Review: Guns N’ Roses – Live @ The O2, Dublin (May 17th, 2012)

“Axl’s not coming, he fell off a table in Russia and isn’t allowed to fly at the moment”. Just leaving the central bar on O’Connell Street to catch the Luas down to the O2 and one waiter talks himself out of ever getting my custom again with that little comment. But then again, what’s a Guns N’ Roses gig without a little drama?

Entering the O2 tonight brings back some of those worries and dreads from 2010 (the elephant in the room), but these are dashed instantly as a completely different crowd and atmosphere await. There’s no-one falling over the place, spilling their blue WKD’s and roaring insults at everything in sight. There’s no booing, complaining or bickering. Instead there’s an excitement in the air and the sight of Thin Lizzy taking the stage only heightens that.

Anyone that’s caught the Irish legends over the past few years will attest that they are the strongest line-up of the band since their glory days with Philo. Brian Downey and Scott Gorham are still there, looking and sounding great but the show stealer is frontman, Ricky Warwick. He avoids the cliché of adopting Phil’s moves and style to the letter, choosing instead to inject his own road tested brand of rock n’ roll energy and deep vocals which boost the songs energy and the band’s performance. Tonight they magnetically blaze through classics such as ‘Emerald’, ‘Jailbreak’, ’Don’t Believe A Word’, ‘Cowboy Song’, ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ and ‘The Boys are Back in Town’ before finishing off with ‘Black Rose’, noted favourite of Guns singer Axl Rose. The announcement of a headlining show later in the year doubtfully went un-noted by tonight’s attendees. Now, on to the main event!

Lizzy leave the stage around 9:30 and it’s time to let the anticipation begin. Unlike Guns’s previous show in Dublin, the crowd tonight seem more than happy to wait things out as the bar queues extend, the smoking area expands and everyone kicks back and relaxes with good tunes coming from the PA. Before we know it, the house lights go dark and it’s time to rock n roll.

Under their massive video backdrop, guitarist DJ Ashba climbs on high to deliver the show’s signature opening of ‘Chinese Democracy’ before their legendary frontman explodes to life amidst a massive pyro display. The crowd give a rapturous welcome to the band as they commandeer every inch of the stage, taking no prisoners in their mission to give their fans the greatest show possible. Guitarists Ron Thal, Richard Fortus and especially DJ Asba barely stand still for a moment as they rocket from side to side, lapping up the crowds cheers and delivering note perfect performances while Axl’s razor sharp vocals and on stage magnetism conquers all. Despite persistent rumours that he’s gained hundreds of pounds in weight, lost his voice and is apparently stuck in Russia, he is on stage, looking incredible, sounding better than ever and 100% guaranteed – is not a hologram. Even with his very recent and very serious looking leg injury, Axl still dances and moves across the stage likes there’s no tomorrow, even climbing up to the podiums on either side to greet everyone.

Set classics such as ‘Welcome to the Jungle’, ‘It’s So Easy’, ‘Mr. Brownstone’ and ‘Rocket Queen’ electrify the crowd while Chinese Democracy heavyweights ‘Sorry’, ‘This I Love’, ‘Street of Dreams’ and ‘Better’ bellow through the audience with incredible energy and force.

The band appears in great spirits, obviously delighted with the change since their last performance. Axl interacts on several occasions with the crowd even quipping that despite his leg injury (I’m) “probably moving a lot more than the last time I was here” before grinning and carrying on. Solo’s from the band add refreshing breaks from the onslaught of heavyweight classics and Chinese Democracy juggernauts and give each of the guys a chance to show the fans why they’re members of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band of all time. Tommy Stinson performs ‘Motivation’, a song from his previous band The replacements. DJ Ashba moves in with his own ‘Mi Amor’ solo. Dizzy Reed gives us a little ‘Baba O’Riley’ from The Who and Ron Thal knocks out his take on the Pink Panther theme before slipping in a little ‘Danny Boy’ for the crowd.

You Could Be Mine’, ‘Sweet Child O’Mine’, ‘November Rain’ (preceded by Axl Rose’s piano solo) and ‘Don’t Cry’ deliver hit after hit before the band kick back with a cover of AC/DC’sWhole Lotta Rosie’ – doing the DC proud! The mighty and rarely heard ‘Estranged’ adds a wave of euphoria to those in attendance who swear it’s the bands greatest recorded moment before the epic ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’ and assaulting ‘Nightrain’ bring the main set to a close. Just when you think they’ve nothing left in them, the band return for a quick jam before launching into ‘There Was A Time’, one of the most accomplished songs in their arsenal before delivering ‘Civil War’ and one final blowout performance of ‘Paradise City’. With red confetti flying in the air, thousands of fans screaming and cheering the band on, Axl and co bow before their final signoff – three hours after walking on stage, “Thanks for coming out, thanks for putting up with my lame ass and thanks for not throwing shit”. Anytime Mr. Rose because good things come to those who wait – come back soon!

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