Twenty-five years after their infamous, riot-inducing meltdown at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Guns N' Roses made their long-awaited return to the city to pour an impressive catalogue of nostalgic sleaze-rock over dozens of thousands of fans.
A weaponized "GNR hot rod" animation played on the video screens, providing a countdown to the start of their show that, shockingly, started exactly on time. And with that, the band leapt onto the stage to kick off this latest stop of their Not in This Lifetime tour.
Guns N' Roses have an arsenal of hits to draw from, and despite only five studio albums of original material, have cashed in on over 100 million in record sales. This night (August 19), they certainly pulled out the vast majority of their biggest hits, and then too much more. The marathon performance showcased the reunion of rock icons Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan, and it lasted for 30 songs and over three hours.
The band opened with a barrage that had the crowd howling voraciously. "It's So Easy," "Mr. Brownstone" and "Welcome to the Jungle" were three of the first four songs the band chewed through, all originating from their landmark 1987 release Appetite for Destruction, which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. Beyond that, however, hit-density was a really rare occurrence on the night, which often saw a crowd favourite sandwiched between several B-sides, cover songs or "impromptu" jams.
Some performances were impressive. Highlights included 1991's "You Could Be Mine," a tremendous instrumental rendition of Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" and "November Rain" that saw Axl Rose showcase his chops on the piano for a while.
Even more performances, however, were rough around the edges. A number of them showed vocal struggles and uninspired stage presence, simply felt cumbersome, or all of the above. When a band pulls out seven cover songs, including two (AC/DC's "Whole Lotta Rosie" and the Who's "The Seeker") just in the encore alone, it's certainly going to dampen a crowd's enthusiasm for beloved originals. This was a performance that would have benefitted by being a lot more concise.
That being said, fans howled in glee when the bright spots hit. Some of the Guns N' Roses classics, a "Sweet Child of Mine" or "Paradise City," for example, frenzied the crowd when those iconic opening riffs hit. And the band really seemed to appreciate the love from the crowd, as Rose so succinctly put it between songs: "Merci beaucoup, motherfuckers!"
Canada's own Our Lady Peace served as opening act for Guns N' Roses. While it may sound like a bit of an odd alliance, the band received a tremendous reception under the beautiful late-afternoon sun. Many in the crowd danced and sang along to classics including "Naveed," "Starseed" and "Somewhere Out There." The band teased a new track, too: "Drop Me in the Water," from their upcoming release Somethingness, and it was a very solid performance. It certainly had that signature Our Lady Peace sound.