Who knows what’s in the water they drink these days, but whatever it is, it’s working for Guns N’ Roses. Their three hour (!) 25 song show at Hong Kong’s sold out AsiaWorldExpo showcased a veteran LA rock act now in their fifties bidding to become an iconic touring band in the vein of The Stones, and without a doubt, succeeding.
The original trio of lead singer Axl Rose, guitarist Slash, and bassist Duff McKagan has been augmented by four more members (including keyboardist/backup singer Melissa Reese) who competently fill in for past original bandmates who have fallen by the wayside. Gone is much of the group’s wild spontaneity. In its place is — save for a few random comments by Rose — a well oiled touring machine that’s done stints in Vegas and most of the world’s major cities.
So what you get is the group opening with energetic renditions of “It’s So Easy” and “Mr. Brownstone” from their debut, helped by well produced animated video clips that serve as artistic pieces in their own right throughout the show. Slash changed guitars as often as Rose changed T-shirts (at least five times) and on third song “Chinese Democracy” he let loose on his green Les Paul with some crunchy riffs. “Good to see you again. I notice you brought a few friends this time,” quipped Rose, a sly dig at his last low-key appearance in the city a decade ago (which was sparsely attended and which caught much of the city unaware).
And then it’s off to the races for the group — and the crowd loved it. “Welcome To The Jungle” was followed by “Double Talkin’ Jive”, “Better”, “Estranged” and a cover of the Wings’ Bond theme “Live and Let Die”. Rose’s vocals became noticeably stronger as the concert went on, and he was complemented by Slash’s superb guitar work which serves to shape, propel, color and turn the group’s already energetic rock songs into something to truly marvel at.
It’s worth noting that the majority of the group’s set consists of songs from studio albums that are now either 30 years old or approaching that date. While they hold up for the most part, the group’s selection of covers lends a much needed sense of uniqueness to the set. On this night, their cover of Velvet Revolver’s “Slither” (Slash’s post-Guns’ band) sizzled, while their offbeat renditions of Glen Campbell’s countrified “Wichita Lineman” and The Who’s raw “Seeker” showed potential new directions the group is now capable of.
This was a concert that simply rocked and is, essentially critic proof. The crowd — filled with Chinese mainlanders and an international audience — came to get their ya-ya’s out and went home satiated, thrilled and most likely, exhausted. It’s the kind of gig that everyone should see at least once. What happens from here really depends on whether the group records new material again and wants to grow, as opposed to merely cementing their legacy via repeated victory laps.
By Scott Murphy
GUNS ’N’ ROSES
November 21st and 22nd, 2018
IT’S SO EASY
DOUBLE TALKIN’ JIVE
LIVE & LET DIE
SHADOW OF YOUR LOVE
YOU COULD BE MINE
SWEET CHILD O’ MINE
BLACK HOLE SUN
Photo credit: Kennevia Photography