By Nidhi Sinha:
People who have been lucky enough to witness the iconic band Guns N’ Roses play live, have also been angry witnesses to the infamous habit of singer Axl Rose- his unpunctuality. The wait would eventually be worth it for them, as the band worked in tandem to produce music that sent shivers down the spine. This, however, is the pretty picture of the past.
Today the only thing keeping their magic alive is, ironically, the melodies of the past, and of course, the name ‘Guns N’ Roses’. The original line up disintegrated, piece-by-piece until Axl Rose remained the last man standing. The bitter falling apart of the original line up of the band began in the 90s, when drummer Steven Adler left the band owing to his over dependence on drugs. The final shock came in 1996, when the wildly popular guitarist Slash quit the band after differences between him and his once good friend Axl Rose became insurmountable. While Slash wanted to continue producing blues inflected rock music, Axl wanted a new, ‘industrial’ direction for the band.
It took him a good thirteen years and a lot of legal battles, but Rose managed to keep the band alive. But it is a sad truth that this new avatar, the ‘guns’, has not come close to recreating the magic of the ‘old guns’. This is probably the reason why one could hear scattered cries of “we want Slash!” in the recent concert of the band in Delhi, their first ever Indian tour.
The announcement of their Indian tour came last year, much to the excitement of their Indian fans. However, it was hard to miss the strain acknowledging the absence of Slash, or rather the entire original line up in the actual concert. It takes three guitarists to fill in the shoes of the Guitar God, and it would be unfair to blame them; yet the one thing that hasn’t changed is the uninhibited dynamism of Axl Rose. One distinctly positive change that has occurred, among the more not-so-positive ones, is the band’s extraordinary punctuality. Add to that raw, adrenaline pumping energy and classics like Sweet Child o’ Mine, and you get one brilliant live concert.
Age has encroached on the singer as far as his looks are concerned, but he sure does know the art of burning it to splinters on stage. A GN’R-illiterate person attending the concert, for the sake of it probably, would second-guess their assumption of the age betrayed by his physical appearance. The animated vigour of the rock star leaked energy that pumped the palpitating crowd, alarmingly so, in some relentless head banging cases and lent an air of ethereality to the atmosphere.
The punctuation of the classics with newer songs and covers, allowed both the old and new to harmoniously balance. Masterpieces like Welcome to the Jungle, the rock ballad November Rain, Patience and Sweet Child o’ Mine were subject to roaring welcome and heightened energy in the fans, which is no surprise. The band did full justice to these evergreen songs, albeit a few guitar glitches in some solo portions were noticeable. These glitches could largely be ignored if one soaked in the pure emotion and impulse of the music pouring down from the stage. You could close your eyes, chanting lyrics along with the rest of the crowd, and be transported to a whole different era — that in which this wonderful music was actually written. On the other hand, you could stand there and wish for those same things, chanting “we want Slash!” Most fans donned the former attitude, all credits to the new guns working hard to fill in the shoes of the old ones.
The larger picture, it is crucial to acknowledge, is that India has opened up profoundly to rock music and culture. The ugly truth remains that the worldwide rock scene has deteriorated from what it was in the later half of the 20th century; 21st century fans hold fast to those classics and reminisce of a time, which, ironically enough, they weren’t a part of.