07.07 2006 Hartwall Arena
It’s been about fifteen years since the last time Guns ’n Roses played Finland. Back in the day they were one of the biggest bands in the world and they played two sold out shows at the Ice Hall in Helsinki. Lots of things have changed from those days. Singer Axl Rose is the only member left from the original line up. Over the past few years the band has cancelled more tours than they have actually played and there have been constant changes in the band’s line up. A new Guns ’n Roses album has been in the works for over a decade already and still no one knows for sure if that album is ever coming out? In spite of all this, it’s amazing that the band seems to be more popular than ever. Many things may have changed but they still sold out two Hartwall Arena shows within few minutes…
REVIEW AND OFFSTAGE PHOTOS BY MARKO SYRJÄLÄ
LIVEPHOTOS BY JUHANA STOLT
Originally it was announced that the G’N'R show should start at 09:00 PM but as I guessed before the show, it didn’t. After one hour and forty five minute waiting, which is a record at least in Finland, the show was finally started at 10:45 PM. The intro tape and impressive lightshow were rolling when band arrived on stage. Guitarist Robin Finck started to play the famous riff and “Welcome to the Jungle” opened the show with a bang. Axl Rose was running across the stage like the good old days and the whole band ran around like maniacs. Some good looking pyro was used every then and now and next band jumped into classic “It’s So Easy”. The song sounded really good right from the beginning as did “Mr. Brownstone”. Maybe a bit unexpectedly “Live and Let Die” was the highlight of the whole show. The band played it with such energy and feeling which was tangible and there was more pyro and bombs used than average KISS concert. Of course it is flattering for Finnish audience when Robin Finch played “Finlandia” as a part of his guitar solo but otherwise it somewhat boring and dumb. Fortunately it lasted only few minutes soon he started to play “Sweet Child O Mine” which, once again, caused a noisy applause. Even though the crowd seemed not to care, I really missed Slash and his unique sound and playing at this point. Robin, who played most of the leads, simply couldn’t handle the old solos and at times he sounded horrible. “Madagascar” was the first new song in the set tonight. It’s hard to say a lot about a song when you hear it very first time but it wasn’t actually too bad in my opinion. It was a mid tempo song and it started with electronic drum beat and some good guitar riffing. Chorus was the weakest part of the song but like I said before, it’s hard to judge any song after one listening. During the song there was video footage of Martin Luther King and some others running on the background. “You Could Be Mine” sounded good as always but once again, I didn’t like the way how guitarists played their leads and solos.
The old Bob Dylan classic “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” was played next. This is a song which you like or not and I personally don’t care too much about it. It was as good or bad as it has always been but most of the people seemed to be very pleased to hear that song. A short break followed and when the lights turned on again it was time for another solo and now it was Dizzy Reed’s turn. As many people know Dizzy has been with G’N’R from the early nineties and besides Axl he’s the longest surviving member in this band history. Usually I don’t care about solos and especially piano solos too much but this time it was really enjoyable especially when he played a complete version of Hanoi Rock’s classic “Don’t You Ever Leave Me”. It was a brilliant choice from Dizzy and sounded really good. Dizzy and his piano stayed in the front of stage when the rest of the band returned on stage and another new track “The Blues” started. Again, it’s hard to say a lot about song when you hear it very first time but this one was a good song indeed in the vein of “November Rain” or “Don’t Cry” from the “Use Your Illusion” albums. Another rocker “Think About You” from the debut album sounded good. Richard Fortes, who really is looking like Izzy Stradlin, played his brief solo next and “Out Ta Get Me” followed.
It must be said that even though Robin Finck seemed to be “a new Slash” in this line up still both other guitarists sound a way better than him. Like I said before, he really looks like Izzy and it was funny to hear comments from the audience how well Izzy did his part on the show =) People apparently knew what to expect when Axl sit behind the massive piano and after a brief jamming he started to play “November Rain”. For sure this was a true highlight for many in the audience and I have to admit that song and especially Axl’s vocals sounded absolutely great on this one. It must be mentioned that “Bumblefoot” alias Ron Thal did such a good job on the solo part and after the song was over it was his turn to fill his own solo spot. After playing some ultra speed licks and riffing he did a nice instrumental version of “Don’t Cry” as a part of his solo. Ron is the latest addition on ever changing G’N’R line up and after seeing this show I honestly hope that he will stay with the band in the future. He was clearly the best guitarist both in musical and technical wise in this band AND he at least even tried to play old stuff like the way it should be played.
“My Michelle” continued the series of great rockers from the first album before it was time to calm down a little and have some “Patience”. The latter was unfortunately only song from brilliant “Lies” album. “Better” was the last but also the best new track played tonight. Again it reminded me about some “Illusion” stuff but this time from the rockers side. This song has a great chorus and good solos on it. Hopefully on someday we will have a change to hear it on the record too? “Nightrain” was the last song of the actual set before it was time of the only and final encore which didn’t apparently surprised anyone, “Paradise City”.
After loads of bombs and massive pyro, the concert was over. Well, it was a long show, almost 130 minutes in total. Stage building looked great and there were a lot of effects and explosives used during the show. Although the new members clearly had no personality like what their predecessors once had the current band did a good, professional job even though it was clear from the beginning who is the man on stage. The man himself was in really good mood both vocally and physically. To be honest I’ve never heard him sound as good as he was today. I’ve heard a numerous live recordings from the past tours and even saw G’N’R live on their glory days at 1991 but this was a way better than anything I’ve heard from him. The set list was good. When you play nine out of twelve tracks from one of the best albums ever released you can’t be too wrong then can you? About the new tracks, that were three played today, they were all ok. I really hope that “Chinese Democracy” comes out someday and we all will hear how the new stuff sounds? Then finally it must be said that only four tracks, including two cover songs, from “Use Your Illusion” albums is a way too little but it is understandable that playing time is limited and you can’t please everyone at the same time.
Overall the whole package was really enjoyable and if you have a chance make sure to check ‘em out !
THE SET LIST:
Welcome To The Jungle, It’s So Easy, Mr. Brownstone, Live And Let Die, Robin Guitar Solo (Finlandia), Sweet Child O’ Mine, Madagascar, You Could Be Mine, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, Dizzy Piano Solo, The Blues, Think About You, Richard Fortus Guitar Solo, Out Ta Get Me, November Rain, Bumblefoot Guitar Solo (Don’t Cry), My Michelle, Patience, Better, Nightrain, Paradise City
AXL IN HELSINKI AFTER THE SHOW: