GUNS N' ROSES - "Live In Paradise City" (Rio, 2011)
This unofficial DVD takes one of the shows from GNR's never-ending 2009-2014 tour : Rio in October 2011 in appalling weather, and presents the whole show in very watchable quality. Sound is a basic 2.0 taken from the live broadcast, as are the visuals in 16:9. If you want just a full length, professionally shot and mixed live record of the current tour - and the way the new configuration of the band can rock the hell out of the material - well, this is the best of the unofficial live DVD's on the market. The new band? Yep, yadda, yadda, they sure ain't Slash etc, but the new band is a powerful and noisy racket, a classic rock band in its own right that shares a name and singer with an older and better-known band.
On the downside, and really, this shouldn't matter at all, but the show is the band against the odds. Roadies mop rivers of water from the stage mid-song and torrential rain obscures the visuals. Axl meanwhile is in his infamous Yellow Rainjacket, and thus looks absurd. On the other hand, the band sound immaculate - apart from when the guitarist dons a Star Wars helmet and his guitar misbehaves.
On a technical level, the band perform well. The visuals are 16:9, the sound is 2.0, and it sounds fine - apart from some slight compression and pixellation. There is a logo in the top left corner that is largely unobtrusive but placed to cover the logo of the original broadcast channel. There are no extras, no menus, and no bonus stuff. In fact, and you should be aware of this, the last song - "Paradise City" fades out BEFORE it ends. That's right. The last minute of the show is missing.
On the other hand, purists will hate that this band is called Guns N Roses. Having handpicked a set of powerful musicians, GNR-2011 are some kind of rock supergroup - like The Avengers Of Stadium Rock - taking little-known musicians of no small power, and combining them together to create some kind of multiheaded, uber-versatile hydra of metal.
They've never sounded better live. Given the conviction, and passion, these songs are played with you wouldn't know that they didn't pen many of these riffs themselves.
It's no mere nostalgia show : the set is drawn equally from each of the official studio records, with 7 songs from "Appetite For Destriction", 5 from "Use Your Illusion" and 5 from "Chinese Democracy", and numerous solo spots and jams. Sure, it gives him a chance to change his jacket nine times and his hat three times (each time, retaining more jewellry than your average 1998 rapper, Axl being some kind of metal Mr.T), but this is showbusiness, and at it, in a modernised reinterpretation of a 1976 stadium rock show, Guns N Roses absolutely excel.
His band are white hot : each of them (and there are 7 musicians plus Waxl) must have a thought going their head. That thought? Living The Dream! It doesn't matter how many tattoos you have, how ridiculous your hat is, or if the drummer - a one man human powerhouse called Frank Ferrer who used to be in the Psychedlic Furs with guitarist Richard Fortus - looks nothing like you might expect.
This band are magnificent at what they do. When the lights dim, the crowd roars, the opening riff of "Chinese Democracy" peels in razor-sharp hi-definition, this band are in the lap of the gods.
Four minutes later, and the band are peeling out that riff : the uncoiled snake of "Welcome To The Jungle", and Rio is probably airguitaring away as explosions, fireworks, and lawd knows what else kicks off around them.
It might just be stupid rock. But its the best there is. Sometimes, oftentimes, there is a cleverness in being simple. There's "It So Easy", which is arena punk made flesh. There's the factually inaccurate "Mr.Brownstone" (we go on stage around 9?), all of which have the prance and groove of classic rock.
New material is peppered throughout the show, performed with a passion and belief that belies the relative commercial flatline that is "Chinese Democracy". "Sorry" is obviously the work of a different band to "Mr Brownstone" : the lyrics are dense, and deal with concepts complex and simple far beyond that of far too much old rock - things like self-awareness, forgiveness, and control.
It's quickly back to the burning, wall-of-fire "Live & Let Die".. With "This I Love", "Estranged" and "Street Of Dreams", GNR are into the somewhat slow new-piano-ballads section of the set. It all goes a bit Elton John.
Then its fireworks and "November Rain". Which is one of the silliest songs of all time.
These songs no more belong to the old GNR than they do the new, no more than they belong to my cat - these are communal, modern hymns, contemporary anthems, that exist in our minds and collective consciousness far more than anywhere else.
If anything the band are a testament to the insane self-belief that has been vindicated : a triumph of integrity and persistence of vision through the corrupting and diluting influences of others.. And then, Axl the band start up "Paradise City". The Stadium with explosions, fire, tossed guitar picks, streamers, confetti, red silly strong, rock guitars set to 11, and insane noise. It's probably the best single set closing song of all time.