Many years ago, I was in line to get into the Odeon in Saskatoon to see Hawksley Workman. This drunk dude stumbled down the street and asked us what the line was for. Someone told him it was Guns N’ Roses, who were broken up or fighting with each other or something at the time.
“YEAH,” said our new drunken friend, “GUNS IS FUCKIN’ ROSES.”
They sure is.
And I really thought that was as close as I’d ever come to seeing Guns N’ Roses, but here we are. Remember how Mika initially really wanted to go to Bryan Adams despite having never shown any previous interest in Bryan Adams? That was kind of the situation here again. Guns N’ Roses was announced for our new stadium well before Adams was, and Mika seemed real keen on going. Me? I dunno. I knew all the big hits but I also didn’t care so much. But I’ll go to pretty much anything for any reason, and Mika wanting to go is reason enough.
Plus, who figured this would ever happen? They were giant stars but also the textbook example of rock n’ roll scandal and excess. Books have been written about their troubled history and it would take someone far more knowledgeable than me to put together the timeline of breakups, reunions, and personnel changes. The idea that they’d hit a point where something vaguely resembling the classic lineup was able to survive an entire tour together was inconceivable. But here we are.
I mentioned that I am not really a Guns N’ Roses fan. Really, I shouldn’t approach this like a normal review. It should be more of a fish-out-of-water piece, like when Vice sends a writer to a Trump rally or the Gathering of the Juggalos. That said, my only initial observation about G’n’R fans is that they obey no rule about not wearing the band’s shirt to their own concert.
We got to the mall at about 5:30 to catch the stadium shuttle. They’ve finally got the get-to-the-stadium part relatively down. We were on a bus and in motion within 15 minutes. A line of similar length took an hour and 15 minutes for Bryan Adams, causing us to miss the first few songs from Our Lady Peace. This time, we got inside, walked up the ramp, and came out on our level just in time for the first few songs by Our Lady Peace.
Since tickets went on sale so long ago, I had to buy them before ever having visited our new stadium. Also, I didn’t want to spend a ton of money. Folks, I have to tell you, mistakes were made. I knew we were close to the stage and up high, but we were much closer and much higher than I remembered. We were in the back row of the section, looking down on the stage from the side. The view was less than ideal. The sound, worse. And we were all the way on the opposite side of the stadium from the buses, ensuring that it would be a long wait to get home. James, this was not your finest work. In fact, I’d go so far as “catastrophic failure.”
So, Our Lady Peace. I had hopes that since they’d just played here three months ago, we’d get a different set of tunes. Nope! It was almost the exact same setlist. The good news is we showed up in time to hear Naveed and Superman’s Dead this time. The bad news is that the sound was worse – but again, that was a function of where we were sitting. I don’t blame them for the sound. I do blame them for not mixing things up at all. Whatever. Much like last time, this was fine if not thrilling.
OLP finished at 7:00 and Guns N’ Roses was scheduled to start at 7:30. Mika had been told that G’n’R was starting an hour late in each city along this tour. If anything, this seemed awfully optimistic judging by Axl Rose’s long and storied past. I gave it some time for the first wave of people to disperse and at about 6:50, I left in search of food. Ridiculous lineups at every vendor, of course. For convenience’s sake, I went to the one nearest our seats and got poutine since it appeared to be the only thing they sold with a lid – and I’d need that assistance when carrying the snacks back to my seat, since I also got us each a bottle of water and I wasn’t allowed to keep the caps on them. It was an awkward walk back.
Anyway, my foreshadowing is never subtle and you’ve already figured out that Guns N’ Roses started at 7:30 on the nose and I missed the first song or two. I’d tell you what they were, but I have no idea. I went into the show wondering just how many G’n’R songs I actually knew. Talking to Mika, I figured there were actually quite a few – but the sound was so muddy where we were that there were a lot of songs that sounded familiar but I couldn’t quite place. She even said something similar and she’s much better at Name That Tune than I am. All of the really big singles were apparent, of course – Welcome to the Jungle, November Rain, Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, You Could Be Mine, stuff like that. There was an unexpected cover of Black Hole Sun, which I assume was a tribute to the late Chris Cornell. That was nice. And they played Live and Let Die with extra pyro. I’ve said this before but pyrotechnics are my least favourite of all the -technics, and while our seats may have sucked if we wanted to see or hear the band, they were GREAT if you wanted to be close to fireworks and other explosions. Which I assure you I did not.
