GUNS N' ROSES OFFERS ENERGETIC BUT UNIMAGINATIVE PERFORMANCE
- Dean Rhodes, The Arizona Republic, 2.1.92
On the band's first headlining tour, Guns N' Roses has proven themselves worthy inheritors of some of rock 'n' roll's finest traditions.
Guns N' Roses defies behavioral expectations much the same way the Sex Pistols threw predictability out the window during the mid-70s.
And Guns N' Roses' sound is derivative of the Rolling Stones (Slash and guitarist Clark Gilby played a snippet of the Stones' ''Wild Horses'').
But live, Guns N' Roses have yet to formulate their own spin on the rock concert ceremony.
Friday night's show at Compton Terrace could have been a set by any of more than a dozen rock bands on tour.
The light show during ''Live and Let Die'' was unspectacular, lead singer Axl Rose racing to and fro over the multileveled stage became tiresome and the set list, for all its supposed spontaneity, seemed pat.
Even the witty preshow introduction to Frank Sinatra's ''My Way'' wasn't new. In November, Queensryche played Ethel Merman singing ''There's No Business Like Show Business'' before taking the stage.
Yet Guns N' Roses, through sheer force of energy, warmed up a chilly evening.
Taking the stage at 11:40 p.m., Rose broke into ''It's So Easy'' from ''Appetite For Destruction.'' He was dressed in a blood red suit coat and matching briefs.
(Later, Rose would make his most controversial move of the night, changing into a T-shirt that read ''St. Louis sucks,'' referring the July 1991 riot at the Riverport Amphitheater in Maryland Heights, Mo.)
Rose is a devilish imp of a front man, his nasal screech embellishing many Guns N' Roses songs with just the right touch of defiance.
Slash, while not the most disciplined guitarist in the world, has an amazing ability to draw myriad tones from his guitars.
And the rest of the band -- bassist Duff McKagan, drummer Matt Sorum, Clarke and keyboardist Dizzy Reed -- are solid, if not top-of-the-line, players.
During the first few songs, Rose's untrained wail was lost in the mix, hindering much of the message in the drug-oriented ''Mr. Brownstone.''
For fans, Guns N' Roses ran through a good sampling of the band's three albums, including the dual releases of ''Use Your Illusion I'' and ''II.'' The hits, from ''Welcome to the Jungle'' to ''You Could Be Mine,'' were there.
''Bad Obsession'' from ''Use Your Illusion I'' was the main benefactor of a live interpretation. Accented with Slash's bluesier lines and a harmonica intro, the anguished salute to drug addiction took on deeper meaning.
However, ''Civil War'' lost much of its impact in light of current events. With confederate, U.S. and Soviet flags draped behind him, Rose wore a rebel jacket and donned a Mao cap, trying to reinforce the anti-war lyrics.
With defense budgets being slashed in the United States and the former Soviet Union, ''Civil War'' felt terribly out-of-date.
And, surprisingly, the numerous cameras on hand to feed images to Compton Terrace's two giant video screens revealed that Rose is the Johnny Carson of rock, using a TelePrompTer for assistance in remembering the lyrics. The cribbing was most noticeable while Rose played piano during ''November Rain.''
At 1:30 a.m., Guns N' Roses had just wrapped up their No. 1 hit, ''Sweet Child O' Mine,'' and I had to leave to meet deadline. No end was in sight, although some unprepared fans were leaving before hypothermia set in.
If Guns N' Roses re-enacts the same show tonight at Compton Terrace (show time is ''around 9 p.m.'' and tickets are still available), expect an energetic, but hardly revelatory performance.
Perhaps next time out on the road Guns N' Roses will be as innovative as when they released two separate albums at once. Then, Guns N' Roses will have earned every cent of their rock 'n' roll inheritance.