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Guns N’ Roses prove themselves even better with age

Guns N' Roses at U.S. Bank Stadium on July 30, 2017. Photo by Steven Cohen for MPR.

“Epic” is the word that comes to my mind to describe last night’s Guns N’ Roses: Not in this Lifetime performance at U.S. Bank Stadium. Yes, I said epic. I’ll be honest: My expectations were low. I may have been too quick to judge how age affected the music by watching a few YouTube videos of an Axl Rose with a little more to his midsection. However, after three-plus hours of guitar-shredding, heart-pumping, adrenaline-producing, pure rock and roll, I was pleasantly proven wrong.

The epic-ness of the evening began with a 30-minute set by the Deftones. They primed the crowd by rattling the windows in the stadium, setting the bar high energy-wise for the rest of the night. Not in this Lifetime tour marked the first time in more than 20 years that Axl Rose, Duff McKagan and Slash played together onstage. They were able to move past the decades that separated them and whatever bad blood was shared. They picked up where they left off to give their fans another chance to experience GNR as they once were.

GNR’s stage presence was striking: Axl in his ripped jeans, aviator glasses, one fingerless glove and plaid shirt wrapped around his waist like Judd Nelson in The Breakfast Club; Duff McKagan — seemed only to change by showing a little age in his face — holding a bass with the Prince symbol, playing it with full authority; and Slash — in his tight leather pants, Chuck Taylors, curly mane trickling over his eyes underneath his black top hat — gripping his signature Les Paul Gibson.

Every single person onstage played their hearts out, from “Mr. Brownstone” and “Chinese Democracy” at the opening, through “Sweet Child o’ Mine.” There were also several covers in the set. McKagan sang “New Rose” by the Damned, but before belting out the first few lines, he spit on the floor, letting the audience know he still owns rock and roll. GNR honored the late Chris Cornell of Soundgarden with “Black Hole Sun,” and in the five-song encore, they covered The Who’s The Seeker. There were a few instrumental covers that showcased the talents of Richard Fortus and Slash, the two guitarists on stage. They played “Speak Softly Love” (the theme song from The Godfather), and Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.”

Frontman Axl Rose complimented the audience, saying, “Nice place ya got here” right before launching into “Live and Let Die.” This group played hard, and it was visible through their sweat-drenched hair and clothes, the veins protruding from their necks and the expressions on their faces as they moved through the set. You literally couldn’t miss this; there were five-story screens framing the stage that displayed this grit in high definition.

The most epic performance of last night belonged to Slash. The second he stepped foot on that stage, he played a straight three hours and 15 minutes — and when I say play, it was with body, mind, soul and perhaps a hand from God. He didn’t rest one minute. As Axl Rose continued to change costumes, Slash remained onstage cycling through a few different guitars, but playing each one like no other musician can. He perspired through his shirt entirely, and his fingers moved for three hours and 15 minutes straight. In his autobiography, he gives insight into why he is the one and only Slash: “I’ve always had to do things my way; I play guitar my way; I’ve taken myself to the edges of life my way; I’ve gotten clean my way; and I’m still here. Whether or not I deserve to be is another story.”

As the night when on, it felt as if my ear plugs were literally deteriorating. Amazed at the stamina displayed by every band member — physically, vocally and mentally — it made me realize that Guns N’ Roses 2017 might be above par than GNR 1991; adding the years but keeping the fire lit is how one ages gracefully. So yes, I will stick to describing the night as epic, surprisingly epic, and leaving the stadium with thousands of other GNR fans, hearing the occasional “woo hoo,” understanding where that comes from and honoring it completely.

Set List

It’s So Easy
Mr. Brownstone
Chinese Democracy
Welcome to the Jungle
Double Talkin’ Jive
Better
Estranged
Live and Let Die
Rocket Queen
You Could Be Mine
New Rose (The Damned cover)
This I Love
Civil War
Yesterdays
Coma
Slash guitar solo – Speak Softly Love (Love theme from The Godfather)
Sweet Child O’ Mine
Used to Love Her
My Michelle
Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd cover)
November Rain
Black Hole Sun (Soundgarden cover)
Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door
Night Train

Encore
Don’t Cry
Whole Lotta Rosie
Patience
The Seeker (The Who cover)
Paradise City

Guns N’ Roses at U.S. Bank Stadium on July 30, 2017. Photo by Steven Cohen for MPR. Guns N’ Roses at U.S. Bank Stadium on July 30, 2017. Photo by Steven Cohen for MPR. Guns N’ Roses at U.S. Bank Stadium on July 30, 2017. Photo by Steven Cohen for MPR. Guns N’ Roses at U.S. Bank Stadium on July 30, 2017. Photo by Steven Cohen for MPR. Guns N’ Roses at U.S. Bank Stadium on July 30, 2017. Photo by Steven Cohen for MPR.

Guns N’ Roses at U.S. Bank Stadium on July 30, 2017. Photo by Steven Cohen for MPR.
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