Live Reviews : Guns N’ Roses & Wolfmother @ Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne 14/02/2017
It’s a rare moment that the MCG hosts a live band and uses its famous cricket ground as the venue. Following the reunion tour of The Police in 2008 (which drew a crowd of 30,000) and then the charity event in 2009 for the Victorian bush fires (which drew numbers of over 80,000), the ‘G’ would not see a crowd this size for another eight years. Now, in 2017, a crowd of 70,000 people gathered en masse to see legendary hard rockers, Guns N’ Roses perform live as a part of the Australian leg of their ‘Not In This Lifetime’ tour.
While unfortunately missing most of Wolfmother‘s set sitting down, due to the ludicrous lengths one had to walk around the venue just to find an elevator, what was apparent from the get-go was the changes in overall sound quality compared from the lower levels to the upper sections. Where Wolfmother sounded muddied and fuzzy on the ground level, where my seat was located on the third tier had far less issues with vibrations and vast echoing noise. Though I can’t speak for the standing areas, hopefully their sections sound crisp and clear enough. This, however, has always been a problem with large stadiums, and arenas like Rod Laver and Etihad aren’t free from it, either.
After almost 50 minutes of waiting (Guns N’ Roses start time was 8pm), and being subjected to the odd musical choice of Barry White, at about ten to 9, the Warner Bros. / Looney Tunes theme summoned in the beginning of the two-and-a-half hour evening. The ever-growing sea of people around and below roared into life as the lights fell, and long-time Gunners guitar technician McBob confused Melbourne for a loud cry-out of “Sydney!”, initial excitement and anticipation was soon met with confused booing. Guns N’ Roses saved themselves quickly by erupting into the one-two punch of “It’s So Easy” and “Mr. Brownstone”, and later offering apologies for the unfortunate muck-up via social media. It was a mild blotch on the evening, but something the crowd soon forgave.
Before long, the classic “Welcome to the Jungle” chimed in and the band proceeded to jump between a strong setlist, comprising old and new tracks, and a number from their fan-favourite releases, Appetite For Destruction and Use Your Illusion, parts 1 and 2. What’s most significant about this tour is the lineup, featuring original members Axl Rose, Slash, and Duff McKagan reunited and playing live together for the first time since 1993. What’s even better is that said members still have a great deal of on-stage chemistry and work brilliantly together, even after all these years and past disputes.
Slash is ever a maestro on the fretboard, having lost none of his touch over the years. You always feel as if you’re witnessing something special when he plays, and the fact a large portion of tonight’s setlist was dedicated to his solo moments was not only an entertaining choice but a wise one, too. Bassist Duff McKagan is someone who really grew into his own over the years, and it’s great seeing him be a more core part of the GnR performance, as well. Alongside a moment when he took over vocals, his presence was always felt throughout the night, and he brought both a technicality and power to his showing that was very enjoyable to watch.
Axl Rose was the surprise for me on this evening, however. I went into tonight expecting a good performance from Rose, but left remarkably surprised. Not only can he still reach and hold his notes exceptionally well, but he also still has that trademark pitch of his that sounds decidedly Axl Rose. His voice warmed up and became better over the course of the night and he also seemed to genuinely be enjoying himself and trying to do the best with it that he could. I respected that a lot.
As the songs flowed on by and the crowds sailed, sang, and danced to the notes, the telltale riffs of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” sung in following an impressive and extended solo effort by Slash. As the crowd went wild for it, it was soon followed by a wholly unexpected but amazing turn of events that saw Axl Rose introduce to the audience none other than Angus Young of AC/DC. This led into a brilliant cover section, where Young played alongside Slash and Guns N’ Roses teared through “Whole Lotta Rosie” and “Riff Raff”. The audience went ballistic for this and it was one of the many highlights of the evening. In its stead came a great moment between Slash and guitarist Richard Fortus, where the two played an instrumental cover of Pink Floyd‘s “Wish You Were Here”. Followed by the incredible trio of “November Rain” (with Rose on piano), “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” (which had the whole stadium chanting the chorus line!) and “Night Train” – the latter of being one of the heaviest displays I’ve seen – the night closed out in style with “Don’t Cry” and the ever brilliant “Paradise City”.
Along with Axl Rose’s colourful, vibrant outfits and Slash’s trademark look, tonight saw the return of an icon in the form of Guns N’ Roses reunited as it should be. It’s a night I won’t soon forget.
Guns N’ Roses wrap up their Australian tour in Adelaide and Perth. Check tickets below now!
ADELAIDE – Saturday 18 February at Adelaide Oval, ticketek.com.au or 132 849
With special guests WOLFMOTHER
PERTH – Tuesday 21 February at Perth Domain Stadium, ticketmaster.com.au or 136 100
With special guests WOLFMOTHER