It's surprising to say that the first time I saw a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame perform live, it was at a 600 capacity bowling alley in Williamsburg. A couple of days before their co-headlining set at Governor's Ball, the Slash-less Guns 'N Roses hit Brooklyn Bowl for an intimate -- and expensive (tickets were $150) -- sold-out performance.
The 17-song set was a taste of their greatest hits and the mostly older crowd fervently sang along. Lead singer Axl Rose, the only original member of the LA-based hard rock band, led the reformed eight-piece through gems like "Sweet Child o' Mine," "Live and Let Die" and "Knockin' on Heaven's Door." The vibe was a little stale throughout as Axl was sick with what he called "truck stop revenge."
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The wear-and-tear of the 51-year-old Rose showed through, especially on the pared-down piano number "This I Love." Though technically savvy and experienced, solos by guitarists Richard Fortus and recently added DJ Ashba felt forced at times. Regardless, Axl definitely still had his signature scrawl and even broke out his bizarre snake dance a couple of times. Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal played the part of Guns 'n Roses' lead guitarist, wielding a double-necked guitar, without missing a beat.
They last released an album in 2008, the ridiculously belated but well-received "Chinese Democracy," played a 12-date Vegas residency in the fall and will release a 3D concert DVD of those performances later this year through Interscope. So long as Axl wants to continue performing as Guns 'n Roses, fans will surely flock.
Coming from an indie rock background, it's just as surprising to say that hearing glam-metal-meets-blues rock was a refreshing musical experience. Then again, hearing "Welcome to Jungle" and the encore finale "Paradise City" live is something a rock fan just has to admire.