“We want to stay and play but one more bottle and we will walk off the stage.”
Ask any Guns N’ Roses fan if they think this quote from Axl Rose would be out of place at any Guns gig and the answer would invariably be no. The band haven’t played in Dublin since the Download festival came to Ireland in June 2006. With many changes to the line up throughout the years, Axl seemed to manage to pull something out of his hat with the release of the highly anticipated Chinese Democracy album, followed by the announcement of a new line up which included Dizzy Reed and SixxAM’s DJ Ashba.
Doors for the event opened just past 6.30pm, the support act Danko Jones on stage about 8pm with a tough job ahead of them. The band themselves are from Canada but they could have been from Mars and been on-stage dressed as starship troopers for this entire crowd cared. This is one of the curses with opening for an act like Guns…unless you are Metallica, you’ll find it hard to keep everyone’s attention. They finished up at around 9.15pm announcing that Guns N Roses are up next to an almighty roar from the already anxious crowd.
Let’s face it – this was never going to be an ordinary show and it was never going to go according to anyone but the band’s schedule. We all had heard what happened at Reading. Any long-standing Guns fan knew what they were getting themselves into. Having said that I do not support or condone the tonight’s events. I think walking off stage should always be a band’s last resort, but what I am trying to put across is that there was always a possibility with Axl that he will walk – coming on stage late or not.
The crowd remained calm enough throughout the lengthy wait for them to appear on stage with nothing but a few loud boos every now and again, and from what I could see some slight bottle throwing at the front but nothing to make anyone fear for their lives. At 10.25pm, the house lights dimmed and it was time for Guns to take to the stage. The set list kicked off with DJ Ashba hitting the opening chords to ‘Chinese Democracy’ and Axl running on stage to an explosion of pyro and silver steamers from the front of the stage. Guns were finally here and they wanted everyone to know it.
The most obvious thing was the appalling standard of the vocals. Axl was never going to sound the same as he did back in the day, but with missed timing on vocals and singing which brought memories of a drunk father trying to do karaoke, it was hard to get past this, but as always with die hard Guns fans – they are willing to overlook this for the fact that they were finally on stage. The crowd’s anger at the long wait became more apparent during the opening to ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ as DJ tried to get the crowd to get excited, leading to a mix of excited cheering and angry jeers which could be heard throughout The O2. The bottles were now being aimed at the stage and Axl stopped ‘Jungle’ about a minute in to lay down the law. He kicked back into it when he felt the crowd has calmed and continued for another three songs before the next bottle came to close for comfort and he said his goodbyes and walked off stage with the band.
What happened over the next hour and a half was surreal, with O2 venue staff coming on stage to announce the walk off was due to ‘technical difficulties and that the band would be returning to the stage, to a member of staff from promoters MCD, appearing on stage to try stop the ever depleting crowd from leaving the building. Most of the crowd at this stage were livid and were calling for a refund of tickets and many left the venue very angry with what had just happened. There are reports going around of people being ushered out of the venue when the house lights went up and then not allowed back into the venue when the band finally did return on stage but I can only give my experience of the night. The band returned about an hour after they had first arrived on stage to finish a set which include ‘Rocket Queen’, ‘November Rain’ and ‘Nightrain’ but their hearts were clearly not in it. The mighty ‘Paradise City’ finally brought the longest hour and a half performance to a close.
I know there are mixed feelings over what caused the delay in them getting on stage, what caused him to walk, and why the crowd were put through this nightmare and had to pay for the events of tonight, but I am going to finish this piece with the following thought. I have been a huge Guns fan for as long as I can remember. Guns to me were always that one band that you wished you were able to see back in their height with all original members still intact. I used stare of photos of them and watch as much footage as I could possibly find but I was always left heartbroken that I wasn’t lucky enough to see them live and left always wanting more. As a long standing Guns fan I don’t want to let one gig take away from all the years that I have spent listening and living on what they created. What they leave behind is incredible music that will be played for the rest of time, and this is what they should be remembered for. Nights like tonight, however, make that very hard indeed.