More Cowbell, Please!! (and thoughts about sloppiness).
The most anticipated tour in the last 10-15 years came to Copenhagen, not visiting since 1991 at Gentofte Stadium. “A disappointment” might sound a little harsh, but not counting in the notorious bad sound in this football stadium, it was a weird sloppy experience, filled with…well, fill:
As the Looney-Tunes theme came and went, touring drummer Frank Ferrer mounted the drum podium, followed by Dizzy Reed on keyboard and percussion, and Melissa Reese on synth/backup vocals. The 48.000 strong crowd went nuts when first Slash, then Duff McKagan and rhythm guitarist Richard Fortus and lastly All Rose came on too, and McKagan kicked thing into gear by starting “It’s So Easy”. This excellent point-of-entry was followed by “Mr. Brownstone” and “Chinese Democracy”, but after “Welcome To The Jungle” and “Double Talkin’ Jive”, was where things started going south.
Depending on where you were in the massive concrete arena, it either sounded decent at best, or, in lack of better words, like crap! Now, Parken Stadium IS notorious for its extremely bad sound for live shows, and is something others have written a lot about, so I won’t go into details here.
What distracted me more than the sound, was the performance itself – or lack thereof. The guy shouting the famous “Ladies and gentlemen. From Hollywood: GUNS. AND. ROSES!!” probably said more to the audience than anyone in the band (Slash is excused here, he never says anything anyway). How about chatting to the fans who have paid top-price for their tickets?
Anyway, as the Guns progressed through the set with what should be an epic and legendary performance, it became clear that the set was inflated by less-than-optimal songs, as if the legendary ensemble was trying to make up for not visiting this part of the world for a very long time, but many of the songs could have been left out of the set, and I’d bet no one would have noticed. There was a lot of covers too: Wings (McCartney) with “Live And Let Die” (which GnR almost have made their own, their version is certainly excellent enough), McKagan singing on “New Rose”, a cover of The Damned, and stuff by The Who, AC/DC and Pink Floyd.
As it has become almost expected, but still surprising, most bigger artists no matter the genre, is paying tribute to the late Chris Cornell, in this case Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun”,which Reed started on his piano. Cornell had a special place in my heart as a musician and music fan, so this made my heart smile, along with pretty much anyone else in the massive venue, and everyone was singing along. Axl seemed a little out of his territory, but did quite an excellent job.
Going backwards in the set a little, “You Could Be Mine”, “Civil War” and “Yesterdays” was the only pearls to be found mid-set that was played great, as the rest was stuffed with songs that, even though they were genuine GnR songs, just sounded out of place, and was played very sloppy by everyone. Maybe they should ditch some of those “Chinese Democracy” songs, cut down on the covers, and maybe just write some fresh stuff, now that they’re together again? That, my friends, would have been awesome, and would have earned them a whole extra star in my book (and this review).
Sigh….Well, at least the classics weren’t farther apart than a few songs, which many people used as beer/toilet/smoking breaks. As we came to song number 18 on the list (yeah, eighteen songs in, and we’re not done yet), “Sweet Child O’ Mine” was started by Slash’s legendary riff, and this time the band finally started sounding very decent, almost great.
Throughout the set, a few facts was clear: Not counting in the abnormally harsh mid-mushy mess of a soundscape, the band clearly had the chemistry from the old days, but never managed to transfer this chemistry to the audience. Never saying anything to the audience during a 3-hour set, except: “Ladies and gentlemen: Mr. Duff. KcKagan!”, is just uncool. The only interactions with the massive crowd was when someone from the band stood near the edge of the stage and played. It seemed static and therefore boring. None of the rowdiness and rebellion from earlier was there, and this made it seem like “just another job to pay the bills”.
The highlights of the set started rolling in with “Sweet Child…”, and together with “My Michelle” and the extraordinary “November Rain”, these were the most tightly played songs, as if they were now finally warmed up. Axl’s voice was now also warmed up, and they now sounded pretty awesome for the rest of the set, but it’s a real shame that this didn’t come until the end of the set. With a general staccato style throughout the show, Axl’s voice sounded a little harsh, and didn’t reveal that we had one of the greatest rock singers in front of us, until the last 1/6. of the show.
Like I said before, the chemistry was there big time. The band seemed to enjoy themselves and playing together, but that was it. None of this was projected onto the audience. Now, many people who was there at the show will possibly strongly disagree with me, and this can also have something to do with where I was in the venue compared to them (sound quality would have a play here), and many people who was there will testify this show as just as legendary and epic as a show with Guns ’N Roses should be, but with Slash repeatedly not hitting his notes, Axl’s high pitch vocal passes being relieved by Melissa Reese… Yes – Axl was indeed being helped by Reese whenever he got to a high pitch that he couldn’t handle himself. Now, King Diamond does this too, but Axl didn’t even try to hide this, and actually removed his microphone from his mouth while Reese was singing his line, not even trying to hide the assistance from his little helper. You wrote the words dude. If you can’t sing them all (but at least make us believe that you can), then don’t put on a show.
Moving on towards the end of the main set, Slash was once again on double-neck guitar like in “Civil War”, this time on “Knockin’ On Heavens Door”, like an extension on sending Cornell the right way to heavens. Slash still not quite hitting those very high notes on the fretboard ruined the otherwise excellent solos, which was often shared between the two guitarists.
As Axl picked up a trigger cord, and a huge three-headed truck horn shook the concrete walls, he cried: “Do you know what this means?”, and it was time for “Night Train”, which marked the end of the main set.
After a small break, the acoustics came out, and after a short doodle between Slash and Fortus, we got the beautiful Patience which was played equally as fantastically as the last sixth of the main set, followed by “The Seeker” by The Who and lastly the party track “Paradise City”. They gave it all they had towards the end, too bad it didn’t come earlier, and that it it didn’t seem to get further than the stage. Many in the audience may have felt like the energy was there, but it was created by themselves, and the very fact that almost 50.000 people was there. Not from the band.
I can’t say I wasn’t somewhat disappointed. It seems like, depending on where you had placed yourself in the venue, it was either very good sound, or very bad. Excluding the bad sound quality, you could still hear the band playing very sloppy – Slash not hitting his own notes and string bends, you could both hear and see Axl being relieved by Melissa Reese without Axl even trying to hide it, and the fact that no one in the band said practically anything to the audience during the very long set, is just unheard of. Take Aerosmith, who played Copenhagen less than a month ago (albeit in another venue), Steven Tyler chatted with the audience and seemed very much up for the show, and he’s 69! Axl is only 55, so don’t tell me it’s because he’s getting old. And like a drummer-friend of mine said, “More cowbell, please!”, because that bell was indeed too low 😉
1. It’s So Easy
2. Mr. Brownstone
3. Chinese Democracy
4. Welcome to the Jungle
5. Double Talkin’ Jive
8. Live and Let Die
9. Rocket Queen
10. Whole Lotta Rosie
11. You Could Be Mine
12. You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory/New Rose
13. This I Love
14. Civil War
17. Speak Softly, Love
18. Sweet Child O’ Mine
19. My Michelle
20. Wish You Were Here
21. Layla/November Rain
22. Black Hole Sun
23. Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
26. The Seeker
27. Paradise City