What is 26 years between friends?
That’s how long it’s been since the core members of rock behemoth Guns N’ Roses — lead singer Axl Rose, lead guitarist Slash and bassist Duff McKagan — all graced a stage together in Salt Lake City. But the gang is back together and apparently rocking as legendarily as ever as the band prepares to invade Vivint Smart Home Arena on Tuesday night as part of its ultra-successful “Not in This Lifetime Tour.”
The “Not in This Lifetime Tour” is a continuation of the band’s grand reunion effort, which kicked off in 2016. The tour has been doing humongous business since then, with the band performing in stadiums and arenas while doing more than 150 shows around the world and appearing before more than 5 million fans.
The band’s performance record over the years, however, has been extremely sporadic in Utah. There was an original date at the Salt Palace on June 3, 1988, on the “Appetite For Destruction Tour” and then there were two different stops on the “Use Your Illusion Tour” — one in July of 1991 at the Salt Palace and another in April of 1993 at the Delta Center. The 1991 show at the Salt Palace is memorable because Rose was reportedly upset at the lack of crowd response during the encore and shouted, “I’ll get out of here before I put anybody else to sleep” before storming offstage mid-song.
The 1993 show marked the last time the main Guns N’ Roses contingent has appeared in the Beehive State. (I’m not forgetting about GNR’s December 2011 visit to the Maverik Center, but that unit featured Rose and a bunch of people who made “Chinese Democracy.” It’s hard to really count that one.) Slash, McKagan and former GNR drummer Matt Sorum, likewise, played the Maverik Center in 2005 with their then-new band Velvet Revolver, fronted by vocalist Scott Weiland.
But now that Slash and McKagan have returned to the mothership, it is time to revel in the full GNR catalog once again in preparation for Tuesday’s big concert. I’ve checked out the band’s recent setlists, and here are the 12 songs — in the order of their expected appearance — I am most looking forward to experiencing at Vivint Smart Home Arena.
‘It’s So Easy’
I am a big connoisseur of concert openings, and am always intrigued by how certain bands take the stage. Having never seen Guns N’ Roses before only heightens my anticipation. I like that the band is going back to its first album — indeed the second song on its benchmark-setting debut, “Appetite For Destruction.” “It’s So Easy” should make a strong opening statement.
This album was released in 2008, after more than a decade of delays, band member changes, erratic behavior and re-recording. No one was really sure what to expect at this point, as Rose was the only original member left standing. This title track, however, kicks butt. It will be interesting to hear Slash’s take on the grinding guitar rhythms.
‘Welcome to the Jungle’
Are you kidding me? Who wouldn’t be juiced to hear this frenetic rock anthem played live and loud? It seems like this ubiquitous song has made a constant appearance throughout pop culture since its release on the band’s 1987 debut album. It pops up in sporting events, in sports talk radio — and it even was copped for the title of the 2017 “Jumanji” movie sequel. Hearing Rose snarl the famous, “You know where you are? You’re in the jungle, baby! You’re gonna die!” line is almost worth the price of admission itself. Fun and games, indeed.
Honestly, I heard this song for the first time this morning as I was acquainting myself with some unfamiliar songs in the setlist. Another song from “Chinese Democracy,” I immediately took a liking to this one. It contains kind of a dissonant opening, which I’m not even sure the band will try to recreate in concert, but once it hits the main verse it is extremely catchy in a great, rocking way. I wasn’t a fan of the first guitar solo, but the lengthier one that appears toward the end is melodic, tasteful and money. Once again, I’m looking forward to Slash’s take on these guitar parts.
‘Live and Let Die’
Guns N’ Roses has a history of turning in some fantastic cover songs, and this one off of “Use Your Illusion I” is a doozy. I’ve seen Paul McCartney perform it live with great fanfare and pyrotechnics a couple times, so will be curious to compare it with GNR’s take.
Just as I’m intrigued to see Slash put his stamp on the “Chinese Democracy” numbers, which he was not a part of recording, I am also interested to see how Rose handles the vocals of this Velvet Revolver hit. It’s good to see all the principal members of the band willing to perform songs that were written during the split when they weren’t working together.
‘You Could Be Mine’
The two bookend “Use Your Illusion” albums have some tremendous material on them, and “You Could Be Mine” stands out as one of the best. The way Rose spits out the lyrics over the hard, rhythmic base and riff-tastic guitar helps make everything memorable.
“What’s so civil about war, anyway?” Rose asks during this anti-war anthem. A valid question indeed. Another great tune from “Use Your Illusion II.”
‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’
Slash’s entry into this mega-hit provides one of the most-famous and certainly most-recognized lead guitar riffs of all time. It’s a shame Slash claims to not really like it that much — or rather, like the fact that, for some, it came to represent his most recognized work. Still, there’s no getting around it, this is one catchy song that helped boost sales for the band’s debut album (currently to more than 30 million units sold worldwide). Also, the segment where Rose sings, “Where do we go, where do we go now?” is the stuff of legend. He originally put those lines down on tape as an example of what would go there when he eventually came up with the right lyric for it. But his first instinct proved iconic, and it was never replaced. Thank goodness!
This sweeping piano ballad turned rocker is nine minutes of pop-rock perfection, enhanced by Rose’s trademark snarling vocals and an extended 50-second melodic guitar solo from Slash. This song will no doubt create big mood swings in concert.
‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’
Another cover from the “Use Your Illusion” set, GNR takes on Bob Dylan to great effect. Apparently, the band also throws in an ode to Alice Cooper’s “Only Women Bleed” as an intro, which can only be a good thing.
Thinking about this song in this spot, “Paradise City” seems like the perfect close an evening with Guns N’ Roses. Another anthem from “Appetite For Destruction,” I envision pure mayhem ensuing onstage and throughout the audience as the band closes out its encores with this huge hit. An ideal song with which to say goodbye.