Slash might be the best musician I’ve ever seen, so thank god I took that shower.
Let’s talk about Guns N Roses at Metlife Stadium on Saturday, July 23rd.
First, we’ll rewind a few months. When tickets first went on sale, my friends were gung-ho about going. I was less so. I knew the tickets would be expensive. I had no idea what kind of show these guys would put on. But, still, it’s Guns N Roses. So, I made a deal with myself. I won’t pay more than $150 for a seat. That’s quite a lot of money for a concert, but its not going to bankrupt me. Bshrek and I texted while he looked for seats online. He found 5 together for $150 each, I gave him the go ahead and went to take a shower.
But, the conversation wasn’t done. While I was in the shower and away from my phone, he sent these texts in relatively short succession.
“Hey, it’s $183 with taxes and fees. Do you still want to buy one?”
“Hey, we’re running out of time. You need to let me know.”
“Ok. You’re not answering. I’m making an executive decision. You’re in.”
Well, if I didn’t have a head full of shampoo, I would have said no. But now I was the proud owner of an expensive ticket to a concert I still wasn’t sure I wanted to go to. I was comforted by this thought: Axl Rose is a lunatic. There’s no way this band will make it through an entire tour without imploding. I’ll get a full refund because this show will almost definitely be cancelled.
But some video leaked of their first show back together- at the Troubadour in LA. And they looked awesome. And I remembered how much I love this band. I was on board.
Then, the forecast..
A Saturday night concert in the summer at a football stadium screams for a tailgate party. But the Accuweather forecast screamed for staying inside next to an air conditioning vent. The high was supposed to be around 95 degrees. And that was for people who weren’t sitting in a giant asphalt parking lot next to a grill.
It was certainly warm. But, surprisingly, I wasn’t all that uncomfortable. It helped that we had a tent to protect us from the sun. It also helped that I wasn’t drinking all that much. I had a couple of beers during the tailgate, but also drank water. I had an extra t-shirt in the car, but didn’t even need it. I was a little sweaty, but it wasn’t horrible. I thought.
Speaking of drinking, while I kept things in moderation, the same could not be said for all my compatriots. One in particular out-kicked his coverage by quite a bit on the vodka front. We’ll get back to that.
Once we got inside, I started to get a bit more excited. Lenny Kravitz was the opening act, we got to our seats in time for the last three songs. That was enough. He closed with “Are You Gonna Go My Way?” I was happy to hear it.
About 15 minutes after he was done, the video screen behind the stage showed two guns firing. And I surprised even myself by yelling, “Oh my god, it’s happening.” Apparently, I was more excited for this show than even I knew.
They started with the Appetite for Destruction song, “Its So Easy.” And for Slash it was. I think the stage and the show are designed for the audience to focus on Axl, running around and dancing and spinning and singing. But, you can’t take your eyes off of Slash. He stands still, often at the far corner of the stage and just plays the fuck out of his guitar. He stands still, his hands move at unbelievable speed and it all looks effortless.
It’s been 23 years since these guys were on stage together. They’ve obviously aged. But. Duff looks healthy. Slash, though a bit larger in the upper body, looks about the same as he always did, right down to the outfit of tight black pants, black tank top (which read New York Fucking City-even though we were in New Jersey.) and, of course, the hat. Then, there’s W. Axl Rose. He is fatter. He is plastic surgerier. It really looked like he was struggling in the heat all night. He didn’t smile after songs. He kind of stood there with his eyes bugged out, looking like he was amazed that he just made it through. In fact, he vanished a bunch of times during the show, while the rest of the band played instrumental covers of things like Layla, Angie and the theme to Godfather. Each time Axl vanished, he came back about five minutes later in a new shirt. I counted 8 costume changes during the course of a 3 hour show.
