Guns N' Roses Toronto

Guns N' Roses Test Fans' Patience Again

Axl Rose and his band, which he still calls Guns N' Roses -- despite being the only remaining original band member -- kept fans waiting over two hours until 11:30 p.m. before taking the stage Thursday night at the Air Canada Centre.

Opening bands Danko Jones and Sebastian Bach were done well before 9:30 p.m., indeed testing the crowd's patience. Many left early or fell asleep during the concert, in spite of the many blasts of pyrotechnics that helped keep Rose's ego elevated throughout the ordeal.

But fans of Guns N' Roses are accustomed to waiting and waiting. The band's latest album, Chinese Democracy, took about 15 years to be released. There was a joke that actual Chinese democracy would come before Chinese Democracy (the album) would be released.

Guns N' Roses at Air Canada Centre in Toronto

Not even an hour into Guns N' Roses' set, I noticed a young man fast asleep in the row behind me. He remained in deep slumber throughout the show. And who could blame him? Guns N' Roses appeared only three-and-a-half hours after the scheduled start time. And the show was slowed by too many songs from Chinese Democracy. Or perhaps just too many songs altogether.

Axl Rose with Guns N' Roses at Air Canada Centre in Toronto

The group of musicians in Axl Rose's band were pretty top-notch: Dizzy Reed and Chris Pitman on keyboards; former Replacements' bassist Tommy Stinson; Richard Fortus, Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal and DJ Ashba on guitars; and Frank Ferrer on drums (whom I recognized from the Psychedelic Furs show last autumn).

Popular songs included

Axl Rose with Guns N' Roses at Air Canada Centre in Toronto

Welcome to the Jungle, which got crowds riled up early on. While Sweet Child O' Mine came late in the set, it still got fists pumping and devil's horns thrown up high in the air.

My favourite moment was when Rose took to the piano for November Rain.

Axl Rose with Guns N' Roses at Air Canada Centre in Toronto

Rose's voice was full of gusto and hasn't lost that powerful but nasally screech he perfected on Appetite For Destruction back in '87. I was surprised he had so much energy and stamina for an aging rocker, now almost 48 years old. He spent much of the night prancing about the huge stage, often times running out to the front of the three catwalks that jutted out into the audience.

Guns N' Roses at Air Canada Centre in Toronto

There were several guitar solos throughout the night. Not that it made up for the absence of Slash. It was generous of Rose to allow his band members a chance to shine in the spotlight, while he changed out of at least four sweaty shirts.

Guns N' Roses at Air Canada Centre in Toronto

At one point, well into the show, Rose dedicated a song, Catcher in the Rye, to JD Salinger, who died the day before. Perhaps a kindred spirit.

Axl Rose with Guns N' Roses at Air Canada Centre in Toronto

I wasn't the only one annoyed that my patience wasn't rewarded by the song Patience off G N' R's 1988 Lies album. For those who stuck around until 2 a.m. on a weeknight, they'd have heard Paradise City, which closed the blazing two-and-a-half hour set.

Photos by Roger Cullman.

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