There is Axl Rose, running, always running. He never seems to stop. Whether it’s 1991 and he’s in biker shorts throwing tantrums and quitting halfway through gigs, or whether it’s 2016 and he’s in jeans ripped at the knees, the capricious vocalist sprints from side to side of the gigantic stage. It’s almost like he’s angry, like you said something bad about his girl and he’s about to kick your ass. Then, suddenly, like a track star who’s finished the race, he pulls up and his neck sticks out, peering into the throngs of people surrounding his stage. Maybe he’s searching for that guy talking smack. Or maybe he’s just looking for approval.
Either way, he elicits reaction, a mighty roar from the thousands of people in the outfield of Dodger Stadium. The other fifty thousand fans are further back in the field level, loge and reserve sections, not so much acknowledging Rose’ sprinting antics, as he continues to dart from east to west on stage. They’re just rocking out to the music.
More specifically, they’re probably mostly rocking out to Slash.
Decked out in all black — vest, tight jeans, Converse All-Stars — once he’s introduced by Rose, the iconic guitarist brandishes his sunburst Les Paul and steps forth to unleash his soul. His style isn’t so much about shredding; rather, with the way he hammers on and pulls off, and aided by some timely wah-wah effects, Slash seems to slither his way over the fretboard, finding a groove that’s made him one of the most enduring musicians of this generation. Long after his death, Slash’s attire, stance and style will continue to inspire guitarists to keep rock alive.
Not everyone is here. Steven Addler guests drums only occasionally on this tour, and rhythm guitarist Izzy Stadlin has been replaced. But Duff McKagan is still providing the low-end on bass, and back-up vocals. Three of the original members are front and center on of the one of the most hallowed fields in American sports history, in a city they call home. “Welcome to the Jungle” may have been about Rose’s experience in New York, but Hollywood in the 1980s, the place and time when Gn’R broke through, would have also provided a proper backdrop for the song.
“Jungle” is a highlight, as are the epics off of the Use Your Illusion albums, “Coma,” “Estranged,” and “November Rain,” the latter of which is proceeded by the second half instrumental section of Eric Clapton’s “Layla.” Rose is on piano, and Slash channels Clapton in his own way, soloing long into the night.
At one point in the show, Slash finds a groove, serenading the crowd for over five minutes until you know, I know, everyone knows, this means when he’s done, there will be a slight pause before the riff to “Sweet Child O’ Mine” rings out, and fifty, maybe sixty-thousand plus fans, young and old will sing the words we know all too well. Only this time it will be more special, because you’re not in your car or a basement: you’re in the jungle, baby, with Guns N’ Roses.
If you’re older, you can feel young again, maybe back to the first time you saw them on the Hollywood strip, or when you remember they were slapped with the moniker “The Most Dangerous Band in the World.” (And probably the least liked among their peers.) If you’re younger, you can buy a $45 shirt at the merch stands and pretend you know what it was like back then. Or, you can simply marvel at what is happening today, because it’s all surreal.
They weren’t coming back. No way. Not in this lifetime, right?
Axl doesn’t have to stop running onstage — we wouldn’t want him to. But he’s found us. And we’ve found them again.