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Guns N' Roses, Tenacious D Rock The Motor City
Forget the BCS standings. On Saturday night, the Detroit metro area hosted a battle for the title of Most Awesome Rock 'n' Roll Band on the Planet.
Duking it out in separate corners were Guns N' Roses, which really did set rock's standard for awesomeness in the late '80s and rocked the Palace of Auburn Hills with a very late but fierce display of muscular hard rock, and Tenacious D, the comic metal duo of actors Jack Black and Kyle Gass who had a devilishly good time convincing the crowd at Detroit's Masonic Temple Theatre that it was "the greatest band of all time."
Like many college football polls, no clear-cut winner could be determined, but both shows had abundant merits tempered by a few shortcomings.
No discussion of a Guns N' Roses concert can be had without mention of the time issue, of course. The group, whose sole remaining founding member is frontman W. Axl Rose, hit the Palace stage just after 11:30 p.m. Saturday -- more than 70 minutes after former Skid Row singer Sebastian Bach finished his opening set and late enough for one to see Tenacious D and still make it out to the Palace in time for GNR's start. But it also gave the already fired-up but sparse-looking crowd of just over 7,500 time to get a bit drunker and rowdier and start a few more fights during the wait.
Rose made light his reputation during the two-hour and 15-minute showing, explaining that "for me, this is morning. Consider me your Captain Kangaroo. I'm just here having a good morning workout time with my friends in Michigan." Maybe so, but it was late-night for the crowd, and who, after all, does Rose's self-involved temperament really serve? Certainly not any underage fans who may have had to leave due to curfew restrictions -- especially if they drove to the Palace. Certainly not any of the fans who had to endure the lengthy wait.
And certainly not the band or the show itself. Saturday's crowd was a shadow of the size of audience GNR used to command, a function of the band's diminished footprint since its last set of fresh material was released in 1993. And you can bet some of the reluctance to turn out for the show was a function of the near-certainty that Rose and company would be late -- assuming they played at all (and last-minute cancellations have been known to happen) or didn't bugger out early, as Rose did during GNR's 2002 visit to the Palace.
As it was, GNR gave the faithful the works this year -- and as potent a rock show as any band turns out these days. It was heavy on favorites -- "Welcome to the Jungle," "It's So Easy," "Mr. Brownstone," "Sweet Child O' Mine," "Patience," "Nightrain," the epic "November Rain," "Paradise City" and covers of Paul McCartney & Wings' "Live and Let Die" and Bob Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door." GNR also offered a generous helping from the long-awaited and still-unreleased "Chinese Democracy" album, including the biting title track, the industrial-flavored "Better," the melodic epic "The Blues," the charged "I.R.S." and the moody "Madagascar."
Changing tops a half-dozen times, Rose looked leaner and even more animated than when GNR was last here, and his trademark wail as in good form. The band, particularly longtime keyboardist Dizzy Reed and more recent guitarists Robin Finck and Richard Fortus, proved able replacements for the original GNR cast, although the solo spots that padded the show -- a gratuitous hard rock indulgence in the best of circumstances -- seemed particularly superfluous given the late hour, and significant clumps of fans trooped out as the show went on so that maybe half were around as the confetti swirled overhead as the band played "Paradise City" when most bars were making last call.
And that late start is for who's benefit again?
Tenacious D's exposition at the Masonic was a much tighter affair -- and as much a comedic theater production as a rock show. The "D" in the D made for a lively night, with the jovial Black and Gass -- promoting their new Tenacious D film "The Pick of Destiny" -- delivering a scripted presentation of the band that had the sold-out Masonic crowd headbanging, and laughing, throughout the entire two hours.
The basic premise was simple; Black and Gass began acoustically in an apartment set before getting electrocuted by a garage sale guitar (made out of tin foil and a toilet seat) and winding up in Hell, where they form a band with the Antichrist (lead guitar), Col. Sanders (drums) and Charlie Chaplin (bass). They battle Satan himself for their souls -- in the playful duel "Beelzeboss (The Final Showdown)" -- and win the right to rock the house in their own uniquely warped way.
It was as silly as it sounds, sometimes to a fault. But Black and Gass are sharp and seasoned enough to pull it, and when an audience is willing to go with the joke it's even better and that was certainly the case at the Masonic, where the D faithful were singing along to ditties such as "Kielbasa," "Dio," "Master exploder," "Kickapoo" and "Car Chase City" like they were, well, "Sweet Child O' Mine" or "Welcome to the Jungle."
The most awesome band of the night? Call it a draw -- but know that no one was dozing off towards the end of Tenacious D's show like they were as GNR finished.
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