Talking movies, music and other close encounters of the social media kind.
That was one hell of a rock concert.
And despite the horrendously bad weather – it suited the dramatic appearance of the legendary Guns & Roses, the most bad-ass heavy rock band on the planet back in the mid 1980s.
‘Take me down to Nostalgia City’ was what one newspaper called it – and it certainly felt that way as the Gunners performed at Westpac Stadium on that rain swept night.
“Take me down to the Paradise City…”
It takes me down to the year 1988…
I was 16, going to Logan Park High School in Dunedin, and attending 6th and 7th Form Art Camp – where we spent five days life-drawing female nude models. (ahh yes – but that’s another story).
It was the first time I smoked a joint. I was sharing a cabin with school mates Roger, Chris and Noel. We were in the last row of cabins, next to a farmer’s paddock. This was great because the teachers couldn’t see us at all… which also meant they couldn’t see the smoke that was coming out of our cabin. After a few tentative puffs on the Doobie…brother, I was in a state of bliss. Good times. Sitting on the farm wired fence while the boys were smoking and playing their tapes on the ghetto blaster. Remember the smoking scene in the movie ‘Platoon’? Where Charlie Sheen has his first smoke with Wilem Dafoe, Johhny Depp, Forrest Whittaker, Corey Glover and Aidan Quinn? It was kinda like that. Like the famous line Willem Dafoe utters in that scene – “The worm had definitely turned” for me that night. I remember listening to ‘The Weight‘ by The Band countless times, The Head on the Door album by The Cure, Surfing With the Alien by Joe Satriani, ‘Legend‘ – the Best of Bob Marley, the movie soundtrack to The Lost Boys, ‘In The Midnight Hour’ by BB King, Eric Clapton, Cream , Van Halen…and of course, ‘Paradise City’ by Guns & Roses. It all sounded epic as I closed my eyes and inhaled a bit more and hear the words…
Take Me Down to the Paradise City/ Where the grass is green and the girls are pretty…
Sorry, I digress. Back to the concert.
I left work a bit early to meet Kelly and Bev and Hine at the Old Bailey for a few drinks before the gig – and we were all dressed accordingly. Black, black and more black. With a Guns n’ Roses logo print for good measure.
And then the rain stopped. Good chance to get to the Stadium quick before it started again. We didn’t get the long queue wait as others did as was reported in the media. We went straight in – no hassle.
But when we got inside the stadium, forget about getting a beer. The queues stretched out a mile. I went for the shortest queue I could find. To get anything. So the girls weren’t too chuffed when I came back with three mochas from the Allpress Coffee cart.
We’re at a frickin rock concert you idiot…
My good mates Nick and Wazza were also at the concert – and looked like they got a great view from where they were – as you can see, the boys were having a bit of trouble giving me the devils horns salute…
The rain had now stopped thank god and at 8:50 the Gunners finally took the stage. Like a Morricone intro to a classic Spaghetti Western shootout we get a first look at the original band members – bass player Duff McKagan, a plumped but pumped-up Axl Rose, and Saul Hudson a.k.a Slash- with signature tall top hat and black curly hair that look like slithery black snakes with sunglasses that cloaked his face – thrusting out his weapon of choice – the gold Gibson Les Paul.
As the crowd go ballistic, the Gunners, quick on the draw – start shooting from the hip – and go straight into “It’s So Easy”.
Let the shoot-out commence.
Two songs in – I quickly rush out to get beers for everyone, thinking they’d be no-one at the beer queue now (and I was right – no queues!)
I quickly get back to my seat when the riff of ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ begins. That vicious opening sound of the guitar still sends shivers -like a switchblade in a knife fight, Slash flicks it out, but the repeated notes echo like the rattle of a machine gun, sinister in its intent. Axl’s voice starts to howl like a werewolf bloodied and stabbed and on the run, before the primal sound of the drums catch up with him, and the band slowly build their thunderous charge – swelling and building momentum, till it explodes like a napalm apocalypse.
The whole stadium erupts.
