Saturday, December 07, 2002

It's So Easy

Saw my first ever Guns N' Roses concert Thursday night, at Madison Square Garden, amidst the worst snowstorm this city's seen in a few years.

Before GNR went on, they had this big screen to project video footage, and these cameras just got live shots of "hot" girls walking around the venue. Every time they put a girl on the screen, there were big whooping (male) cheers from the audience. Inevitably, these two girls flashed their boobs to wild response from the crowd. Suffice it to say, C was none too pleased with this portion of the program...

Then the show began. Here's where I must point out, I got absolute shit seats. Of the countless concerts I've been to, these were by far the worst seats I have ever had. They were slightly *behind* the stage! (And they've got this big backdrop for this tour which includes chinese characters and video screens.) TEN YEARS OF WAITING and I'm BEHIND THE FRICKIN' STAGE?!

They had a big screen so you could sort of see the action and a side-view of the stage, but I was watching like half the show and the crowd was totally into it -- but I could barely hear Axl's voice. It sounded all muddy and dull, and the voices of the audience singing along practically drowned him out...

Then, during November Rain, I decided to walk around to the other side of the stage... and I discovered that the reason it sounded like shite was because THE SPEAKERS WERE ALL FACING FORWARD and they hadn't placed speakers to accomodate the people on the sides! It was like a whole different concert! It sounded brilliant, Axl's voice was clear as a bell, the band was tight...

I fetched everybody else (C, N, D & J) and we all got out of our seats and walked around to the other side of the stage and just stood by the railing along with all these other people who knew better. Some security guards cleared us away a few times, telling us we had to go back to our seats, but people just kept moving and after a while the guards didn't bother.

It was sublime. It sounded incredible. The band was brilliant -- they had the presence that so many new bands these days DON'T have. (I like that they don't all just come out in t-shirts and jeans -- rock stars should be larger than life... if I'm gonna pay $80 for a seat, I not only wanna hear some great music, I want to see the musicians dress up in costumes! Play the part of rock stars! I don't want to see a bunch of guys who look like they could be doing their laundry...)

The members of the band have distinct personalities -- musically and visually. Robin Finck (from Nine Inch Nails) was all dressed in white silk -- N said he looked like one of the "droogs" out of "A Clockwork Orange". The drummer, Brian "Brain" Mantis, wore flannel like a remnant of the grunge era.

The infamous Buckethead indeed wears a KFC bucket on his head throughout the whole show, along with a white mask over his face. The only pieces of him that you can really see are his hair and his hands (he's some white guy). At one point, he does this solo where he plays the Star Wars theme. Then, he handed out toys (action figures, it looked like) to members of the immediate audience.

What I love about it is that, to me, GnR represent all the beautiful things that a rock band can be. They obviously don't take themselves so seriously that they're unwilling to dress up and do some silly things. At the same time, they're not all about the makeup and effects the way that their 80s hair-band contemporaries were. They are all extremely competent musicians. Tremendous musicians... who aren't hiding behind their instruments. (Though may be hiding beneath buckets...)

I was also taken by the makeup of the crowd. Well, okay, I was one of the few minorities there -- I'm accustomed to that by now. It was mostly a sea of white. (I think I actually saw *ONE* black guy at the concert... not including the staff of Madison Square Garden.) But what impressed me was that it was a mix of older people and *younger* people. A *lot* of younger people.

Now, I don't want to go on a rant here -- but Guns N' Roses was the first band that I ever really got into seriously. Before i got into them, frankly I thought they were just a big, overrated, jock/cock-rock joke. Their videos cast them as big rock stars with supermodel girlfriends, singing about pain and suffering -- it had no resonance to me. (Sort of like the trend in hip-hop, where people brag and bemoan the problems and luxuries of loads of money and girls and fame... how does a regular person on the street
relate to that?) But then, I started to listen to the music and I saw the deeper values. The poetry. The sound. The passion. The fury. On the albums and in the performances I saw on tape. They were like the epitome of what a rock band could be. And I think the public moved on because the public is fickle. (And GnR disappeared for a good long while.) I just hope that another generation will find them and appreciate them sufficiently.

I'm just really thankful that we got to see them play. I'm more than a bit disappointed that they've just hit another snag and cancelled a bunch of dates (there were riots in Philly last night, when they backed out right before they were supposed to go onstage). I think we narrowly missed a bullet. On the road to rehabilitating the public perception of "Guns N' Roses" and Axl Rose, cancelling a bunch of shows is probably not the best thing for them to be doing right now... but at least *I* got to see them... hopefully, not for the last time...