As a train with the Guns N’ Roses logo stormed the track at blistering speed on the United Center screens, it plowed down the names of several cities that the “Not In This Lifetime” Tour has already conquered. Chicago may have popped up pretty early in the montage, but even after two shows at the cavernous Soldier Field, the reunion between breakthrough era singer Axl Rose, guitarist Slash and bassist Duff McKagan (alongside longtime keyboardist Dizzy Reed, plus newer rhythm guitarist Richard Fortus, drummer Frank Ferrer and additional keyboardist Melissa Reese) was enough to pack the house all over again.
Sure, the guys (and girl) blazed through everything that was expected (“It’s So Easy,” “Mr. Brownstone,” “Welcome To The Jungle,” “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and many more in the back half), but Guns N’ Roses also added previously missed favorites such as “My Michelle” and “Patiently” into the proceedings.
No matter if they were repeat customers or those who jumped on board for the first time, fans didn’t just get a verbatim repeat of last round, but actually an extended trip through all six Guns N’ Roses studio albums and a pile of covers. As if the 24 tunes in 2016 weren’t enough, the latest lap ballooned to well over 30, clocking in at a staggering three-and-a-half-hours!
Sure, the guys (and girl) blazed through everything that was expected (“It’s So Easy,” “Mr. Brownstone,” “Welcome To The Jungle,” “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and many more in the back half), but Guns N’ Roses also added previously missed favorites such as “My Michelle” and “Patiently” into the proceedings. Even the remakes seemed like GNR tunes, with Wings’ “Live And Let Die” enhanced by several actual explosions, McKagan moving up to the microphone for the Misfits’ “Attitude” and Slash letting loose throughout an expert solo containing bits of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” and “Speak Softly, Love” (from “The Godfather”).
As for Rose, any breather he scored was a blessing, not just because of this set’s extreme length, but his somewhat inconsistent vocal quality that ranged from shaky to superhuman depending on the moment. Tipping his hat to the late country crooner Glen Campbell with “Wichita Lineman” was a nice sentiment, but seemed to fall flat with a crowd ready for a harder edge, as did a few too many tunes from “Chinese Democracy,” if only for a fact that most came for the classics over Rose and his revamped line-up’s overly labored project.
Regardless of the lulls, no one could point a finger at Guns N’ Roses for leaving anything essential out, especially the haunting “November Rain,” which found Rose playing piano at the end of a runaway with Slash eventually ending up at his side. It would’ve been a picture-perfect moment had the band allowed press photography, but it’s one that will at least hopefully live on in the mind’s eye of those gathered.
Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” was another surprise that offered a touching salute to Chris Cornell, Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” found a sky high Axl trading lines with the audience and “Nightrain” kept the wheels on track (despite the introductory horns malfunctioning and causing Rose to let out a mocking “choo-choo”). As the clock neared midnight, the seats started emptying, but those who stayed took the requisite trip to “Paradise City” and likely wound up thankful for another shot at what could’ve easily been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
For additional information on Guns N’ Roses, visit GunsNRoses.com.
For a list of upcoming Live Nation shows, visit LiveNation.com.
Upcoming concert highlights at the United Center include Jay-Z (Dec. 5); Andrea Bocelli (Dec. 6); Xscape (Dec. 15); 107.5 WGCI Big Jam (Dec. 30); Lana Del Rey (Jan. 11); The Killers (Jan. 16) and Shakira (Jan. 23). For additional details, visit UnitedCenter.com and Ticketmaster.com.