Over the Weekend: Guns N' Roses at Gexa Energy Pavilion

Guns N' Roses, The Sword
Gexa Energy Pavilion
Saturday, November 5

Better than: I could have ever expected in weather that was damn near perfect.

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Mike Alves
Do those jeans make Axl look fat?
have to admit that the bar was set very low for Saturday night's performance by Guns N' Roses. I had heard all of the rumors about Axl Rose being fat and not being able to sing, about confrontations with audience members all around the world, etc., etc.

But somehow, perhaps because expectations were so low, a rather healthy-looking Rose and his current collection of sidemen put on a hell of a show.

Playing a collection of hits, deep cuts and surprising cover choices, Guns N' Roses were accomplished throughout the evening. The only drawback was an over-reliance on solos. Hell, I was half expecting the roadies to get their moment in the spotlight.

But despite the '70s-era showboating and the horribly low volume on Rose's microphone, the band sounded as good, if not better, than the original crew of Slash, Izzy, Duff, etc.

What Axl Rose has done is assemble a large cast of skilled instrumentalists, guys who clearly know their roles and who calls the shots.

The entire concert was staged like some odd rock and roll variety show. Besides the solos, the set list included covers of The Who's "My Generation" (sung by bassist Tommy Stinson) and AC/DC's "Whole Lotta Rosie." Even the solos were mishmashes of everything from the James Bond and Pink Panther themes to snippets of songs from Elton John and Pink Floyd.

But for the most part, it all worked because Guns N' Roses original material still sounds as fresh and engaging as it did in the late 80's. Although the show began with the semi-recent "Chinese Democracy," it was on the second song, "Welcome to the Jungle," that the band really hit stride.

And it would have been even better if the sound crew were paying attention to the volume of Rose's microphone. At first, I just thought it was my advanced age that was prohibiting me from hearing the vocals, but folks all around the venue were heard complaining. Some people guessed that Rose had requested that his vocals be buried in the mix to cover up any inadequacies the singer may currently possess

Whatever vocal limitations Axl Rose may or may not have, he is still a master showman. Running around the large stage, Rose looked in good shape as he engaged the crowd throughout the evening. About midway through the show, as the band began "Sweet Child O' Mine," Rose smiled widely as he knew how good his band was sounding.

Of course, the lengthy hit "Paradise City" concluded the encore and the satisfied crowd left the venue blissfully reliving those '80s and '90s memories. There was a sense of relief in the air, of expectations met and surpassed.

Incredibly, Axl Rose still has something left in the tank. Who knew?

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
I have never been the biggest fan of Guns N' Roses. Back when the band first appeared, I thought they were a bad bar band mixing Stones' riffs with Aerosmith's swagger. Rose's pseudo gypsy attire was another turnoff. But after seeing the talented display Saturday night, I must begrudgingly tip my hat to Rose and the rest of his heavily tattooed brood.

By The Way: This was the first time that I have been to a show in Fair Park and not felt like I was going to die of heat prostration. There should be a rule that no one be allowed to schedule an outside show in Dallas until after Halloween.

Random Note: Sadly, I missed most of the set by opening act The Sword. Judging by the ferocity of the Austin band's last couple of tunes, these guys were just as focused as the headliners.

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