NEW YORK – Concert reviews aren’t my beat. Need to know about the Oscars? I’ve got you covered. Music, however — handled by our Katie Hasty and Melinda Newman with class and style — isn’t my journalistic forte. But I can tell you when I had a blast at a concert, and this one ranks up there.
Axl Rose and the current Guns N’ Roses line-up played a surprise show at the Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg last night. The gig was an extension of a series of intimate performances by the band over the last year that included a send-off show for the Hiro Ballroom in Chelsea and a return to the Lower East Side’s Webster Hall (formerly The Ritz) for the first time in 24 years.
Side note: This was overdue for me. I had a shot at seeing the band back in 2006. Over two hours of waiting for Axl to show up was enough so my friends and I bounced. Once we got to the car, we heard the distant tickling of “Welcome to the Jungle” on the guitar and, well, BUMMER. It was a missed opportunity. So when tickets suddenly went on sale for the Brooklyn Bowl show Tuesday evening, I jumped.
And let’s face it: this kind of a 600-capacity experience was way better than the view from the lawn of Hyundai Pavilion would have been, even if it cost a whopping $150, and even if there was a bowling alley involved. (And some damn fine fried chicken, too — no, really, the Brooklyn Bowl is a fantastic venue for these reasons, let it be known.)
Hitting the stage at around 11:15 (only 15 minutes late!), Rose and his line-up — consisting of keyboardists Dizzy Reed and Chris Pitman, former Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson, guitarists DJ Ashba, Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal and Richard Fortus and drummer Frank Ferrer — launched into a rowdy rendition of “You’re Crazy” from the band’s debut album “Appetite for Destruction.” Looking a bit more svelte than anticipated (or was the leather jacket just concealing the extra padding?), Rose didn’t appear to have lost much of a step. And his vocal range was certainly in tact enough for a fan looking for an awesome club set from the legendary rocker.
We got “Welcome to the Jungle” next and it was awesome. Ashba handled the guitar pulse well and Rose had the pipes. Most of what you’d want to hear was offered up, from “Mr. Brownstone” (my favorite “Appetite” track) to a 10-minute “Estranged” to an epic “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” Ashba seemed to be slowed down a bit by the guitar lead-in on “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” but they crushed that, too.
The band has added The Who’s “The Seeker” to their repertoire as of late and it’s pretty stellar, but I didn’t get my absolute favorites, “Yesterdays” (which they don’t seem to be breaking out on this tour) and “November Rain” (which has been played at pretty much every other show). Who can complain, though? I was 20 feet from Guns N’ Roses. Well, “Guns N’ Roses.”
Apparently Rose was fighting off something he dubbed “truck stop revenge,” apologizing to the crowd for his somewhat muted stage energy. “I’m not trying to be a pussy but it’s literally the most f*cked time I’ve ever had on stage,” he said. “I’m just trying not to throw up.” It became a running gag throughout.
The close was “Paradise City” and a great way to send the crowd out into the drizzling rain of Williamsburg. I overheard two guys walking at a clip, energized after the show, saying “that was so worth it.” And indeed, while the show didn’t quite reach the two-hour mark, it felt jam-packed and rare. The sheen of professionalism (locked-in after a recent 12-date Las Vegas residency at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, no doubt) may have precluded spontaneity, but it was great to finally check the item off the bucket list, and an awesome way to make up for that missed opportunity seven years ago, to say the least.
Guns N’ Roses will be one of the headlining acts at the Governors Ball Music Festival on Randall’s Island Saturday night. Other acts performing include Kings of Leon, Pretty Lights, NAS, Animal Collective and Kanye West.