The media, may I query you as to what it is? Or should I say what it was? To me the media in its traditional form is the unbound truth telling to the masses. Clearly those “reporting” in the near past in relation to the (Guns N' Roses) Reading and Leeds performances were not media representatives of any kind. They were snarling wolves, eager to chomp away at the pride of a living legend. Let me take the honourable duty of depicting the current incarnation of Guns N' Roses in its true form. I had the privilege of attending a Guns N' Roses concert tonight at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast. Within the dome shaped building Northern Irish fans waited eagerly to see Guns N' Roses's triumphant début in Northern Ireland. There were inklings of “If only I'd been alive to see GN'R in the late 1980s, I'm only attending this gig to say I saw Guns N' Roses live”. Hold that thought for a second, imagine “indie” dressed teenagers chuckling about the “Axl Rose Experiment”, rolling around their seats in hysterics about the media branded “dismal” “Chinese Democracy”. Despite the fact like many others they never gave the latter a chance. I clutched my fist tightly hoping Guns N' Roses would lead revenge against their antics.
As the last drop of my drink touched the tip of my tongue the Odyssey's magnificent lighting dimmed. An aura rose up around the Arena as the audience gasped in delight at the sight of activity. Thoughts tinkered in the air as DJ Ashba toyed with the idea of springing the concert to life. The lighting of the “Chinese Democracy” theme bordered the stage and DJ Ashba duly roared into the opening track. There, unassumingly emerging from the side of the stage, was a man who captivated the crowd with his mere presence. Roars rung aloud as Axl Rose, a “monster” according to the highest of tabloids, greeted the crowd with a grin. Axl boomed deeply “It don't really matter” as the engaged audience absorbed his every lyric. DJ Ashba, who's been a centre point of criticism for many pro-reunionists, tended to the front row ticket payers with limited edition guitar picks whilst still maintaining a high level performance of the song “Chinese Democracy”. Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal whom some would describe as the “nicest guy in the music industry” smiled amiably to the adoring crowd. Richard Fortus, possibly the modern day “Mr. Cool”, strummed his rhythm guitar basically, yet almost hypnotically. Tommy Stinson, arguably the backbone of Guns N' Roses, played his bass guitar with an almost wisdom induced vibe.
Familiarity scattered the Odyssey Arena next as once again DJ Ashba teasingly invited the “Jungle” to Belfast. Whilst he intentionally stuttered on the opening notes of “Jungle”, the crowd metaphorically prized the rest of the introduction from the grasp of Ashba as forty year old bandanna wearing men relived their youth. The entire Arena jumped into action as Axl Rose hissed perfectly “Do you where you are?” It goes without saying the entire Odyssey Arena arose from their resting points and expressed their delight in every means possible as the most iconic song in hard rock history ran wild. Guitarists ran back in forth across the stage so as to not be struck down by the deadliness of their own playing. Other Guns N' Roses classics such as “It's So Easy” and the hatefully catchy “Mr. Brownstone” glittered Belfast's main entertainment establishment respectively. The crowd were especially pleased when Axl roared “Fuck off” assisted with a hand gesture during “Easy”. The mentioned testosterone ridden classics from “Appetite” were followed by a subtle and emotionally complicated song. Neatly entitled “Sorry”. The sheer raw emotion of Axl's vocals and the utter spirituality of Ron Thal's guitar playing made this song a treat. The pure power of “Sorry” will have Odyssey Arena attenders clutching for some means of reliving such an enthralling piece.
The band then proceeded some time after to pamper the crowd with a love story, in the form of Axl's own personal masterpiece, “This I Love”. The song provoked thoughts of empathy, thoughts of compassion, thoughts of understanding. “This I Love” live to say the least was an experience, Rose yet again rising to every level of expectation brought forth by the song. “Street Of Dreams”, formerly “The Blues”, was the next chapter of Guns N' Roses' Belfast tale. The introduction of “Street Of Dreams” was met by youthful choruses of “I love this song”, and needless to say they did. It was a refreshing occurrence to see the adults of tomorrow embrace a “Chinese Democracy” gem as such. The band delivered on every aspect of the track. The “Illusion” classic “You Could Be Mine”, minus the Arnold cameo, then acted as a pacifier to the indulging crowd. As well as Stinson's awe inspiring bass introduction, the typifying element of the 1991 track was Axl's piercing scream at the climax. The “new addition” yet utterly at home DJ Ashba then played his solo piece.
