THE last time Guns N’ Roses played Ireland you wouldn’t have laid any bets on them returning. The gig in the then-O2 Arena was a crazy night that was ripe for dissection on Joe Duffy’s Liveline — involving frontman Axl Rose walking off after being hit by a plastic bottle because of his dodgy singing, an angry rock mob that wouldn’t leave and a gig that went on past midnight after Axl was coaxed back on.
It was a grim time all round for LA’s most infamous rock band — the mighty had fallen. After spending the late 80s and early 90s as one of the biggest stadium rock bands in the world, Axl had lost his side man Slash and most of his other cohorts from the Appetite For Destruction days. He was touring the album Chinese Democracy, a ridiculous LP that took a decade to record, sounded like the work of 10 session bands and his voice was appalling live.
A proper GN’R reunion seemed as unlikely as Morrissey and Marr announcing a Glastonbury headliner. There’s even a separate Wikipedia page for ‘past Guns N’ Roses members’. But fast forward five years and the backbone of Axl, Slash and Duff McKagan are sleazing around stadiums worldwide, along with veteran keyboardist Dizzy Reed and a fairly solid gang to fill it out.
News of the reunion started to filter through during 2015, with Slash fuelling the flames by saying: “Never say never”. The Not In This Lifetime Tour was announced in January 2016, a new website was set up featuring the classic bullet logo and the stage was set for one of the biggest money-spinners in recent years — with the band making over €200 million so far, and 50 shows still to play this year. Many of the 80,000 fans heading to Slane tomorrow will remember GNR’s last show at Ireland’s most iconic outdoor venue in 1992.
In fairness, the setlist will probably be much the same, front-loaded with material from Appetite For Destruction, GN’R Lies and Use Your Illusions I & II. Even the most neutral of rock fans will know the drill — the likes of Welcome to the Jungle, Sweet Child O’ Mine, Paradise City, November Rain and Patience are etched onto everyone’s collective memories.
The live reviews have been pretty hysterical too. We all knew Slash and Duff would’ve been rock solid, but Axl has apparently been a revelation. There were gasps when Axl took over from Brian Johnson to front AC/DC after Johnson had to pull out — and the gasps were doubled when Axl turned up overweight, with a broken leg, in a chair.
But the AC/DC tour revitalised Rose — his voice is back to its snarliest, and while he mightn’t be sprinting across the Slane stage in bulging jocks, he won’t be letting himself down. And ‘You fat bastard’ chants at gigs are beyond the pale now anyway.