Photos by David Rubene
Guns N’ Roses touring in general, let alone coming through the Twin Cities, was something I never expected to happen in my adult life. Growing up, I heard my mom gush over Axl Rose’s long hair and unique voice and distinctly remember singing along to “Sweet Child O’ Mine” during long car rides. When my blonde hair would get exceptionally knotty and raggedy looking, she would affectionately call me Axl. So, when the opportunity arose to see Guns N’ Roses live I jumped on it quickly. So quickly, even, that I had no idea that one of my favorite bands- Deftones- was the opening act.
When I heard the first note of Deftones’ set, my eyes widened, a huge grin appeared on my face, and I was way more excited than anyone else surrounding me. That combined with the fact that I was quite literally half of their age made me stick out like a sore thumb. But after Deftones’ catchy and heavy sound hit them, along with a few personal anecdotes including one about playing in a Twin Cities McDonald’s parking lot in 1995, nearly everyone around me turned into a fan and they all danced along with me for Deftones’ final song.
The crew quickly moved onto the stage to set up whatever elaborate items were needed for Guns N’ Roses’ set that was up next. As I looked around the US Bank Stadium, Prince was blasting through the speakers and I took in the sight of thousands of people donning their favorite vintage GNR shirts, and things felt surreal to say the least. I thought about all the babysitters being paid for Mom and Dad’s nostalgic date night and could feel the excitement buzzing through the room. Just a few days earlier, Axl Rose had joined Billy Joel on stage during his Minneapolis to play a few songs together, so everyone had been waiting in anticipation for a 48+ hours with the knowledge that Rose was just waiting somewhere in the city to perform.
Finally, I heard the first few notes of “It’s So Easy,” from their iconic album Appetite For Destruction and the band entered the stage to a football stadium full of roaring screams and cheers. Couples threw up the “rock on” horns while simultaneously thrusting their beers into the air, not caring about how much expensive venue beer they were wasting. After hearing about the years of beef and drama between frontman Axl and lead guitarist Slash, their chemistry and camaraderie on stage was impressive and refreshing. There were many times throughout their shockingly long set that Axl stood shaking his hips while Slash shredded another guitar solo next to him. They rifled through so much of their repertoire and, to no surprise, me and nearly everyone else in the audience enjoyed yelling along and dancing to each and every song.
The lighting and stage setup were amazing and intricate with screens donning custom graphics, flames shooting throughout nearly every song, and fireworks appearing more times than I’ve ever seen during one set. There were stairs all over the stage that Slash, multiple times, ran halfway up just to jump off of as he finished a guitar solo.
Fans (including yours truly) freaked out most notably during Welcome to the Jungle and Sweet Child O’ Mine (duh!) and the many covers they played, including Wings’ Live and Let Die. There wasn’t much banter between anyone in the band and the audience, but the incredibly stacked setlist made up for that. Axl did ask the crowd once, “So, how’ve you been” and when there were screams in return, he responded “Good to hear.” Duff McKagan, bassist, had the Prince “love symbol” on his guitar which really tugged at the heart strings. Other highlights of the set included Axl playing a grand piano during “November Rain,” multiple outfit changes, and tons of impressively long guitar solos by Slash, who truly never seemed to take a break.
As the set wound down and eventually came to a close, everyone filing out seemed to be in very contrasting moods. I witnessed at least five fights between very grown, very drunk men. But, thankfully, I witnessed many more couples holding hands, nearly falling asleep slouched down in the stadium chairs, and stammering their way out to buy a concert tee and make it home in time to *maybe* get enough sleep to have a successful Monday after partying like it was 1987.