The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas presents… Guns N’ Roses
Guns N’ Roses kicked off Las Vegas Hard Rock’s Absolution NYE Weekend with a highly anticipated first of two GNR concerts that started on-time almost to the minute. The stage opened with DJ Ashba on a platform high above the stage with horns in the air and GnR logo across the massive stage that then exploded in pyro and fireworks as Axl and GnR kicked into “Chinese Democracy”. There were about ten thousand phones in the air as explosions and flames let up the stage and the band poured it on to rock into the first song of a three hour show.
“Welcome to the Jungle” followed fast after and the frenzied sea of fans went wild. More flames and flashpots. More pyro. Axl serpentine dancing and screaming “I wanna watch you bleed…” The show was off to an insane start as the packed house at the Joint gave Axl a welcome he should long remember. Axl was in great form and sounded tight as he led the band through a set of GnR classics starting with “It’s So Easy” and “Mr Brownstone” before giving the crowd another taste of newer Democracy material with “Sorry” and “Shacklers Revenge”. The ongoing explosions and three big screens of visuals in the background gave the night a virtually dazzling mix of light and sound.
The GnR show lineup featured Axl as the stage grand marshall, guitarist DJ Ashba (Sixx A.M.), guitar virtuoso Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, guitarist Richard Fortus and drummer Fran Ferrer (Love Spit Love and Psych Furs), Tommy Stinson (Replacements) on bass, and keyboardists Dizzy Reed and Chris Pitman (Tool).
DJ Ashba’s LA aura with Bumblefoot’s metal-edged stance, Fortus’ NYC vibe mixed with Stinson’s punkwave, together with Axl’s overpowering charisma gave a juxtaposition of looks and visuals to really set off the pulse of the show. Ashba ripping leads and Fortus slinging and slamming his guitar really pushed the rock star image for all it’s worth, and Bumblefoot playing a double neck (fretless) guitar was a feat to watch. Tommy Stinson on bass interacted mid-stage with Axl on vocals, and Ferrer on drums pounded out the back for an amazing array of styles and talents on one big stage.
The show gave each bandmate their own time to shine; there were guitar solos from Fortus, Ashba and Thal, and piano renditions from Reed and Rose, and Stinson on vocals for “Motivation”, along with a few instrumental jams here and there mixed with the hits and faves. Axl didn’t skimp on the original Appetite, the night also gave nod to “Rocket Queen” and “Sweet Child”, then on with “November Rain”, “Don’t Cry” and “You Could Be Mine” from the Illusions. Axl and crew threw in a few covers from AC/DC, and Guns versions of “Live and Let Die” and “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” as the long night wound into the third hour… and headed in to a heated “Nightrain” before the band cut out for the end of the set.
Guns returned for an long lavish encore of “Madagascar” and some more band jamming before concluding a night of three hours plus and 30-something songs with a thundering “Paradise City” to bring the house down. The event was nonstop motion, music, fire and bedlam from start to finish and the fans stayed late into the night for the final songs.
The talent in the Guns lineup and Axl at the helm was much more than I anticipated, and the sound and show were phenomenal. Guns N’ Roses hit the Joint again the following night to bring in the New Year Vegas-style and was nothing less than epic, and a dramatic close to the year and the GNR 2011 Tour. The Guns left a wake of renewed fans as they rocked through the night and into 2012.