Rogers Centre - Saturday, July 16, 2016
By Christine Yoo
When I hear about reunion shows I feel equal parts a sense of excitement and also mild hesitation. Depending on the artist, the year they broke, how long they’ve been dormant and whether they physically resemble their golden years are all factors in how my emotions rise and fall. Waiting a few years for a band to reunite is one thing, but to wait over 2 decades (23 years to be exact) is quite another. That’s right. 23 years. Almost a quarter century of waiting is no easy feat but who really cares about all the logistics when it’s Guns ‘n Roses’ founding members Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan sharing the stage.
Guns ‘n Roses dominated rock music in the 80’s and 90’s and the adoration from diehard fans was confirmed to a packed stadium for their Not in This Lifetime tour at Rogers Centre last Saturday night. I’m happy to report that it was probably one of the most sonically fulfilling evenings of my life. Before they came out, the crowd watched two giant screens on each side of the stage. It plainly consisted of their infamous logo of the guns with roses wrapped around them. The guns began making shooting sounds, which clearly riled up the audience. By 10pm, they came onstage fashionably late – very rock ‘n roll. The set ranged from “Welcome to the Jungle” and “November Rain” to “Coma”, and my personal favorite, “Estranged”.
It would be safe to observe that people were going out of their minds with nostalgic songs from their youth as the multiple heavy metal flashbacks began to ensue. Axl was friendly, talkative and told the audience they were held up at the border earlier that night due to gun possession on the bus. He said (with a mischievous grin) to the audience that it was not his. Lots of devil horns were raised as people sang their hearts out to every lyric they never thought would be heard live again. The song “Civil War” was one of the biggest highlights of the night for me, starting with the guitar playing those haunting intro notes and Axl whistling along, giving me chills to last till 2017.
The show was completely solid, like they never took a break for 23 years, which went on for a glorious 2 hours and 45 minutes. Axl sang with such high pitched accuracy and tenacity (his signature style) that my heart didn’t really know what to do with itself. The guy next to me was a heavily inebriated fellow who I had to raise my voice at, amidst all the noise, to tell him to stop screaming like an untamed beast in my ear. It was my most rock ‘n roll moment of the night.
I think what I took away from the show are a few things: firstly, that rock ‘n roll has a soul and people are still hungry for it. While standing in the stadium amidst all those fans it was satisfying to know they got exactly what they came for; guitar-driven songs that say so much beyond the lyrics. Great music is never forgotten even if the band has been on hiatus for decades. Secondly, that dreams do come true. I have fantasized for years about waiting in a Ticketmaster line on a lawn chair for G ‘n R tickets. For those old enough to remember, we used to have to line up at a Sunrise Records’ Ticketmaster outlet to see our show of choice. No more lawn chair necessary as times have changed and there’s a handy tool called the Internet now.
Lastly, that reunification is possible. It may take some time (*cough* two decades *cough*) but when all the stars align and the universe says it’s time you can’t stop a force like Guns that are meant to be reckoned with. It’s one thing when Axl performs alongside Buckethead, but it pales in comparison to having Duff and Slash on either side of you. The show closed in nostalgic glory with their last encore song, “Paradise City”, and fans (many over 35-years-old) were energetically raising their firsts well beyond the midnight hour.
Man is not an island. Not even a long-haired, high-pitched, heavily tatted, Charles Manson t-shirt-wearing rock ‘n roller. When brought back together with your comrades, working together in delivering the goods proved that the sky’s the limit and that paradise city is possible.