Never Mind the Oxygen Tanks, Here's Guns n' Roses

Five excuses to see Axl Rose's new band. By Neil Shah

1. You're the type of person who gives someone a second chance (and a third and a fourth). Many of you were probably traumatized by Axl's catastrophic (in his own words) appearance at the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards. So was he. But judging from GN'R's four shows at New York's Hammerstein Ballroom in May, Axl's dancing with Mr. Brownstone again—and in a good way. All the classic GN'R stage moves are back: the serpentine sway, the temper-tantrum stage stomp, the behind-the-shoulder microphone-stand toss. Axl's even taking hits of oxygen again!

2. You saw the Clap Your Hands Say Yeah drummer's GN'R tribute band and weren't satisfied. OK, I admit, Axl's new version of GN'R is largely a world-class cover band. You'll also have to sit through more than a few pointless guitar jams. But I'll be damned if Axl Rose isn't the best Axl Rose impersonator alive! And I kinda like the band's bluesy sketch of Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful." That song always makes me cry.

3. You're writing a dissertation on nonsense as signification in American pop music. "Ow!" "KUH!" "Hey, hey, hey." "No, no, no-ooh-whoa." I've already got your thesis sentence: Although many would argue that Axl Rose is a rock and roll cliché, he is, on the contrary, the genius behind many of rock's most enduring clichés.

4. You want a free copy of Chinese Democracy. Several of the original tunes the new GN'R play, especially "Better" and "The Blues," are surprisingly catchy, even if they're not as memorable as Appetite's dark odes to debauchery or Illusion's motor-mouthed psychodramas. All you need is a little tape recorder.

5. You're tired of being a closet GN'R fan. If you're still reading this, it's time to end the pain. I've been there before. Or as Axl and Elton might say, "I've seen that movie too-ooh-woo." What better place to come out?

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