUSIONS. Keep the big beautiful black drummer, he is the best yet. 3 ballads 3 punkmetal tunes a couple of dirty ol F u tunes and a cover of Hearts barracuda. laced with testosterone driven rage. and as it ends you hear that familiar cough straight into sweetleaf. …………………………………………..or not…………………..gnr…still a force to be admired.

  6. I was too young and broke to see GnR from ’87-’93, but I was hypnotized by their dirty, street wise hard rock since the age of ten. I have seen many of my second favorite bands over the years… Page and Plant, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Metallica, Stone Temple Pilots, etc.

    The show in the Superdome was heaven for me. You know that feeling on a roller coaster that envelopes you in an adrenaline high? I felt this way for two and a half hours that Sunday night. It wasn’t just because I’ve been a fanboy of GnR for so long, because I’ve been burnt by their lack of music production and Axls failure to complete a tour that I had tickets to in the mid 2000’s. It was due to the fact that THEY were everything I had imagined I missed in the earliest if the 90’s. Slash was a nonstop show of force. Duff was the backbone, as always. Richard Fortus was like a modernized, buff version of Izzy. Mr. Ferrers playing was just the right parts groovy and bombastic. AXL. Axl was slaying his demons from the past with every note he hit, every smile he flashed, and his new ability to not let little things get in the way of his performance.

    I believe I got a more satisfying experience from this incarnation of GnR than I would have in 1992. The only thing I want now is…. MORE!

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