Yes, A 3 HOUR SHOW! When you think about it, Guns N Roses doesn’t really have a lot of throwaway songs. A good portion of their catalog are made up of epic, multi part rock symphonies like November Rain, Estranged, Patience and Sweet Child O’ Mine. They played all of them, plus pretty much everything else you would want to hear. There were a few dead spots, mainly songs from Chinese Democracy and a Who cover that was oddly timed between Patience and Paradise City during the show’s encore. But, the whole crowd was on its feet pretty much the whole time. Well, almost the whole crowd.
There’s a disturbing trend developing in my life. I go to stadium rock shows with a group of friends and, invariably, one member of the group goes down. Last year, it was King Ing who mysteriously vanished about three songs in to a Foo Fighters show at Citifield. About a month later, it was my friend Tim who drunkenly wandered off before Foo Fighters took the stage at Wrigley Field. We found him after the concert, sitting under an Ernie Banks statue outside the stadium. This time, it was the aforementioned friend who over served himself during the tailgate. He started out strong, then about halfway through the show took a seat. Then, he was fast asleep for about three songs. He woke up during November Rain, but that was to throw up on himself then run out to the bathroom and finish the job. But, then he rallied. And was fine the rest of the night.
The show ended at around 1AM. By the time we got to the car, dealt with traffic getting out of the stadium and drove home, it was close to 3. I woke up around 9:30 yesterday morning and felt like I had one of the worst hangovers of my life. But I didn’t even really drink. I think the combination of heat, adrenaline and hours of standing and jumping around completely drained me. I didn’t feel right all day.
But, totally worth it. It was a great show and a great day-worth every dollar. Thank god I took that shower.
I haven’t had time to look at Sports Illustrated yet. It’s a double issue, so maybe I’ll write about it next week. Probably not, though. But, I would like to say something about one American Olympian. The emergence of Carmelo Anthony as a socially aware, politically outspoken public figure has been a real welcome development this summer. What started with a long instagram post and a well written newspaper op ed column and has turned Melo into a potentially powerful voice on the issue of police/minority relations. He is, afterall, the biggest NBA star in the league’s largest media market. That, coupled with the role of veteran leader he’s taken on this relatively young Olympic team, reveals a sense of maturity that I, for one, am excited to see.
Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me by Steven Hyden
I was with my brother last week. I asked him if he had read this book and he got a very pained look on his face. “I tried to, but I couldn’t get through the first chapter. I don’t care about Oasis and Blur.” A fair argument to be sure, but an unfortunate outcome. Because after that first chapter, this book really hits its stride. Hyden writes about famous rock rivalries (Oasis vs Blur, Prince vs Michael Jackson, Beatles vs Stones,) but he uses them to discuss larger life issues like getting older, protecting historical legacies and, most importantly, trying to look cool. Hyden is definitely inspired by Chuck Klosterman and, in many ways, this book is just a really good knock off of peak Klosterman. Which is something we really need because…
What If We’re Wrong by Chuck Klosterman
This book is garbage. While Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me is Steven Hyden very successfully trying to be Chuck Klosterman, “What If We’re Wrong,” is Chuck Klosterman clumsily trying to be David Foster Wallace. The concept is strong- Klosterman reconsiders a number of conventional wisdoms and tries to decide if they will still hold a few hundred years in the future. But, he gets so caught up in language that its hard to follow. A friend once described reading Esquire’s Charles P Pierce as feeling like a dictionary threw up on you. That’s how I felt reading this. I’m a smart guy with a pretty advanced vocabulary, but Chuck Klosterman made me dizzy with his word choice.
Ghostbusters by Paul Feig and Katie Dippold
I’m going to say something that might sound blasphemous. In a lot of ways, the new Ghostbusters is funnier than the original. There are more jokes per capita in this version. You laugh out loud more often. But, the movie feels less substantial than the 1984 one. The new version’s plot seems like its there to serve the jokes as opposed to the other way around. Still, all four actresses are great. Chris Hemsworth is funny. The cameos by original cast members aren’t too distracting (Bill Murray actually plays a real character that advances the story. The rest are glorified extras.)
Bottom line- I left the theater happy that I had seen the movie. And that’s the most important thing.