When a band you’ve loved for decades finally reunites and tours and is, as the Monkees put it, “coming to your town,” there’s always that fear that they won’t deliver the goods. If thoughts like those were running through the heads of any Guns N’ Roses fans last night, they were soon quashed. This was one of the concerts where everything gelled, including the weather (no rain, plus there was a light breeze blowing in from the river).
The show had a special, one-of-a-kind feeling that hit home early in the set when Axl Rose said, “It’s good to here…in the jungle!” As soon as the band burst into “Welcome to the Jungle,” we were convinced that that song was written specifically for us, being as we were in Paul Brown Stadium, home of the Jungle. Much of the first half of the show drew from Appetite for Destruction—“It’s So Easy,” “Rocket Queen,” “Mr. Brownstone” and the aforementioned “Welcome to the Jungle”—plus newer material like the title track to Chinese Democracy. During a well-paced set, songs high on adrenaline were peppered with ballads like “This I Love” and lengthy instrumental workouts where Slash got to stretch out.
The one-of-a-kind feeling really hit home when the original Guns N’ Roses drummer, Steven Adler, was introduced and performed two songs from Appetite for Destruction, “Out to Get Me” and “My Michelle.” That album was released in 1987, and rock stars don’t always age well, but Adler looked fresh and youthful with his long golden locks, and he smiled the whole time he was up there. So did the rest of the band. There was joy in the air, and the people in the crowd felt very lucky to be there that night.
It didn’t hurt that the sound was great. The balance was perfect, and you could hear everything—even the piano, which mattered for reasons that went beyond notes and chords. When the band dipped into the piano coda at the end of Eric Clapton’s “Layla,” you knew full well they could have hired someone more technically accomplished than Axl Rose to tickle the ivories. But it was nice seeing, at a “spectacle” concert featuring a huge light show and fireworks, Axl, Slash, and Duff McKagan gathered around a piano like they were in a parlor, just some old friends enjoying playing music together.
Other highlights included “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” “November Rain,” and “Paradise City.” My favorite song of the night was the second of three encores, a cover of the Who’s “The Seeker.” That’s not the most well-known Who tune, but it’s a damn good one, and the band blazed through it with a vengeance. Whatever a Guns N’ Roses fan could have wanted from that concert they got it spades, as the barrage of ecstatic next-day social media posts I saw the next day made clear. To put it simply, Guns N’ Roses rocked the Jungle.