He’s singing like that snakeskin-wearing, 25-year-old badass again. The guy who first welcomed us all to the jungle back in 1987. Even the haters are copping to the fact that Axl Rose is completely crushing his new gig touring as frontman for Aussie hard rockers AC/DC.
Did even the most hardcore Guns N’ Roses fans expect anything like this?
After AC/DC announced that Rose would step in for Brian Johnson, who’s been sidelined by severe hearing issues, the general public reaction seemed to range from muted mehs to vehement objections. This despite the fact that Rose has shown he can nail AC/DC material — for a vocalist, no walk in the park — since early GNR covers of “Whole Lotta Rosie.”
In early May, some 7,000 AC/DC fans in Portugal opted for refunds rather than see the band perform their first show with Rose. Boy, did those 7,000 folks miss out. YouTube clip after YouTube clip has revealed Axl applying his incomparable yowl to AC/DC classics with killer results. His vocals have been intense. Focused. Deadly.
Getting the chance to sing with some of his heroes on a regular basis, Rose seems to be reconnecting with what made him want to be a rock singer in the first place. In front of our very eyes. And, oh yeah, by most accounts GNR reunion shows thus far have pretty much ranged from damn good to magical.
The Axl-aissance is clearly upon us.
Which got us to thinking: What other bands could Axl step in to and save the day for?
With Steven Tyler embarking on a “solo country career,” four-fifths of the Bad Boys From Boston could use another elastic-voiced, headband-wearing frontman. We already know Axl owns “Mama Kin,” thanks to the killer faux-live version on 1988’s GN’R Lies EP. Wouldn’t you love to also hear Rose sing the “sweet sassafrassy” out of “Back in the Saddle” and other Aerosmith nuggets?
Former Skid Row singer Sebastian Bach has occasionally guested with GNR live for years, often to howl “My Michelle.” Although Bach sang on all of Skid Row’s hits, he’s been out of the band for 20 years. The Skids have gone through at least four singers since then, including their most recent frontman, ex-Dragonforce throat ZP Theart. Bach’s return appears unlikely. While it might make things awkward between these two rocker buddies, Rose could surely tear into grittier Skid Row tracks like “Monkey Business,” as well as give power ballad “I Remember You” the tender-leather touch it needs.
Imagine this: Rose subs for the dearly departed MCA, aka Adam Yauch, another performer whose voice oozed character, on a tour performing Beastie Boys’ entire 1986 debut LP, License to Ill, front to back. OK, or don't. But we will.
Heresy, you grunge refugees say? Actually, vocally Rose and Kurt Cobain possessed similarly appealing shredded upper registers. In the early '90s, GNR wanted Nirvana to tour with them as a support act — Cobain famously passed — so we know Axl appreciates Nirvana’s music. Former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl recently loaned Rose his “rock throne” after the singer broke his left foot at GNR's first reunion gig. So the ice between these two mega-bands has obviously melted. Second guitarist Pat Smear would have to cover Cobain’s guitar parts, as he often did at Nirvana’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction. But it would be fascinating to hear Rose take on the whisper-to-scream dynamics of songs like “Heart Shaped Box” and, of course, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
Like many of us, Rose has long admired Freddie Mercury’s jaw-dropping vocals and catsuit magnetism. Of late, Queen guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor have been touring with former American Idol vocalist Adam Lambert singing in place of Mercury, who died in 1991. Lambert is a nimble, powerful singer. But if Lambert should suddenly return to his solo career, Rose has the sonic schizophrenia needed to go from “Stone Cold Crazy” to “Another One Bites the Dust” to “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Stone Temple Pilots
It would be like an inverse Velvet Revolver. Just as the late Scott Weiland bellowed GNR cuts like “It’s So Easy” on VR tours, Rose could easily growl “Sex Type Thing” and bring his “Paradise City” power-twang to “Interstate Love Song.”
In May, Courtney Love posted a photo on Instagram possibly teasing a reunion of her band Hole’s best-known lineup. Weeks earlier Love reportedly was booted from a Guns N’ Roses Coachella afterparty for being too sauced. If Hole’s classic lineup is re-forming, perhaps they should keep Rose on retainer, in case of any “Courtney being Courtney” episodes. We would love to hear Axl apply his punk side to Hole songs like “Violet” and “Jennifer’s Body.” And bring his arena-melancholy to the “Doll Parts” vocal.
When Black Crowes first took flight in 1990, they were positioned as a “Southern Guns N’ Roses,” albeit one with a less metallic edge. The Crowes had a 25th-anniversary tour in the works last year … until singer Chris Robinson and guitarist brother Rich Robinson reached an impasse on the money split. Chris and Axl both have a gospel quality to their vocals. It would be the rootsiest sound Rose has attempted (publicly at least) since Lies, yet you can totally imagine him belting the hell out of “Jealous Again.”
During the Use Your Illusion era, Axl was seen sporting an N.W.A cap onstage. Since Ice Cube just provided Coachella fans with an N.W.A reunion during his performances at this year's festival, let’s take this show on the road. Have Rose step in and rap the Eazy-E parts. If N.W.A required Axl to fill out an employment application, under “previous experience” he could simply list notorious Illusion rap track “My World.”
Before leaving to join the AC/DC tour, Rose was trailed by paparazzi as he wheeled through Los Angeles International Airport on a scooter to rest his injured foot. A pap brought up the subject of Prince’s recent death, and Rose noted he was a “big Prince fan” and that the star's passing was “a very sad thing.” With Prince’s early-'80s band The Revolution reportedly gearing up to tour again, let’s bring in The Redhead to pay his respects to The Purple One. Like Prince, a native Midwesterner, Rose definitely has what it takes to jam on “Let's Go Crazy” and “1999.” Plus, the band name “Rose and The Revolution” has a hell of a ring to it.