No apology for the delay, the first track was Chinese Democracy, which started with DJ Ashba in spotlight, standing on one two amps, one foot on each, at the very top stage platform and playing the opening riff. The hat he was wearing looked a bit like the one Slash used to wear- surely no coincidence, he's got the same kind of nose ring too... and doesn't Richard Fortus bear more than a passing resemblance to a young Izzy Stradlin?
Once all the band were on stage, there was a lot of activity on stage, the three guitarists, bassist and Axel moving around a lot, up and down the stairs... the crowd reception was close to ecstatic down at the front, a forest of hands thrust in the air making devil's horn symbols, and everyone jumping up and down. Having said that, there wasn't too much of a crush, it was pretty comfortable for a big stadium gig.
The guitarists kept coming right up to the edge of the stage to do solos, which was pretty exciting. Ron Thal seemed particularly impressive, very fluid, plays with his eyes shut like he's entering a trance or playing in a dream. Throughout the gig, every musician would get a chance to show what they could do with a solo of their own, apart from the synths guy, I guess he didn't make the grade. Richard Fortus did a reworking of the James Bond theme, and Thal did the Pink Panther theme, Tommy Stinson played 'My Generation' and sang lead on that, which was pleasing for the Who fans in the audience. I'm really curious to know if the tunes I couldn't put a name to might not be the melodies to forthcoming songs in the Chinese Democracy album sequence.
I couldn't quite work Axl out. He was really wide eyed at the start and I didn't know why, and I found myself struggling to pick out what he was singing quite often, although that's probably due, at least in part, to me having to wear ear plugs these days. Also he kept going backstage for some reason. At first he looked tired, well, maybe it was jet lag or something. But he convinced as showman and performer as the gig rolled on, dancing energetically, and running around, and I think his singing got stronger too.Before November Rain, they played the riff to Jean Genie, and Axl muttered the first line of that song... then when the grand piano was pulled out on to stage and as he sat down he announced 'Bennie and the Jets', but played November rain instead. He played piano himself for November rain, and as luck would have it, it had begun to drizzle, so he changed the words to 'December Rain', which was pretty cool. The song ended with the 'Don't you feel
like you need someone' verses that feature on the "Live Era" version of the song.
At first, the main special effects were just the film projections on the the three big screens at the back of the stage, but later on they also had huge roman candle type fireworks, flames gushing out of pipes, and the show ended with strips of foil like snakes being shot right out in the crowd. That was right at the end of the encore, the show closer was Paradise City, which began with Mr Rose wryly commenting 'Perhaps you'll recognise this one.'
The pre-encore closer however, was Knocking on Heaven's Door. Axl told a story about how he met Bob Dylan at a party and Bob asked him when he was going to record Knocking... Axl says 'We all really love that song' and Bob says, 'I don't care, I just want the money'. It was a good feeling though, and he got the crowd to join in on the chorus. "Perhaps you guys can help me out with this one".
Dizzy Reeds piano solo was a very mellow piece, with just him sat at the top of the stage with his piano and everyone else off set. I found myself feeling a lot of respect for this pianist that, before that time, I had barely noticed in the band. The general impression was of eight virtuoso musicians pretty much on top of their game, with everyone afforded their own moment to shine, and the variety made the whole thing seem quite light hearted and fun too. People put Axl down as an ego maniac sometimes, but he didn't hog the stage at all.
I still don't know if what seemed to be Axl straining at times to sing was really happening or was just in my mind, or the fault of the ear plugs, or what, but on the whole he was the consummate showman, that's the main thing. The sleeve photos to 'Live Era 87-93' show him high-jumping however, there was none of that last night. He changed shirt about four times though, and each seemed almost immediately to become drenched in his sweat, he was working pretty hard and he showed it.
My immediate verdict after the show was 4.5 out of five, marked down for just slightly for lateness and being stingy handing out set lists. It's like, c'mon guys, what the hell, can't you roadies just stoop down and pass 'em over, it just takes a second... but they did throw what seemed to be buckets of guitar picks out, so I guess some people went home with a nice souvenir. I think the Chinese Democracy tracks sound better in a live format too, just a bit looser and less polished... but warmer. And it seemed all the boxes from the back catalogue were ticked, it would have been nice to hear 'Civil War' as well, maybe 'Patience'... for me, from the new songs, 'Catcher in the Rye' was missing, but in the final analysis, no complaints. Except that I would have liked them to play on for a couple more hours...
As an afternote I went home, appropriately enough, on the night train, four damn hours from Banciao to Tienjhon, and I'm still knackered... but worth it, well worth it. Chinese Democracy in the Republic of China, sweet as a nut.
The set list at the end of this link is accurate http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/guns-n-roses/2009/taipei-county-stadium-taipei-taiwan-43d717d3.html