Okay, this one may not make a lot of friends, but I’m going to go off on a little Guns N’ Roses rant here. I’ve been a GNR fan since I first heard Appetite for Destruction in 1988. I was hooked. Of course, like everyone else, when I heard Sweet Child O’ Mine and Welcome to the Jungle, I was rocking my mullet out. But then I heard Paradise City, and realized that was it. That was my song and I was hooked for life. I never got to see the original band play. Izzy Stradlin left and was replaced by Gilby Clarke, and Matt Sorum was the new drummer replacing Steven Adler during the Use Your Illusions tour back in 1992. I had tickets for that show at BC Place with Metallica and Faith No More, but the tour was cancelled after Axl lost his voice and James Hetfield was burned by pyrotechnics in Montreal.
So I waited. Then Slash and Duff left the band, and then there was nothing. Just memories and hope. Then in 2011, Guns N’ Roses came back to Vancouver. This time, the band was Axl, Dizzy Reed on Piano, Chris Pittman on keyboard, Richard Fortus on Rhythm Guitar, Frank Ferrer on drums, Tommy Stinson on bass, Dj Ashba on lead guitar, and Ron Bumblefoot Thal on lead guitar as well. So as a long time fan, I remember sitting back calling the band “Axl & Friends”, cuz it wasn’t GNR in my eyes. Then they started playing, and they were so technically sound, and these so-called “replacements” were good. I mean really good, and really playing hard for the fans so every song, whether it was from Appetite for Destruction or Chinese Democracy, these guys were nailing it. It’s sad to say that I had never heard for some of these guys before. Dj Ashba looked like a wannabe slash, with a shrunken down top-hat, converse shoes, with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, playing a Gibsons Les Paul. Didn’t know at the time who the “Bumblefoot” guy was, but he won me over during his perfect solos during “Estranged”. They were good. So damn good that as a true GNR fan, I was accepting of this new look. In fact I fell in love with it.
So much so, when they did their residency at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, I went down for a show in 2012. Still in love. If you’ve never seen a concert at the HRH’s The Joint, you’re missing out. It’s so intimate and interactive, it’s unbelieveable. I highly recommend it. in 2014, I saw GNR play at their second HRH residency three times in six nights. I came oh so close to catching the Paradise City whistle, and would have got it too if that 6ft5 bastard hadn’t moved in front of me, and the whistle hitting him in the head then falling into his hands. I offered him $500 then $1,000 for that whistle. I got a polite “Fuck Off” for that, even when I told him it was my birthday and one of the last items on my bucket list. So I missed out. But when you’d watch a show at The Joint, the venue was so compact that the band was right there. Axl belting out every song. The band interacting with the audience right in front of you. An amazing experience.
In 2016, it was announced Axl and GNR was reuniting with Slash and Duff. Exciting times. A dream come true. But with those big names returning, you just knew the days of having that intimate and interactive concerts were over, and it was all about the money and stadium tours now. People wanted to see it. It was going to happen. And now it has. The Not In This Lifetime Tour is well underway. Gone are Pittman, Ashba, Stinson and Bumblefoot. And you know what? It’s not the same. I was so excited to see the “reunion” that I went to Las Vegas to catch the first show of this tour on April 8th, and it was in the new T-Mobile Arena. Sat in the nose bleeds and it wasn’t the same. Axl, of course, sounded fantastic. But there was just something missing for me. Yes, it ws great to see the band back together, even though Steven Adler and Izzy weren’t there. I was excited. But that intimacy wasn’t there. When your favourite songs are being played right in front of you. It was weird. They didn’t sound the same.
So this past Friday, being a GNR-aholic, I made the five hour trek to Vancouver to see Guns N’ Roses again, this time at B.C. Place. Of course I enjoyed the show. That’s my band. But this is what I’ve noticed. It’s so business like. It just doesn’t seem as fun as it was back with the old boys who were the new guys, if that makes any sense? Duff and Slash bring that aura around the band that just rocks. But in my opinion, Slash just seems to be there for business, and not for the love of the fans. He doesn’t sound as tight as he did. Adlibs a bunch of solos and it doesn’t sound like the way the song is played on the album. As a fan, I hate that. I want to hear the song the way it’s played on the album. The lyrics the same. The guitar solos the same. You get where I’m going with that. That’s what makes the sound of the song iconic. It’s what we bond to as listeners and fans of the band. And with Slash taking over the solos, it was weird to hear this guitar icon struggle during the Chinese Democracy album songs that are played. To the point, he shouldn’t play them. I thought I was just being too critical on the first night of the tour, because I watched Dj and Bumblefoot nail each song previous. But 17 months later, I can honestly say Slash, as good as the top-hat looks, doesn’t play the Chinese Democracy album very well.
Now since he left GNR, I’ve got to know Ron Bumblefoot Thal a little bit. I mean, he is the official music of Spaced Out Radio. Hearing his solo work, and concentrating solely on his music for the show, and listening to how he plays his own songs, you can hear the love and the passion. He had that same feeling when I first saw him with GNR. I actually messaged Mr. B. after the show, and told him what I thought of the reunion tour, and he said politely that it wasn’t the first time he had heard that. He’s right. Now I know he’s playing coy, well because he has to. It’s the music biz and reputation and respect is everything. I would never pressure him to open up. I don’t know him that well. But I’m sticking to my guns. No pun intended. I am a fan of the old “new” band more than the reunion.
I’ll never stray from GNR. I’m a lifer. But I have my preference, and I want Bumblefoot and DJ back in the band. Likelihood of it happening, slim to none. But I can wish. I wished for the reunion and that came true. Maybe I got one more left, then I can get that Paradise City whistle.
Dave Scott can be heard on Spaced Out Radio at www.spacedoutradio.com every Monday through Friday at 9pm Pacific, 12am Eastern. Follow Dave on Twitter @spacedoutradio and on Instagram @DaveScottSOR