Guns N' Roses Makes a Triumphant Return to Cleveland, Delivers Epic Show at the Q

click to enlarge Guns N' Roses Makes a Triumphant Return to Cleveland, Delivers Epic Show at the Q
Scott Sandberg
Sometimes good things come to those who wait — and if you’re a Guns N’ Roses fan, last night’s tour stop at the Q — the first GNR show in Cleveland in over a decade, was long overdue. For many, it was quite possibly their first chance to see the classic lineup era members Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan sharing the stage — the last time the three toured together was in the early ‘90s during the touring cycle for the Use Your Illusion albums.

Doing a quick T-shirt survey in the arena concourse, there were plenty of original Illusion tour shirts and a number of older, faded shirts that went back further than that. At least one attendee decided that the slightly chilly fall temperatures was a good enough excuse to break out his GNR holiday sweater.

No matter what your favorite era of the band might be, the setlist, which ran well beyond the three hour mark, was remarkably comprehensive. There were the expected GNR classics — including a hefty dosage of songs from the band’s landmark Appetite for Destruction, which turned 30 this year. Eight out of the album’s 12 tracks were in the set — including staple favorites “Welcome To The Jungle,” “It’s So Easy,” “Paradise City” and “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” But there was also no shortage of album tracks and deeper fan favorites, like the Illusion-era “Double Talkin’ Jive,” which featured hazy psychedelic guitar work from Slash and lengthy epics such as “Coma,” “Estranged” and, of course, “November Rain,” featuring Rose behind a grand piano, slipping in the entire instrumental coda from Derek & the Dominos “Layla” as an intro.

Crowd participation was a common thread throughout the night— the near capacity audience was happy to help chip in on the verses and choruses for nearly all of the songs — extra layers of support which helped to mask some vocal issues that Rose unfortunately wrestled with for a good portion of the set. He relied heavily on falsetto for many of the higher parts, vocally. But Rose, clad in a red leather jacket, wearing ripped jeans and a flannel tied around his waist early on, gave 100 percent, clearly feeding off of the energy that he was getting back from the crowd as he handed out classic lyrics line by line with specific emphasis and enthusiasm.

Instrumentally, the band — also featuring longtime members Dizzy Reed on keyboards, guitarist Richard Fortus, drummer Frank Ferrer and Melissa Reed, the newest recruit, adding additional keyboards and vocal support, sounded like no time had passed at all — attacking each song with gusto — even the material from 2008’s Chinese Democracy.

Slash tore through the title track like it was a vintage catalog classic — and it was a real pleasure watching him trade riffs with Fortus throughout the set, particularly during their instrumental take on Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.” Duff led the crowd through a punk rock sing-along with his version of the Misfits classic “Attitude,” from 1993’s The Spaghetti Incident and the group also worked in several musical reminders of those who have left us recently — including “Wichita Lineman” for the late Glenn Campbell and a poignant version of “Black Hole Sun” for late Soundgarden vocalist Chris Cornell. A snippet of “Melissa” by the Allman Brothers Band, for the late Gregg Allman, led into GNR’s own “Patience” during the encores.

Length-wise, they probably could have trimmed the setlist (over 30 songs) back a bit. But this particular tour is one that’s been such a long time coming that it’s understandable they might have been inspired to go long — there was a lot of ground to cover musically, after all. And when you’ve been waiting for something like this for over two decades, you want as much as you can possibly get, right? Guns N’ Roses delivered a performance which unquestionably gave all in attendance their money’s worth and then some.
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