Music Reviews — 14 February 2012
Guns N’ Roses at Terminal 5: A Concert Review

Guns N’ Roses
Terminal 5, New York, NY
February 12th, 2012

It should come as no surprise that as the clock read 2:16am Monday morning, a sea of rabid fans remained standing inside west side music venue Terminal 5. The last speckle of confetti had fallen to the floor as an all too familiar face joined arms with his talented albeit lesser known bandmates, basking in collective accolades and bowing before a raucous and drained audience. Late Sunday night, enigmatic and iconic frontman Axl Rose and a rejuvenated Guns N’ Roses lineup took the stage for their second of three intimate Manhattan shows at three different venues (the final of which takes place on Wednesday, February 15th, at a sold out Webster Hall). With a set eerily similar to their November appearance at New Jersey’s Izod Center, the new GNR pared down the stage size and theatrics but brought the same intensity to a small New York City audience.

With rumors of a sellout largely just that and with tickets being released earlier in the day, we wondered how sparse the crowd on hand would be on this night. Turns out, Terminal 5 wound up being more packed than ever. Notorious for Rose’s late night start times, as we arrived at the venue at 11pm anticipating a long night ahead, seemingly each of our fellow New Yorkers did the same and the line sprawled down the block even further west than we previously imagined. Inside, standing room was scarce from most vantage points but just as we’d gotten settled in a space, the lights went down. It was 11:36pm and we were in for a two and a half hour roller coaster of familiar hits and new songs meshed together and delivered by one of the most polarizing and controversial rock figures of all time.

The show itself was excellent. The band, tight as ever, authentically recreated the now legendary songs of GNR’s catalog with precision. Rose himself managed to hit and hold many of the same extended and high pitched screams that he made famous over twenty years ago, although as the show wore on his voice did seem to wane a bit. Unfortunately, the feedback on Rose’s microphone acted as a pervasive deterrent throughout the performance, marring many of the songs despite the singer’s growing displeasure and the constant alternating of his mics. The crowd joked accordingly that Rose, notorious for being an incredibly high maintenance prima donna type, might storm off suddenly. But to his credit, he worked through the hindrance and continued the show. Despite any distraction, the experience of seeing a superstar of his caliber in a venue of this size would not be tarnished, as the talented troop of musicians around him catered to his vocal abilities, by playing the GNR songs as they were meant to be heard.

Traditional GNR staples like “Welcome to the Jungle,” “It’s So Easy,” and “Mr. Brownstone” pulverized the live crowd, who joined with Rose in unison to ring out each and every word. “Rocket Queen” and “Estranged” back to back was perhaps the show’s highlight, showcasing the band’s abilities to speed up and reduce the tempo melodically, perfectly pacing Rose’s onstage dance shuffles. Even newer songs like “Madagascar” and “Better” from 2008’s ‘Chinese Democracy’ were warmly received by the jam packed crowd, and “This I Love” was downright excellent in the live setting. But the fans were here to catch a glimpse of Rose performing the hits- and he delivered with just about all of them. From “You Could Be Mine” to “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” “November Rain” to “Nightrain,” “Don’t Cry” to “Patience” to the closer, “Paradise City,” with their killer AC/DC cover of “Whole Lotta Rosie” thrown in between, Rose and company left no classic Guns’ song untouched. The passionate applause given to the band as a sea of red confetti blew out into the air above the standing crowd on the floor was a sign of appreciation from an audience uncertain as to when they may see Rose perform again in person. And if this evening was in fact the last time, there is a certain level of satisfaction that can be taken knowing that the man left everything he had on the stage, with a performance that over-delivered on any reasonable expectation.

While the show was lengthy, it’s time to give Axl Rose some credit. He could have easily rested on his laurels as a societally puzzling lead singer from a band that fell by the wayside in 1994. As a reclusive figure who’s been out of the spotlight for the better part of two decades, he could have easily stayed sheltered from a permanently changed musical landscape. Instead, he collected a group of incredible musicians that stay true to the signature Guns N Roses sound, playing every one of the band’s notable hits in a comprehensive set, and manages to do so with the same divisive and notorious behavior that he did in his prime. And thousands of fans will still spend their money to come out and see him perform.

- Jane Van Arsdale

Guns N’ Roses – Live at Terminal 5

New York, NY

February 12th, 2012

1. Dexter Intro
2. Chinese Democracy
3. Welcome To The Jungle
4. It’s So Easy
5. Mr. Brownstone
6. Sorry
7. Rocket Queen
8. Estranged
9. Live and Let Die
10. This I Love
11. Motivation (Tommy Stinson)
12. Street of Dreams
13. You Could Be Mine
14. Sweet Child O’ Mine
15. November Rain
16. Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door
17. Nightrain
18. Madagascar
19. Don’t Cry
20. Better
21. Whole Lotta Rosie (AC/DC Cover)
22. Patience
23. Paradise City

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