Headbangers’ Brawl is a weekly column where Metal Insider’s Bram and Zach take a moment to debate and analyze two opposing sides of a topical issue occurring in the world of metal and/or the music industry.
This past weekend, Axl Rose and his version of Guns N’ Roses performed their first show in about a year at the Rock In Rio Festival. And thanks to professionally filmed footage of the concert, everyone can watch the entire set online. While Bram and Zach were watching the New GN’R’s performance, two things popped into their heads:
1. Damn Axl looks bad. We may hate to judge musicians by their looks, but seriously, he looked like a school bus for the first half of the show.
2. Hmm, we’re expected to pay $60-$100 dollars to see this on their upcoming U.S. tour? And come to think of it, why was the only announcement about said dates made via Ticketmaster leaks?
Both thoughts have reminded them that the enthusiasm once held for GN’R has dropped considerably since the lackluster release of Chinese Democracy (an album we waited 14 years for). So with that in mind, Bram and Zach debate whether Axl Rose can do anything to regain momentum for Guns N’ Roses in this week’s Headbangers’ Brawl.
Bram: Let’s see – what can GN’R do to gain back some respect? Well, let’s see, I think it can be summed up by one thing: GET THE ORIGINAL LINEUP BACK TOGETHER. I know that’s next to impossible, because Axl Rose is, um, a bit difficult, but it’s really the only thing that would truly excite people. Axl Rose is the only remaining member of the original lineup, so seeing “Guns N’ Roses” now is akin to seeing a cover band with a fatter version of the original singer, who as Patton Oswalt remarked, gained the equivalent of Duff McKagan. Slash is still a smoking guitar player, but he hasn’t been doing his cred any favors either. If there’s any way to get the band’s momentum back on track, and I’m not sure there is, that would be a good start.
Zach: I would love to see the original lineup of GN’R reunite. But not only do I know that will never happen, I also don’t think that’s the only way for the band to regain respect. It may not be the same thing as the original GN’R, but Axl has hired some really talented musicians to be a part of the new band. So first thing he needs to do is actually show case the new members. A major reason why the new version of the group has been seen as “Axl and his cover band” is because they haven’t been presented as actual members of GN’R. Granted, a lot of this has to do with the constant lineup changes (raise your hand if you think Robin Finck is still in the band). But it also doesn’t help that GN’R never did any real push to highlight GN’R as a band. Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (one of three current guitarists) even admitted this flaw. In fact, I don’t think GN’R have done any group photo shoots other than from on stage since Slash’s departure.
One easy way to fix this? ARRANGE GROUP INTERVIEWS AND PHOTOSHOOTS WITH THE ENTIRE BAND TOGETHER. Granted, that may be easier said than done considering how Axl barely did any interviews in support of Chinese Democracy. However, I’m sure Rolling Stone would jump at the chance to do a full story and shoot “introducing” the New Guns. Either way, not only does Axl need to do more press, but he needs to do more press WITH his new band mates. Want to prove that this is a legit band? Show it other than onstage.
Separate from press, it might help if GN’R performed more intimate/theater shows. I was extremely fortunate to have gotten to see the band during their four night run at the Hammerstein Ballroom in NYC back in 2006. And it truly was awesome. I have yet to see them in an arena, but I’ve heard less than thrilling reviews. Sure, Axl may be able to fill an arena (actually, considering that this upcoming batch of U.S. dates find them playing a lot of Summer amphitheatres…in November, maybe they can’t pack in large crowds), but GN’R need to not only create hype again for their performances, but also need to reconnect with fans. Letting fans see them put on a stellar show in a more exclusive setting could rebuild a connection and momentum.
B: I think you touched on it, but it doesn’t seem like Axl even cares that much. There’s plenty of fans still willing to pony up to see the band, but by not doing any interviews, and acting like the rest of the band are just hired hands not even worth mentioning, he’s playing down the band’s legacy. To me, it’s like he’s not proud enough of Chinese Democracy or his current lineup to get over himself and play the band – and the album – up.
What I think Axl should do is retire the Guns N’ Roses name. It’s essentially a solo project now. And even if the original lineup did reunite (which they’re never going to do), you can’t recapture the energy and fire that those five guys had 25 years ago. It would definitely restore the band’s name, but it could also undo it.
Z: I agree that Axl hasn’t shown a lot of care. But if he was ashamed of Chinese Democracy, then he wouldn’t be playing up to five songs off it live. And if he wasn’t feeling his current lineup, then he wouldn’t let them perform multiple instrumental jams or solos while he took a minute to change outfits off stage. Or furthermore, if he really wasn’t pleased with his lineup, then he’d simply ditch them and find new members in a heart beat. Going through new members isn’t easy, but I’ve got to believe that he can find a hand full of players who’d want to be in GN’R (at least for a few months before they realize what they got themselves into).
So Axl definitely does care about GN’R. It’s just that he’s either had a funny way of showing it or keeps letting his ego get in the way of doing what needs to be done (aka, promotion). Maybe instead of blaming others (which he seems to always do), he should actually take action and fix the problems himself.
B: We’re talking about a guy that walked into venues, didn’t get a good aura from them, and canceled shows. That’s not someone that’s going to take stock of his situation, realize he’s been a bit off track for the last decade, and suddenly fix things. From the looks of it, he cares about his band about as much as he cares about his appearance. While it wasn’t like Guns N’ Roses were going to be able to return to their former glory in the first place, it seems like there’s going to be more and more people coming out just to see the ensuing shit show, and that’s a damn shame.
Watch the Rock In Rio performance that caused this Brawl down below: