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- Posted on Jan 29th 2010 2:45PM by Joshua Ostroff
Still, the mood was getting tumultuous in Toronto's Air Canada Center last night as the clocked crept towards 11:30pm and the boos let up only when a lady doffed her top for the jumbotron. It was starting to get worrisome. After all, GN'R has sparked two full fledged riots in Canada -- in Montreal in 1992 and in Vancouver a decade later.
Then Axl rolled out in a wheelchair and did something utterly unexpected. He apologized. "Sorry abut the time delay," he said with a sheepish grin beneath his new handlebar mustache. "I got carried away jumping off sh-- last night."
Alas, the two-hour delay meant songs had to be cut from Guns N' Roses setlist to finish by 2am -- ironically including 'Patience.'
But after a tepid response to 'Chinese Democracy' as the opening track, all seemed forgiven the second the Axl screeched, "You know where you are? You're in the jungle, Toronto, you're gonna dieeee." They then barreled headfirst into 'Appetite for Destruction' classics 'It's So Easy' and 'Mr Brownstone.'
Unlike their past two tours, this was Axl's chance to properly trot out his new songs – unfortunately, 'Chinese Democracy' resembles those 'Star Wars' prequels. Aside from a few flashes of greatness -- encore number 'Madagascar' is a 'November Rain' style epic purpose-built for stadium performances while aching ballad 'This I Love' provided nice counterpoint -- the songs just don't have much soul.
Same goes for Axl's band -- they're an extremely talented bunch, especially onetime Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson and new, Slash-esque guitar hero DJ Ashba -- but as fans discussed ad nauseum during the delay, they're not quite the same.
Still, GN'R's back catalogue, including beloved covers of 'Live and Let Die' and 'Knockin' on Heaven's Door,' are as powerful as ever, even if Axl's voiced only sporadically hit his old heights until a blazing set-closing rendition of 'Night Train.'
"We're gonna do this for our good friend J.D. Salinger, who passed away today," Axl said mid-concert, launching into 'Catcher in the Rye.' It was an interesting callout because of the similarities -- and differences -- the two men share. Both were reclusive artistic geniuses whose early work encapsulated the aimless anger of youth. But while Salinger holed up in his home and adamantly refused to follow-up his seminal work, Rose almost drove himself crazy trying to outdo his past. Ultimately, he failed and, in doing so, lessened his legend.
Not that it matters much to Axl, who ran around the stage like a young man. He was in far better shape than on his last two tours, both physically and mentally. Up there on an arena stage, in front of 21,000 fans, he's rarely looked happier.
And when the guitars chimed out the indelible opening riff to 'Sweet Child O' Mine' or the chorus to 'Paradise City' sparked a thousands-strong sing-along, the crowd looked just as content.