Concert Review: Guns N’ Roses Closes Residency at Hard Rock

Guns N’ Roses ended its residency on Saturday night at Hard Rock’s The Joint in Las Vegas and to say fans received their money’s worth would be an understatement.

Axl Rose sings to Las Vegas crowd

Axl Rose and the rest of his band devoured more than 30 songs over three hours. The iconic singer was sharp for much of the performance hitting the falsettos and bass notes flawlessly and Guns N’ Roses, which has doubled in size since its 80s reign, was tight, very loud and bursting with energy.

Rose looked and sounded nothing like his 50 year-old self – a relief considering the first few songs sounded like he was tired and yet to recover from the previous night’s performance. The band opened the evening with “Chinese Democracy” the first cut and title track from their long anticipated and now four year old album, then “Welcome to the Jungle” and “It’s So Easy.” Rose’s vocals did not arrive until the fourth song “Mr. Brownstone.”

The band tirelessly pounded out hits, songs off the latest album and new ones from an as yet unannounced new album that sounds like the makings of another Chinese Democracy. Considering the number of band members every song sounded strong and as one cohesive unit. The band did flub on “Don’t Cry” but no one listening would have been the wiser had Rose not announced the mistake and at one point looked at bass player Tommy Stinson and said, so all could hear, “What planet are we on?”

Guns N’ Roses guitarist Izzy Stradlin

Keeping a large number of musicians is no easy task. The old saying “too many cooks in the kitchen” certainly applies to the stage (perhaps that’s why the classic lineup is dead and buried) so whatever Rose has done to keep everyone happy and together for the last 10 years is working. Purists take heart – Rose added a ninth body to the stage when Izzy Stradlin appeared nearly halfway through the show and sang “14 Years.” Stradlin was more or less drowned out by the other three guitarists but he hung around and played several more songs.

Despite Rose’s past antics and petty behavior over the years the man deserves a lot of credit for the show he brought to Vegas. It’s nearly unheard of for a band to play three hours let alone 34 songs. He also often abruptly left the stage when any of the other members had solos seemingly giving them their due credit – though perhaps he just didn’t know what to do when he wasn’t singing.

Regardless, Rose still has his swagger and a really nice pair of boots that didn’t inhibit him at all from dancing, climbing stairs and running around the stage. The highlights of the evening were multiple but the most talked about rests with his stellar piano playing on “November Rain” which was done from a piano on a suspended platform raised above the crowd.

Though three hours of Guns N’ Roses may be an early Christmas gift for some, the reality is this show could have and should have been dialed back by 30 to 40 minutes especially with a nearly midnight start. A number of fans didn’t have the patience for the 30 minute encore which ended with the band’s best and most famous song “Paradise City.” And, unfortunately for those who stayed, Rose had shot his vocals by then.

Axl Rose on piano at The Joint in Las Vegas

The set was littered with too many self-indulgent and meandering guitar solos often tucked in as introductions to songs, and Stinson and guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal each sang a song nearly sucking the life out of the typically fast-paced show. Sorry, but the reality is, despite the talents of the other musicians, no one was there to see anyone but Rose. Tha band also added a silly, almost rediculous rendition of The Who’s “The Seeker” prolonging the evening even further.

Guns N’ Roses is the second big-ticket band to embark  on a residency at the Hard Rock. Motley Crue started it and up next is Def Leppard. The venue is much smaller (4,000 max seating) than an arena allowing a more intimate setting for the hardcore fan to enjoy and enough shows for the casual observer to see music legends. It’s an impressive idea and one that is likely to open the doors to more bands that typically tour large amphitheaters and arenas.

The only problem? You have to go to Vegas.

Guns N’ Rose Las Vegas Setlist:

1. Chinese Democracy
2. Welcome to the Jungle
3. It’s So Easy
4. Mr. Brownstone
5. Estranged
6. Rocket Queen
7. Guitar Solo
8. Live and Let Die
9. This I Love
10. Better
11. Motivation
12. Piano Solo – Dizzy Reed
13. Catcher in the Rye
14. Street of Dreams
15. You Could Be Mine
16. 14 Years
17. Guitar Solo
18. Sweet Child O’ Mine
19. Another Brick in the Wall (short cover)
20. November Rain
21. Objectify
22. Don’t Cry
23. Wole Lotta Rosie
24. Civil War
25. Used to Love Her
26. Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
27. Instrumental
28. Nighttrain
29. Don’t Let it Bring You Down
30. The Seeker
31. Instrumental
32. Patience
33. Instrumental
34. Paradise City