Guns n Roses: Live in Hartwall Arena, Helsinki 2006

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07.07 2006 Hartwall Arena

REVIEW AND OFFSTAGE PHOTOS BY MARKO SYRJÄLÄ

LIVEPHOTOS BY JUHANA STOLT

It’s been about fifteen years since the last time Guns ’n Roses played Finland. Back in the day, they were one of the world’s biggest bands, 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 lineup. Over the past few years, the band has canceled more tours than they have played, and there have been constant changes in the band’s lineup. 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? Despite all this, it’s incredible 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…

Originally, it was announced that the G’N’R show should start at 09:00 PM, but it didn’t, as I guessed before the show. After one hour and forty-five minutes waiting, which is a record at least in Finland, the show was finally started at 10:45 PM. The intro tape and impressive light show were rolling when the band arrived on stage. Guitarist Robin Finck began 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 the next band jumped into the classic “It’s So Easy.” The song sounded perfect 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 tangible, and there were more pyro and bombs used than the average KISS concert. Of course, it is flattering for the Finnish audience when Robin Finch played “Finlandia” as a part of his guitar solo but otherwise, it somewhat dull and dumb. Fortunately, it lasted only a few minutes. Soon, and he started to play “Sweet Child O Mine,” which, once again, caused noisy applause. Even though the crowd seemed not to care, I missed Slash and his unique sound and playing at this point. Robin, who played most of the leads, 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 music when you hear it the very first time, but it wasn’t too bad, in my opinion. It was a mid-tempo song, and it started with an electronic drum beat and some good guitar riffing. Chorus was the weakest part of the song, but it’s hard to judge any song after listening, as I said before. During the song, there was video footage of Martin Luther King and some others running in 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 you like or not, and I don’t care too much about it. It was as good or bad as it has always been, but most people seemed to be delighted 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’s history. Usually, I don’t care about solos and especially piano solos too much. Still, this time, it was delightful, mostly 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 good. Dizzy and his piano stayed in the front of the 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 the song when you hear it the 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. Looking like Izzy Stradlin, Richard Fortes 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 lineup, still both other guitarists sound way better than him. Like I said before, he 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 brief jamming, he started to play “November Rain.” Indeed, this was a real 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 an excellent 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 lovely instrumental version of “Don’t Cry” as a part of his solo. Ron is the latest addition to the ever-changing G’N’R lineup, and after seeing this show, I honestly hope that he will stay with the band in the future. He was the best guitarist, both 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, the only song from the 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 side of the rocker. This song has a great chorus and good solos on it. Hopefully, someday, we will have a chance to hear it on the record too? “Nightrain” was the last song of the actual set before it was the time of the only and final encore, which didn’t appear to 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. The stage looked great, and there were a lot of effects and explosives used during the show. Although the new members had no personality like their predecessors once had, the current band did a good, professional job even though it was clear from the beginning who the man was on stage. The man himself was in a perfect mood, both vocally and physically. I’ve never heard him sound as good as he was today. I’ve listened to numerous live recordings from the past tours and even saw G’N’R live on their glory days in 1991, but this was way better than anything I’ve heard from him. The setlist 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 ways that were three played today, and they were all ok. I hope that “Chinese Democracy” comes out someday, and we all will hear how the new stuff sounds? Finally, it must be said that only four tracks, including two cover songs, from “Use Your Illusion” albums is not enough, but, understandably, playing time is limited, and you can’t please everyone at the same time.

Overall the whole package was delightful and if you have a chance, make sure to check them out!

THE SETLIST:

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: