SINGAPORE: It finally happened. It’s no longer a fanboy’s dream. On Saturday (Feb 25), Guns N’ Roses played their first ever concert in Singapore.
Sure, it was only three-fifths of the legendary Los Angeles rockers with original members Izzy Stradlin and Steven Adler not on board the current marathon Not In This Lifetime world tour. But the classic line-up of lead singer Axl Rose, guitarist Slash and bassist Duff McKagan all came prepared to perform for a crowd they knew had a nostalgic appetite for some heyday destruction. Right from the first strains of It’s So Easy and Mr Brownstone, GNR were determined to bring the Generation X and XY crowd back to their glory days.
Tearing through a 27-song setlist is no mean feat, especially for ageing rockers. But that they did efficiently, punching through most of their greatest hits with all the verve rockers above the mid-century mark can muster.
As a result, fans were taken down a sentimental trip to the paradise city of their youth for a gratifying two hours and 45 minutes. It may be lowered expectations talking here, given the band’s tumultuous history. But on stage, GNR delivered with an energy that felt like 1987 all over again. By the time they got to Welcome to the Jungle, it was evident that the trio has managed to iron out (or look beyond) whatever issues they might have had in the past. Back in the day, Guns N' Roses had the lot - attitude, bravura, skills and the hit songs to back it all up. They knew it back then, and thankfully for fans, they knew it last night in Singapore as well.
Between Rose’s wailing and wiggling (he’s still nailing that signature snake-like dance); top-hatted Slash’s guitar-god solos and McKagan’s rumbling basslines, all the GNR hallmarks were present and accounted for.
Powering through songs like the much-maligned Chinese Democracy, Estranged, Rocket Queen and Civil War, the intensity rose with the swell of the massive crowd as the hits kept coming.
Some highlights include hearing the exalted guitar intro of Sweet Child O' Mine followed by an open-air karaoke session with the entire crowd screaming word for word alongside Rose; great covers of Wings’ Live and Let Die and Bob Dylan’s Knockin' on Heaven’s Door (with Rose asking Singapore to sing along with him); as well as the powerful escape of listening to Yesterdays and Paradise City live. It was a shame we didn’t get the old chestnut that is crowd favourite Don’t Cry but the haunting Patience was excellent appeasement.
The night’s biggest props must go to superstar guitar god Slash who unsurprisingly wowed on the instrument throughout, whether he was playing the double-neck electric guitar behind his head (yes, behind his head) or giving us an enthralling rendition of The Godfather love theme Speak Softly Love. It was quite the marvel seeing him go full-on fretboard virtuosity in a guitar duet with Richard Fortus on Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here or cover the coda of Layla as he segued into the iconic November Rain. Having Rose then tinkle the ivories of a grand piano that popped up at the end of the stage really capped the moment.
Indeed, Rose’s vocals were a little rough around the edges on some numbers, but for the most parts, his trademark yowling is still admirable. His voice has certainly held up much better compared to some of his other famous screaming rockstar peers. And even though his red bandana might be spread across his face a little wider and his ripped jeans stretched out a few sizes bigger, we still got the legendary Axl Rose on stage, bouncing about like an incredible teenager and fully earning every dollar he’s being paid.
Admittedly, GNR are no longer the lightning bolt of sex, swagger and rock 'n' roll they used to be back in the day. But hey, neither are us fans. They’ve grown older and so have we. And looking round at the heaving Singapore crowd, no one was interested in seeing GNR do something new. Everyone was there to relive the glory days and karaoke along with a band whose seminal hits marked many a poignant moment during all of our growing-up years. We were there for Appetite for Destruction. We wanted both Use Your Illusions. We longed to hear every single one of their hits and reminisce the feel-good rebellion that comes from being a GNR fan. We yearned to see an iconic rock band lay it all out on the stage and perform their hearts out, whatever their age may be. And with GNR's Not In This Lifetime tour, we got what we came for.