Well informed fans following Guns N' Roses' intentions of world domination were able to excite other ticket payers by saying almost magically, “Sweet Child is next”. Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons and so on screamed in pure delight as Mr. Ashba invited the fans to once again prize his piece. The terrific introduction to “Sweet Child” was met with rapturous applause as the crowd sang, meaning every word they uttered. An old lady well into her sixties had her legs rejuvenated by the classic and henceforth was initiated into the rock n' roll realm. Axl Rose chanted “Where do we go now?” over and over again as the crowd cried every lyric to the extent that it quite literally trembled the earth the Arena found itself on. The prolonged phrasing of “Sweet Child O' Mine” at the end of “Sweet Child” was again performed to maximum standard by lead singer Axl Rose. Classically trained pianist Axl took to the grand piano. Surely the man couldn't maintain such control over the crowd's wonders as he played a few keys? You'd be wrong to think otherwise. The audience held onto Axl's every note as he delightfully transcended into “November Rain”. The classy introduction of “November Rain” had the crowd finding themselves clapping. The song engulfed thoughts of nostalgia, quietly around the Odyssey thirty year old women considered the time they floundered themselves around their bedroom to the rhythm of “November Rain”. “November Rain” was tasteful and concise, an all round brilliantly performed piece.
Many considered the notion of “Chinese Democracy” not floating with the Belfast crowd, but those “many” couldn't have been farther from the truth. “Better”, the industrial inspired track, was received with a sense of familiarity, it further proved the point that “Chinese Democracy” is indeed a cherished item in certain quarters. It defaced “old Guns N' Roses” t-shirts in the crowd with its quality. Laughs were spewed as the “Pink Panther”was spouted as being the centre theme of “Bumblefoot's” solo piece. Ron Thal then proceeded to transform the childish images portrayed by some into ones of pure hard rock. The snippet of “Estranged” incorporated into his solo enchanted the most hearing of ears. The Bob Dylan classic “Knockin' On Heaven's Door” marked a pivotal point in the performance, the co-operation shown by ticket payers during Axl's “Can you help me out here?” bit of the composition was remarkable. It acted as a true symbol of the adoration gently plucked from the fans' hearts by Guns N' Roses. The stage presence then bombed from quaint to rabid as Guns N' Roses ran straight into “Nightrain”. It was a blistering piece filled with balls and attitude. It was late in the set list when an attention seeking ticket payer felt it his role to lob a bag at Axl Rose. Did “crazy” Axl throw a tantrum and attack the fan? Did the “sissy” Axl represented by the media walk off and not return to the stage? No. Axl caught the bag, put it on his back for a brief time, and then set it aside. May I ask why such a happening will not be covered by our “media”? I'm sure you've reached your conclusion.
Following “Nightrain” Axl appeared to indicate that was it. Show over. As time elapsed small clusters of people positioned themselves to leave, when, out of the blue, in an almost lone ranger like manner, Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal fulfilled the wishes of us all with the opening riff of his “Don't Cry” solo, indicating all was not what it had first appeared. Encouraged by Ron and their own Guns N' Roses lyric operator, the crowd soulfully sang along to Thal's almost ritualistic “Don't Cry” solo. Was this Ron's departing gift we asked ourselves. Our self-directed questions were met with the synthesized beginning of “Madagascar”. One gets the impression “Madagascar” is the song Axl Rose manifests himself into. His deliverance of the track is simply breath taking. Martin Luther King's words during “Madagascar” were met with DJ Ashba encouraging clapping, and our neck hairs standing up in respect. Cravings for “Paradise City” glistened the Odyssey Arena in Belfast as fans sought the perfect ending to a perfect concert. Richard Fortus and “Bumblefoot” teased the gathering with scrapings of a golden track. Then, the familiar foot stamping beat of “Paradise City” rang aloud and something heavenly began. Every voice was united in effort, and the result was spectacular.
Confetti decorated the Odyssey Arena as people bathed in the phenomenon that is Guns N' Roses live. “That was the greatest performance ever” said The Smiths listening “indie” kid in the back row. Needless to say they'll be swapping their designer scarves for their newly bought “Chinese Democracy” t-shirt tomorrow morning.