Axl’s in town, and I’m skipping the show

Axl Rose is performing in Atlanta tonight, and barring a drop-out-of-the-sky miracle, I won’t be seeing him. This marks the first time since, oh, 1988 or so that I’ve been in the same town as a Guns n’ Roses show, and I haven’t checked it out. My younger self wants to punch me in the face right now.

Shoot, for awhile there, I didn’t even have to be the same state to see GnFnR; I remember driving from D.C. to Philly to see one show, waiting three-plus hours after Soundgarden wrapped for GnR to get their act together and get onstage, and then driving back to Washington and arriving home around 5 a.m. Yeah, that was kind of stupid.

So, yeah, I’m sitting this one out. I need to do a whole big writeup on GnR, a definitive statement of what-the-hell-this-band-all-means, but for now I’ll just say this: I don’t miss GnR enough to want to go see them again. Maybe that’s a function of the fact that this “band” is just Axl and a bunch of interchangeable cats (some of whom have been in the “band” longer than Slash and Duff ever were, but I digress). Maybe it’s a function of the iTunes era; any time I want to hear “Locomotive” or “Rocket Queen,” I don’t have to search out the CD and pop it in; I can have it cued up and playing before you finish reading this sentence. If familiarity breeds contempt, it also destroys surprise. I’ve heard all these songs too many times, too recently, for them to mean anything to me anymore.

Anyway, here they are just a few weeks ago in Rio. Axl doesn’t sound terrible, he’s just … well, he’s hitting all the right notes, I guess:

That’s “Estranged,” and it’s one of those songs that can only be transcendent to a guy totally lost and adrift and wondering what the hell to do next with his life … hypothetically speaking, of course. Twenty years after its release, with two decades’ worth of musical and cultural distance on it, the song just sounds like the kind of overproduced sludge that was the unholy offspring of the late ’80s and early ’90s. (And it doesn’t help that the band is clearly just going through the motions; check the guitarists at about the 5:35 mark. Paycheck!)

Perhaps it’d be better for songs like “Estranged” if you could just hear them a few times at a moment in your life when they meant something to you, and then never hear them again. “Stairway to Heaven” and “Freebird” are punch lines. “Imagine” is played in malls. The way that songs play upon your mind and your memory can’t be replicated, and repeating them over and over only crushes the memories into paste. It’s why Classic Rock Radio, where it still exists, is an abomination and should be killed with fire.

Anyway, Guns n’ Roses still rule, but since it’s not 1991, and it won’t be ever again, I’ll pass and stick with my memories, like the RFK Stadium mosh pit so crowded the passed-out guy near us couldn’t fall to the ground, or the Hampton Coliseum free-for-all where a whipsaw-mean Axl leaped into the crowd right over my head. (You can see that particular leap at 2:35 of the “Live and Let Die” video.)

So, good luck with the show, Axl. (Judging from this review of Orlando a couple nights back, it’ll go exactly like I’d expect.) Don’t keep showing up late to the stage, though. People won’t wait forever.

Jay

2 Responses to “Axl’s in town, and I’m skipping the show

  • Great take man. I too am a GnFR freak. They fell into my music wheelhouse by occuring in 1987. I still hold that record (I’m old and I WILL call them records) in the highest of regards.

    But a name is not a band. Axl isn’t GnR. This isn’t like the temptations where you just keep slotting new guys into spots and no one cares because they never really knew the original lineup anyway.

    Add to that the iTunes generation vs. waiting to see them on MTV or hear them on the radio, and i think we’ve seen the end of that kind of connection between artist and listener.

    FWIW, I would love to do an email back and forth (for blog purposes) or podcast like thing with someone about this band and what they meant, what they mean, and what went wrong (and right), etc.

    interested?

  • Fire away, homes.

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