Classic Concert Review: Guns N Roses Ritz NY 1988
In 1988 Guns N Roses began to climb. Their debut album Appetite for Destruction had been released and begun to climb the charts, Their music video for Paradice City, Welcome To the Jungle and Sweet Child O’Mine had been getting more and more requests on MTV (yes, MTV helped bands by playing music videos) but most importantly, the word of their dangerous persona and electric live performance had spread across the nation. This concert, recorded for MTV in February of 1988, is the greatest example of Guns N Roses in their prime, with the classic lineup, classic songs, and a perfect example of why, for a short time, Guns N Roses was the greatest rock n roll band in history.
The Band: This concert features the famous line up of Axl W.Rose, Slash, Duff McKagen, Izzy Stradlin and Steven ‘Popcorn’ Adler. This line-up shows why Guns N Roses become as well-known as they did. Each band member has a distinguishable look and style. They play together as brothers living to rock as opposed to hired Guns worried about keeping Axl happy. The chemistry and friendship in this concert makes the well documented tension of today that much more heartbreaking.
Axl: Axl shows in this concert why he was the greatest frontman in rock n roll history. His dangerous charisma and energy are focused in the show and the intensity of his performance is unrivaled. This show predates Axl’s perceived megalomania and he is genuinely out there for the fans, joking and bantering in a much less violent fashion than his Use Your Illusion Days.
Slash: Slash, one of the most recognizable guitar players in history, what is there to say. He is hungry and dirty, full of swag before you could hash mark it. His guitar playing, fueled by ambiguous intoxication, is full of passion and feeling, you can tell he is hungry, tell he is out their ripping it up. Looking at him now, one almost has urge to say his fire is gone, he is Slash, he can show up anywhere and play anything now and people won’t mind.
Duff: Duff ‘The King of Beers’ McKagean, a man whose appetites were so legendary they have been immortalized forever by The Simpsons tribute in Duff Beer. This concerts precedes his darker Use Your Illusions days where his demons had a visible toll on his health. Luckily these days he is refined and in better physical shape than ever. In this 1988 concert Duff is plays sharp bass rhythm and his backing vocals are rich.
Izzy: The unsung hero of Guns N Roses, Izzy was responsible for penning many of the hits that would make GNR a household name. As one of the best rhythm guitar players of all time, Izzy does not disappoint in this concert. Adding a Midwestern style that added to the dynamic music of Guns N Roses
Steven: Most people these days would recognize Steven Adler only for his recent appearance in Celebrity Rehab, indeed his unceremonious departure from the band led Steven deeper into his addictions, eventually causing him stroke, and he continues, unfortunately to battle his addictions, we all hope he stays in good health. However, in this show, Steven Adler looks that of any classic LA surfer dude, sunkissed skin, big blonde hair, and a pearly white smile. His drumming is spot on and his energy is visible to anyone who watches.
The Songs: This concert features the vast majority of the Appetite for Destruction songs with the exception of ‘Anything Goes’, ‘Your Crazy’ and ‘Think About You’. However, they do play Knockin on Heavens Door, a song that would wind up on Use Your Illusion II, and the Aerosmith song ‘Mama Kin’ that appeared on the Live Like A Suicide EP as well as the GNR Lies album.
The Concert: What can be said, this is Guns N Roses in their prime, the band that you liked even if you didn’t listen to heavy metal, and this concert is a good example why, the energy that exudes off these rockers can be appreciated by all. The first song played is It’s So Easy, the band explodes out on stage with their more fast passed song. Axl all dressed up in bandana, scarf, shades, t-shirt and skintight leather pants. Slash dons the classic top hat and jean vest. It is what Guns N Roses will forever be remembered as. At this point, instead of going song by song, I will highlight some key songs that are just a bit more electrifying than others, (although all the songs give some tingle)
Out Ta Get Me: ‘We wanna dedicate this song to the people who wanna hold you back, the people who tell you how to live, people who tell you how to dress, people who tell you how to talk, people who tell you what you can say and can’t say, I personally don’t need that, I don’t need that s*** in my life.’ This is how Axl introduces this song, and the energy of his performance makes you believe every word. As Axl dances around the rest of the band interacts well and plays their parts. The true shining gem of this song however, is Slash. He plays his parts with just enough sloppiness and emotion, it’s a style of playing that’s dirty and grungy, but has more character than any lightning quick solo of a more technical nature. What glows however is when he is playing a fan grabs the neck of his guitar and Slash promptly responds by kicking the perpetrator straight on.
Sweet Child O’Mine: This song is arguably the bands most well-known. This performance of it mimics the passion of the studio version as closely as any live version I’ve heard, Axl’s voice is amazing and his scream at the end of the solo is enough to send shivers down your spine. After watching this, a friend of mine looked at me and said ‘This may be stupid, but Axle Rose is the greatest frontman I’ve ever seen’ this sentiment I have often defended and this song, as evidenced by my friend is enough to prove it. Again, Slash does not disappoint, the guitar parts are more vibrant and out there than in the studio version, it’s something that will make you go back, listen to the tune and you’ll hear new guitar parts that you first recognized in this live version.
Paradise City: This song is the absolute highlight of the concert. The thrashy headbangin riff is full of energy and the band plays like it was the first song of the night instead of almost the last. The guitar solo for this song Slash has said was the hardest to record because they normally just vamp at the end. This is the case here with Slash going absolutely crazy eventually falling onto his back and still soloing like there is no tomorrow. At this point Axle leaps out into the crowd, not out of anger as he would later be noted for, but out of love and excitement and energy, in the crowd is shirt is pulled off and once he struggles to get back on stage he continues dancing not missing a beat. The song concludes with Axl yelling GOOD F&^*IN NIGHT. They continue to encore for two more songs, but even if they hadn’t, even if this was the only song played that night, it would have been well worth it.
Conclusion: This GNR concert is possibly the best proshot concert out there, unfortunately it hasn’t been officially released, so the only way to get it is to watch it online, or somehow come across it from tape traders as I have. This show is the definitive Guns N Roses show, and is possibly the finest concert in my, or any collection.