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Concert Reviews:
Guns N' Roses goes loud and (too) long at Little Caesars
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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DETROIT -- Guns N’ Roses wished fans a happy Halloween -- with a 13-letter epithet added -- in the video introduction for its show Thursday night, Nov. 2, at Little Caesars Arena.

It may have come a couple of days later, but the concert was still a treat -- with no shortage of tricks, perhaps to a fault -- for fans of the iconic and idiosyncratic hard rock band, which opened the first North American leg of its Not In This Lifetime reunion tour 16 months ago at Ford Field. .

The key was how much GNR you really wanted. At nearly three-and-a-half hours and more than 30 songs it was as much an immersive endurance test as concert -- as evidenced by the significant exodus of the well-under capacity crowd, particularly during the show’s final half-hour. Playing the whole evening by itself, with no opening act, GNR more than made its point that the group, with founding members Slash and Duff McKagan back in the fold after an often acrimonious two decades away, was in tight, dynamic and ferocious form -- but perhaps diluted some of that as the night wore on.

Make no mistake that for the GNR hardcore, and especially those who like to hear Slash play guitar solos, Thursday’s show was a kind of Nirvana. The pyrotechnic-laced set hit all the key points, including “Welcome To The Jungle” and “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” and dug deep for aficionado favorites such as “Double Talkin’ Jive,” “Better” and “Estranged.” A weighty “memorial” section towards the end of the main show included covers of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” (particularly resonant since its singer, Chris Cornell, committed suicide in May shortly after performing at the Fox Theatre just three blocks away) and the Glen Campbell hit “Wichita Lineman” alongside an instrumental rendition of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” and Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.”

The top-hatted Slash, meanwhile, owned the evening. While frontman and GNR mainstay Axl Rose- seemed content to sing his parts and then slip back to what seemed to be his Zen spot in the stage corners, even limiting his trademark moves, his guitar-playing foil was in unapologetically indulgent form. Though bandmate Richard Fortus did his share of heavy lifting on songs such as “Chinese Democracy,” it was Slash who burned all night long, stretching out “Civil War,” “Coma,” “You Could Be Mine” and “November Rain” (introduced with the coda section of Derek and the Dominos’ “Layla”) and trading off with Fortus during an epic “Rocket Queen” and “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.” His own solo segment, meanwhile, led into a band rendition of Nino Rota’s “Speak Softly Love (Love Theme From The Godfather),”

McKagan took his turn in the spotlight, singing a cover of the Damned’s “New Rose.” And Rose, whose days of going on stage hours after starting time seem to be a thing of the past (the show started at 8 p.m.), looked robust as he changed looks several times throughout the show; His voice, however, sounded a bit road-weary from 19 months of touring with GNR and AC/DC, although his wails were still roof-raising and he did a fine job on quieter fare such as “Yesterdays,” “This I Love,” “Don’t Cry” and “Patience.”

By the time “Paradise City” closed the show in a swirl of confetti and explosions, the Little Caesars crowd was certainly sated -- and beyond. There’s no questioning the appetite for GNR’s brand of sonic destruction, but on Thursday it was a bit over-served.

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