By now, you’ve probably heard the news that Guns N’ Roses are officially reuniting starting with their set at Coachella 2016, with Axl and Slash finally having buried the hatchet. It’s hard not to be excited about this; during their original run, G N’ R were the most vital hard rock band in the world, and made music that has undeniably stood the test of time. But while the thought of Axl and Slash jamming together for the first time in nearly two decades is certainly attractive at first glance, we must ask ourselves, is this really a good idea?
First off, the expectations are going to be incredibly high here, which means we need to know if Axl can handle this. In recent years, he’s struggled to hit all the notes that classics like “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Sweet Child O’ Mine” demand of him. Now, that might not have mattered as much to the fans when Axl was touring with a seemingly random group of musicians, and just using the G N’ R name, even though it might as well have been called Axl & Friends. But because the classic lineup is reuniting, the expectations are going to be higher, the crowds will be larger, and the tickets will cost more. If Axl’s vocal performance isn’t up to snuff, this tour could go down as a massive disaster for everyone involved.
Additionally, we have to consider the volatility of the relationships here. Remember, there’s a reason why the lineup disbanded: Axl Rose was not the easiest person to get along with. His aloofness destroyed the band, and it took 20 years for his relationship with Slash to mend. Maybe he’s more mature now — maybe the entire band is — but it’s hard not to be a tad concerned about this when projecting how a reunion tour will play out. What if the band gets into a huge fight because Axl thought Slash was hotdogging it too much on the “November Rain” solo, and a tour gets cancelled after ten gigs? Basically, for this to work, everyone — especially Axl — is going to need to keep their ego in check.
And yet, in spite of these concerns, I can’t help but be incredibly excited for this. Let’s face facts: In the late ’80s and early ’90s, Guns N’ Roses were unlike any band out there. Unfortunately, the band collapsed before I truly came of age, and my only chance to see them live were the Axl & Friends shows that were performed competently, but just weren’t the real thing. Sure, Buckethead and Bumblefoot are talented guitarists in their own right, but there’s just something special about Axl and Slash taking the stage again. The pair seemed to be aware of this, which is why, despite having profitable careers on their own (Slash especially), they decided to finally reconvene.
The case for a G N’ R reunion is simple; if everything goes right, it could be a truly special experience. It could allow the band’s original fans to relive their glory days, while giving younger fans like me a chance to get a greater understanding of what made them so incredible in the first place. When the band launches into “Welcome to the Jungle” at Coachella, it could be something special; it could be one of those perfect moments where you remember just what rock ‘n roll is capable of. Frankly, there are a ton of reasons to be concerned about how this tour will play out, and yet, the promise of what it could be if everything goes right easily trumps all of them. Guns N’ Roses are taking a huge risk by doing this, but by any objective measure, it’s a risk worth taking.