Well, they made it to the stage intact — or close to it.
After months of speculation about whether or not the reunited Guns N' Roses would keep it together long enough to begin its much-hyped world tour, the famously fractious hard-rock band turned up Friday night for the first of two sold-out dates at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
What's more, Axl Rose, Slash, Duff McKagan and the rest stuck around for 2 1/2 hours of music, a significantly longer set than the one they played last week at their surprise Troubadour gig — and an indicator of what's likely to go down when Guns N' Roses headlines the massive Coachella festival next weekend.
The only problem? Rose, as he revealed on Twitter just hours before Friday's show, had broken his foot (apparently at the Troubadour), which necessitated a pretty drastic rethink of how he was going to present himself. We'll have a full review later, but for now here are five thoughts on the concert.
1. "You like my furniture?" Rose asked a few songs in, and what he meant was the giant throne he was sitting on, a borrowed number familiar to anyone who caught the Foo Fighters last year after Dave Grohl broke his leg during a show in Sweden. (Rose shouted out Grohl by name for allowing him to use the movable contraption.) Decorated with lights and guitar necks, it was definitely something to behold — a good thing, given that the seat was where the once-kinetic Rose stayed put for most of Friday's show, save one song he played on a piano and several moments when he hobbled offstage on crutches to change clothes.
2. As at the Troubadour, the band's lineup — which had been held in secrecy until last week's soft launch — was a mix of members from Guns N' Roses' different eras. In addition to Rose, guitarist Slash and bassist McKagan (the three of whom hadn't played together on a stage this size since 1993), the group consisted of old-hand keyboardist Dizzy Reed, "Chinese Democracy" alums Richard Fortus on guitar and Frank Ferrer on drums, as well as a brand-new recruit, keyboardist Melissa Reese. Rumors had circulated recently that drummer Steven Adler and guitarist Izzy Stradlin, both veterans of the band's earliest days, might put in cameos in Las Vegas, but that didn't happen. (Maybe at Coachella?)
3. Friday's set list reflected that continuum, with songs from throughout the band's catalog, including the requisite hits — "Welcome to the Jungle," "Sweet Child O' Mine," "Patience," "November Rain" — but also a surprising number of tunes from "Chinese Democracy," which Rose made with a largely new cast of players after Slash and McKagan quit. Guns N' Roses also did "Coma," a relative rarity from "Use Your Illusion"; a cover of "New Rose" by the British punk group The Damned; and an instrumental medley of Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" and "Layla" by Derek and the Dominos.
4. In contrast with the scrappy Troubadour show, this was a full-on arena production that had carefully timed lights, a trio of female dancers in revealing outfits, lots of booming pyrotechnics and elaborate video sequences like the one that played during "Rocket Queen" depicting two skeletons in a variety of sexual positions. Expect to see that again at Coachella.
5. But don't expect to see it at such a late hour. As usual for Guns N' Roses, Friday's show began a few minutes before midnight and ended around 2:30 a.m. — crazy late by arena standards (even in Las Vegas). Yet Coachella abides by a strict curfew thanks to the festival's delicate relationship with its neighbors. Wonder whose job it'll be to hustle these guys onstage at a more reasonable time?