You’re in the Jungle baby. You’re gonna die…
Despite some sound issues early on – it came right when they got into the classic James Bond track ‘Live and Let Die’. Understandable – with the wild weather before the concert -they probably never got a proper soundcheck – and would have only tested the sound levels when they began to play. I can imagine the sound crew scrambling like mad dogs at the start.
And so, for the next two and a half hours the Gunners were down in the battle zone – playing hard and heavy rock music at rapid pace, firing it out sonically with the brutal accuracy of the Terminator on Judgement Day.
And yes, ‘You Could Be Mine’ – the song for the T2 movie was awesome.
That song takes me back to 1991…
I remember our University Rugby Team would always play “You Could Be Mine” in the changing room to get pumped-up before we went out to play. And one night at the rugby clubrooms at The Oxford Inn (which was in Lambton Quay) where the Karaoke machine was always in play -one particular night it was ‘Axl Rose Night’ so each team had to sing a GunsN’Roses song. Our winger Gareth was quite a shy guy with a great mullet that Martin Riggs from Lethal Weapon would’ve been proud of, surprised us all by singing a perfect rendition of “You Could Be Mine”. We nicknamed him “Axl” after that…
I’ve digressed again, back to the concert.
The rain was now swirling around the stadium, so even the covered seats were getting the full brunt. But that just made the Gunners play harder and louder – as if to defy the weather Gods. And the crowd of 38,000 were getting off on it. Our slightly covered seats were not so covered any more. My beer now tasted more like rain water.
But hell, I thought, bring on the damn rain, because the drummer Frank Ferrer and Bass Duff McKagan were delivering the thunder with a pulsing rhythm section, and Slash’s Gibson axe and Axl Rose’s fiery vocals were bringing the lightning on stage. Mother nature hitting the stadium was in some effed-up way – complementing what was happening on the stage.
In a weird way I felt like Lieutenant Dan in the movie Forrest Gump when he defied the gods in the middle of a storm.
Because come hell or high water, these Guns n’ Roses weren’t gonna stand down for no-one. And neither were we.
And there were a number of stand out moments:
Slash wielding his axe playing The Godfather theme (which I yelled out to everyone on my row that he was playing the Godfather) before he beautifully segued into the opening riff of Sweet Child Of Mine. Brilliant.
Another stand out moment was when Slash and the other guitarist duelled and played ‘Wish You Were Here’ by Pink Floyd and Bob Dylan’s Knocking on Heaven’s Door where Axl started getting the audience to participate in singing the chorus.
Also Axl playing piano and the end section to Eric Clapton’s layla (beautiful) which neatly segued into the piano intro of November Rain – the whole stadium stood up for that.
And of course, it was raining while they played ‘November Rain’.
Those moments were great to see because it was Guns n’Roses paying their respects to the rock legends of old – of which they now belong. Rock writer Mick Wall considers the Gunners as the last great rock group of our times – and maybe he’s right (although the Foo Fighters, the Killers and Kings Of Leon might say otherwise).
When they arrived in Wellington on their own private Boeing 767 Jet with their bloodied logo on the side and tail – it reminded me of the classic hedonistic heavy metal days of the 1970s when the almighty Led Zeppelin once ruled the Earth flying in their own private jet.
And so by the end of the wild and crazy night they play Paradise City – everyone by now pumped on the nostalgia, and cheering as they witnessed one of the legendary rock bands – and for some rock critics, the last of the giants.
What a ride.
Guns n’Roses are my older sister Kelly’s favourite band of all time – so it was nice to see her get one of her bucket list items ticked off that night. At the end of the concert, I noticed a genuine tear (not the rain) in her eyes and a big smile on her face. Cool.
And despite all the bad weather it was so good to see the reaction from Duff and Slash after the gig about the Wellington crowd which was great to see:
So thank you Axl, Duff and Slash – as I raise my rain water filled beer cup.
And cheers to the crowd in Wellington.
Despite the raging weather, your appetite for destruction is still as strong as ever.