I’m just gonna say this – I was not the intended audience for this show and I did not dig it at all. Everyone else I heard from loved it. Listen to them and not to me. I’m the problem here. Put me in better seats, and I’d likely have had a good time. I mean, there are all kinds of bands that I don’t really care about that I’d go see just for the spectacle of it all, and this was quite a spectacle. And the songs I knew (and could make out) were enjoyable despite everything. Maybe we should have left our seats and watched the show standing on the concourse level. Lots of people sitting near us did that. Or maybe I should have just held off on buying tickets – the show didn’t come close to selling out, and on the day of the show, one friend got decent seats for much cheaper than ours, and another saw $250-per-person floor seats going for around what we paid. There are multiple lessons here.
Having dealt with several bus debacles leaving the stadium, we skipped out on the encore in favour of a quicker departure (so no Paradise City for us). This turned out to be a surprisingly amusing decision since we wound up near some of the drunkest humans I’ve seen in quite some time. One man in particular told a loud story about how he met a lady at the show and she gave him her number and they kissed and it was his “first kiss in a looooooooong time.” He then detailed his plans to continue drinking (“water’s for pussies”) and how he lost his hotel key but was going to talk the hotel clerk into letting him into the room even though it was under someone else’s name. Then he expressed a great interest in getting some cocaine and declared that a woman he was sitting with was “the coke queen of Yorkton.” He then backtracked, with a really loud and exaggerated “I’M JUST KIDDING ABOUT THAT. ONLY KIDDING.” And then we got to the mall and he peed on the side of it. I avoided eye contact with Mika for the entire bus ride home because I’d have lost it otherwise. Good sir, you and your cocaine and pee salvaged my evening.
• The Sadies (September 14)
• BA Johnston (September 15)
• Steve Earle & The Dukes (September 27)
• The New Pornographers w/Born Ruffians (October 6)
• Whitehorse w/Terra Lightfoot (October 13)
• Sarah Slean (October 14)
• Martha Wainwright (October 22)
• David Myles w/Port Cities (October 24)
• Headstones w/SNAKEandtheCHAIN (November 17)
• Cold Specks (November 24)
• Tanya Tagaq & the Regina Symphony Orchestra (November 25)
When Mike and I went to Taranna a couple of weeks ago, Appetite was on my search list. What?!?! you say? I don’t already own it? Nope. I used to own it, have done several times, along with both the Illusion records. But somewhere along the line, need for money always outweighs my need for Axl (Slash was the harder to let go, believe me) and I always ditched them in a cull.
Our local shops always seemed to sell it for $8 which, to me, was too much to buy a record I’ve probably owned three times in my life already. I thought I’d get a cheap copy in Taranna, but neither BMV nor Sonic Boom even had a copy at all. Completely Appetite-less. So, I came home empty-Guns-handed.
At the mall tonight, and our shite little HMV had a copy for $5, brand new (parental advisory sticker and all). I had to go for it, and I did. And it’s glorious. What a fuckin’ record. I mean seriously, my word.
Welcome to The Jungle / It’s So Easy / Night Train / Out Ta Get Me / Mr. Brownstone / Paradise City / My Michelle / Think About You / Sweet Child O’ Mine / You’re Crazy / Anything Goes / Rocket Queen.
Fuuuuuck. Fuuuuuuuuck!!! HELL YEAH!!
This is balls-out, brash, and fuck-you, in your face, totally seething rock and roll as it is absolutely meant to be played. I knew every word to every song. They’re in my memory from so many spins in the past, hell, they’re part of my DNA. I think that’s probably true for all of us. My even typing these sentences is likely superfluous. We all know this record forwards and backwards.
I had no business being without a copy of this album. This was WAY past due.
Glorious! \m/ \m/
Good ol’ Guns ‘N Roses. Seriously. They’re one of a kind and, in their heyday, they were as unstoppable as a locomotive running without brakes down a mountain. This disc is too short, but I guess it’s too late to change that now.
Of course, the first four tracks are the tracks from the Live ?!*@ Like A Suicide EP…
Reckless Life’s absolutely driving beat and pure blues rawk is sure to get you on your feet and slamming into stuff. If it doesn’t, you must be a corpse. Nice Boys keeps the pace, if not speeding it up a bit more, and continues to throttle you. Move To The City is a bouncy rocker (with a horn section!) that’s very satisfying. I’m only into the third track and already I’m wishing Axl would listen to this era again and come back with a quickly (!) recorded record that rocks us all to death. I know he could do it – their entire early career is proof… And, of course, their cover of Aerosmith’s Mama Kin is note-perfect. Hot damn.
The last four tracks on this disc were recorded on acoustic guitars. Patience, of course, is a monster hit. I’ll bet that you can whistle not only the intro but the entire guitar solo RIGHT NOW. Used To Love Her was too, at least, it was among the friends I had in high school. You’re Crazy is the same song as on Appetite, but on acoustic and slowed down. Very funky! And One in A Million is the other whistled-intro tune (in case Patience didn’t take off, a back-up plan?). It’s a solid tune but wow, the lyrics are really something… must’ve been a calculated effort to tick somebody off. The label, maybe?
In all, a solid disc, think of it as a double EP. Oh who am I kidding, you all own this and know way more about it than I do. As you were.
Here’s the next batch of your favourites!
05 IRWIN: Bob Dylan – Oh Mercy
Irwin is the biggest Bob Dylan fan I know (and I know several). His response came back to the Favourites query immediately, with Oh Mercy. I trust he’s heard most of the Dylan catalogue by now and, of them all, this is the one for him.
I’ve already reviewed this record in these pages, and it is indeed a brilliant collection from a peerless artist. It is another of Dylan’s generous efforts to wake us up, to shake us out of our complacency and do something about the world and our lives. Dylan knows his role perfectly well. Do you?
06 SHENA: Belle And Sebastian – Tigermilk
Our great friend Shena from the mighty Mint Records chimed in with Belle and Sebastian as her favourite, and I was so glad she did. I remember loving this album the first time I heard it, and it sent me running to find everything else they’d recorded, but to be honest I haven’t played it in so long, which is a real shame… however, here was the perfect opportunity to strap back in!
Few bands can offer up a debut album this infectious, this excellent, this delicious. Every note is perfectly placed, every song is delivered with a clever wink and a knowing smile, and their playful, clear sound reigns supreme. Thank you, Shena, for reminding me that this gem of an album belongs in my playlist!
07 MY MOM: Carole King – Tapestry
My Mom selected this as her favourite record, which surprised me a bit, at first. I would have lost money by betting on sure shots like the Beatles or Elvis.
Well, I played this record and my childhood came flooding back. I knew every song, and it’s because that beat up copy of this record got a lot of play. It’s probably still somewhere in the house we grew up in. Funny how you can associate songs and albums with people and places. Mom had the jukebox full of 45s, hence my sure bets that lost, but this LP was always present too.
And what did I think of it now? Well, my memory didn’t do it much justice. There’s more here than I remembered, smarter songs and power unremembered. Yes, a lot of these songs get played as background music in malls now, and that’s pretty sad. There’s plenty more to it than that. Way to go, Mom.
08 MY DAD: Beatles – Hey Jude
My Dad knows what he likes when it comes to music, but not always the names of the artists or albums. That kind of information doesn’t interest him at all. After seeing Forrest Gump, he said, “There was music?” And so on.
This song and artist, however (of course), he knows. It’s his favourite song of all time. It was on my Mom’s jukebox all those years, and the one he liked to hear best. Of course, when we were kids we liked it well enough, but it just went on and on (and it really does, especially at the end). “Great song in need of editing. Apply within.” And it is a great song, with an interesting history that you should look up on Wikipedia, some time (especially the bit about Lennon swearing during it).
I couldn’t find an album this came from (although it’s long enough to be it’s own album, haha). If you know more than me, I’ll happily be enlightened by your comments. Looks to me like this was only ever on a 45. But we’ll let Dad away with it for this project, because he really, really likes this song.
09 MY SISTER: Black Crowes – The Southern Harmony And Musical Companion
I am totally not surprised that my sister chose this as her favourite record. She’s one of the biggest Crowes fans I know, has been for years. There was a time when I loved the Black Crowes, especially this one and its predecessor. As they progressed, I sort of lost interest in them. They had great songs after that, in my opinion, but they never topped this (sophomore) album.
Every song here is a gem. At many points, the record really rocks with their Stones-inspired bluesy swagger, and then at other times it can be so gentle it hurts. There’s the obvious hits, and hidden masterpieces worthy of every playlist. It’s messily perfect, in every way.
10 RUTH: Guns ‘N Roses – Appetite For Destruction
Some of the responses to this query have surprised me a bit, like this one from Ruth. Not that I’m faulting her for making this choice – this is a fantastic record. But sometimes you think you generally know someone and then they come up with something that doesn’t quite fit what you’d have guessed. This, may I say for the record, rules. I love that things are unpredictable.
Appetite has already been reviewed in these pages, and I stand by what I said. It’s a sweet blast of sweaty rock that is as much raw punk as it is 80’s hair metal. And, even more so, it is all about Slash. That Les Paul guitar dominates this record.
Good ol’ Guns N’ Roses. I love ‘em. Oh, think of me what you will for saying it, I don’t care. These guys sounded unlike anything else out there and, frankly, they still do today. They mattered, and for good reason. And yeah, they’ve become somewhat of a joke around music circles since they disbanded. We all knew Axl was dealing with his own crap, but when he announced the imminent release of their new record, Chinese Democracy, several years ago, people laughed when nothing has yet come of it. But, whatever. They were vital when it counted.
I was feeling nostalgic recently, so I threw this old friend named Appetite into the player. That buzz saw intro right off the top of the first track still sends shivers down my spine all these years later (ye gods, it was 21 years ago!). As the song builds it just takes off and the damn thing never even comes close to touching down. The whole album is like that. It’s all jagged sounds, cowbells in pretty much every song, and the sense that this controlled chaos could fall apart at any moment… yet it never quite does.
The key to listening, as I’ve learned over all of these years of doing just that, is to focus your attention on what Slash is doing. The riffs, the solos, all of it. Sure, it’s easy to be distracted by what Axl’s screaming about debauchery and addictions and misogyny and whatever else. It is equally easy to allow the pummeling beat from the bass and drums combination make you shake whatcha got like Baloo the Bear, but don’t be misled. The real beauty and power in this record (and, frankly, on all of their releases) rests in what Slash relentlessly rips from his powerful Les Paul. Here is where the music soars, lives and breathes. Here is a serrated edge on the finely honed thing we call the blues. Damn. The guy is scary good.
We tend to mock what is ingloriously dubbed ‘hair metal,’ and rightly so. I don’t care if it’s making a comeback amongst the dipshits these days. It was silly the first time around and it will suck even more royally in each new birth because nothing is weaker than an unoriginal revival of something that should just have had the good sense to stay dead.
I never included Guns N’ Roses in the ranks of the Spandex and eyeliner brigade with Poison, Motley Crue, Bon Jovi (and Ratt, Cinderella and on and on…). No, somehow, their music sounded rougher, edgier, and just crazy enough to be ready to jump off the stage and fight anybody for any reason at all. Whereas, the legion of pretenders to the sound had an often incredibly amusing posture, exciting stage shows with lots of lights and smoke and crap (to mask all the nothing actually happening), and they sure knew just what to say, but it didn’t ever sound like there was anything backing it up. It was obviously aimed at the fame machine, radio, and all the young kids who needed something loud to play to piss off their parents. And I know G’n’R was calculated too, but to me it doesn’t sound like it in the same way. They come across more like they could quit tomorrow and go back to the gutter, and what of it?
Enough. This is a classic record. It’s a template for all aspiring rockers. Every track here stomps, shouts and balls-out rawks. Play it as loud as you can stand it, and then turn it up some more. In fact, the louder you play it, the better it gets. I highly recommend blowing the dust off your copy and giving it a spin. And for you ADD-addled, single/hit-skipping young ‘uns trekking off on this journey for the first time, download this to your iPod and play the whole album on some good headphones. Yes, the hits are here, but this beauty works best as a whole, so let it play through and revel in all of it. You’ll feel like you’re ten feet tall when it’s done.
01 Welcome To The Jungle
02 It’s So Easy
04 Out Ta Get Me
05 Mr. Brownstone
06 Paradise City
07 My Michelle
08 Think About You
09 Sweet Child O’ Mine
10 You’re Crazy
11 Anything Goes
12 Rocket Queen