Guns N’ Roses Turn Meadowlands Into a Jungle at MetLife Stadium
They said it wouldn't happen, but here we are in 2016 with the closest to a full blown classic Guns N' Roses reunion, as Slash and Duff McKagan have famously rejoined Axl Rose in the legendary band. Appropriately dubbed the 'Not in This Lifetime...' tour, thousands of fans descended upon the MetLife Stadium at the Meadowlands in New Jersey to scratch an unyielding 20-year itch to see 'The Most Dangerous Band in the World' back in action.
With temperatures in the high 90s, it did little to dissuade the legions of fans from tailgating in the parking lot, bringing to mind images of rock's glory years where stadium tours were the standard. For fans too young to have witnessed these years of global domination on the world's biggest stages, it was a chance to bask in the magic of a time gone by. The cardinal rule of "Don't wear the shirt of the band you're going to see" was clearly not in effect on Saturday, July 23, as some fans were seen wearing tattered and faded GN'R shirts that must have been unearthed from closets after decades of not seeing sunlight.
With the sun firmly below the horizon, the anticipation was increasingly high. The circular GN'R emblem was emblazoned on two utterly massive screens bookending the stage as well as the background behind the stage. Sounds of gunshots filled the air as the emblem turned animated, receiving a deafening roar from the sold out stadium crowd. The Looney Tunes theme song signaled the beginning of the event around 10:15PM and before long, the familiar bass line of "It's So Easy" sent everyone into pure ecstasy as the crescendoing snare rolls from Frank Ferrer mounted.
Boasting one of the meanest riffs in their catalog, "It's So Easy" was a perfect set opener as Axl Rose stormed the stage, every bit the frontman he was back in the early days of Guns. Continuing with the lower singing, "Mr. Brownstone" was up next, given extra vigor as Axl declared, "And I don't worry about nothing, no / 'Cause worrying's a waste of my f--kin' time." It sounds trivial, but the addition of the expletive here (and again in "Nightrain") conveyed so much attitude in just that one word, that the show would have had less grit and conviction without it.
Demonstrating a dominant command of the stage, Axl hurled his microphone stand toward the drum riser twice early in the show, only to have a crew member return it to its rightful spot up front for when the singer needed it next, even if it was just to be discarded again moments later.
Following "Chinese Democracy," Slash warmed up the crowd for one of the highlights, teasing the introduction of "Welcome to the Jungle" before Axl belted out "You know where the f--k you are!?" and introduced the all-time classic, leading in with an unbelievable low to high scream. As this was happening, it was nearly impossible to take your eyes off the aforementioned screens, which helped give the show a truly larger than life presentation. Able to see Axl's bulging eyes and thousand-yard-stare, there was a palpable sense of danger in the air as the frontman put on a truly flawless performance for the full two and a half hour set.
These screens also made it noticeable just how much hotter it was onstage for GN'R as sweat routinely poured off Axl's bent elbow. The singer ran through a myriad of wardrobe changes, wearing shirts that said "The B--tch Is Back," "Show Some
Class" (with a woman in stockings bent over) and more, while Slash appropriately wore a shirt that said "New York F--ckin' City." As for Duff, he paid tribute to two fallen icons, rocking a shirt with Lemmy Kilmister's iconic face and Prince's purple insignia slapped on the body of his bass.
Known for playing a variety of covers live, including some that became GN'R hits of their own ,like "Live and Let Die" and "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," one surprise came when McKagan took the mic. Simply stating "New York City punk rockers..." he was at the vocal helm of their badass cover of the Misfits' "Attitude."
The set was well laid out in regards to tempo, ebbing with slower / longer tracks like "Civil War," "Coma" and the Chinese Democracy ballad "This I Love" that saw Axl seated behind a piano, belting out some of the most emotional notes of the night and flowing with hard-chargers in "You Could Be Mine," "Out Ta Get Me" and "Nightrain."
After walking offstage, the stadium shook with thunderous applause and cheers which only escalated when Guns N' Roses walked back out onstage for the encore. The gentle strumming of an acoustic guitar sent the first notes of the Rolling Stones' "Angie" through the PA towers, cleverly shifting into "Patience." From there it was the Who's "The Seeker" followed by the biggest tune left that had not yet been performed: "Paradise City."
Closing in on 1AM, the song ended the show on the highest note possible as an endless stream of fireworks were sent careening upward from behind the stage for over two straight minutes during the solo and into the end of the song. Confetti, a lot of confetti, filled the front of the stage as the fireworks tee'd off and the crowd, already soaked in sweat as the temperature plummeted to a contextually pleasing 90 degrees, soaked in the final moments of the tour that was never supposed to happen in their lifetime. Yowza!
The ceaseless hype built up surrounding this reunion and tour could have made expectations insurmountable, but GN'R positively shattered any and all of them with a show each attendee will get to gloat about for the rest of their lives.
Guns N' Roses Setlist — July 23 at MetLife Stadium, N.J.
01. "It's So Easy"
02. "Mr. Brownstone"
04. "Welcome to the Jungle"
05. "Double Talkin' Jive"
07. "Live and Let Die" (Wings cover)
08. "Rocket Queen"
09. "You Could Be Mine"
10. "Attitude"(Misfits cover)
11. "This I Love"
12. "Civil War"
14. "Speak Softly Love" (Love Theme From The Godfather, Andy Williams cover)
15. "Sweet Child O' Mine"
17. "Out Ta Get Me"
18. "Wish You Were Here" (Pink Floyd cover, guitar duet)
19. "November Rain"
20. "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" (Bob Dylan cover)
23. "The Seeker" (The Who cover)
24. "Paradise City"
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