By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Whaddaya know, the redheaded albino actually showed up. Sure, it took a near riot to get Axl Rose onstage, but the latter-day Guns N’ Roses performed a two-hour set that was equal parts dazzling showmanship, balls-out rock and brain-numbingly bizarro antics.
First came the cavalcade of nu-metal and hard rock, old and new. The British trio Muse were one of the heaviest entries, sounding more Sabbath and Queen than ’90s alternative, Radiohead comparisons and singer-guitarist Matthew Bellamy’s paranoid Thom Yorke falsetto aside. Their “Stockholm Syndrome” could be a video-game soundtrack, while the current “Knights of Cydonia” is just pure faux-operatic bombast — Bellamy might as well be singing “Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the fandango?” Though not exactly a showman, Alice in Chains’ new singer, William Duvall, at least sounded identical to the deceased Layne Staley, doing mostly early material; “Man in the Box” became a three-man battle when Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington joined Duvall and guitarist-singer Jerry Cantrell.
Then it was simply a matter of waiting — an hour and a half, to be exact — for the headliners, to whom we’ll refer, until we get a cease-and-desist, as the Axl Rose Experience. Don’t worry, we kept ourselves entertained watching the smoke plumes and flickering ash rising from the general-admission hill to the rear, not to mention the hail of beer cups, especially the one that struck yours truly’s tender forehead. Ouch! One of the sound technicians behind the orchestra section donned a shower cap, while another covered his equipment with a trash bag. Good-natured calls of “Fuck Axl!” turned into “FUCK AXL!” “BULLSHIT!” and plenty of booing. At the stroke of 11 p.m., however, when we finally heard the menacing intro of “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Do you know where you ahhhhh?” sung straight through the nose, all was forgiven. Sort of.
Give Rose credit for sticking to nearly all of Appetite for Destruction; there could’ve been Use Your Illusion 1 through 10 without matching the prodrug ditty “Mr. Brownstone,” and Sebastian Bach’s guest duet on “My Michelle” was a surprise highlight. It was everything Appetite-unrelated that felt like cruel and unusual punishment: the epic sissiness of “November Rain,” a piano version of “Ziggy Stardust,” and three guitar solos, one of which was a cover of Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful.” Your weave on too tight, man?
Rose unveiled some new material, including the forgettable “I.R.S.” from the impending/imploding Chinese Democracy; “This song is dedicated to all you downloading motherfuckers” was our only clue. Premeditated shtick aside, the man belted as if this were a booze-fueled Whisky night of yore rather than the cold, windy, dusty San Bernardino hills. And for us who’ve been waiting since 1987 to bust out of our bedrooms and sing, “That old man is a real motherfucker” in unison with thousands of other fans, it was more than nostalgia.